Justice for Tymar
Family and Supporters Rally for Tymar Crawford
By C. Scott Satterwhite
On Friday, July 5, Pensacola police officers pulled a 28-year-old African American driver to the side of the road for a somewhat routine traffic stop. Within minutes, police opened fire on Tymar Crawford, shooting the man multiple times. Crawford died shortly after of his wounds.
From this moment, as is often the case in high profile police shootings, conflicting stories arise.
According to a police spokesperson, city police officers ordered Crawford’s vehicle to stop after smelling marijuana. As the vehicle continued, the officers saw that the occupants “began to throw narcotics out of the window” before stopping at the corner of C and Brainerd streets, near Crawford’s home.
Crawford then stepped out of the vehicle. Police contend that Crawford fought with police, disarming one officer, sparking a deadly confrontation. Another officer on the scene immediately fired his weapon, shooting Crawford multiple times.
Kimberly Henderson, Crawford’s partner, objected to this police narrative. Contrary to official claims, she states Crawford was holding his hands up when an officer started punching him as Crawford’s son watched from the front porch. As Crawford attempted to get on the ground, an officer shot him six times.
These conflicting stories are at the heart of a protest march and rally, led by the family and the Pensacola chapter of Dream Defenders.
Coordinated by the Dream Defenders—a Florida-based Civil Rights organization with a focus on community policing—hundreds of local residents marched on Monday, July 15, with a list of demands for the City of Pensacola.
Ieasha Williams, an organizer with Dream Defenders, said that when she first heard about the Crawford shooting, “I was furious, but not surprised.”
Williams originally became involved with Dream Defenders after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.
“To me, it was too many people,” she said, describing the seemingly endless videos of police killing African American men. “Seeing all of that led me to take action, seeing how I could get involved, what I could do to ensure that if anything happened, or if anything was going on in my community, that I would be right there to be a resource as much as possible.”
Jamil Davis of Dream Defenders helped organize the rally. He said that he first took notice of the Dream Defenders when members of the organization “stormed the state capitol after the  acquittal of George Zimmerman. I knew then that I wanted to be involved with the organization.”
Davis’ response to Crawford’s shooting was similar to that of Williams. He said, “I wasn’t shocked either, quite honestly.”
“The history that Pensacola Police Department has with communities of color and areas that they consider high crime areas,” Davis said, helped lead to the shooting, “they’re honestly in those areas more than anything.”
The organizer critiqued what he described as the Pensacola Police Department’s “over-policing of the area,” as well as the “disregard for bystanders,” specifically Crawford’s children. Davis said, “To have this kind of incident, where you have no type of concern for anyone in the family at the time of this incident occurring, is something that’s not a surprising thing to me.”
He added, “Who else knows who could’ve been killed in this type of situation? These are things that you have to think about as an officer, that you have to have more tact and precaution when dealing in these type of situations.”
Organizing Doesn’t Wait
While a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation is underway, Crawford’s family and supporters are not waiting for the lengthy process before issuing demands of the city of Pensacola. For them, the march was a first step.
The July 15 march began at the very spot where the Pensacola police officer shot Tymar Crawford to death. March co-organizer Haley Morrissette, also of Dream Defenders, led the crowd with safety precautions and several chants. Numbering in the hundreds, the long line of people followed by cars moved from Crawford’s home, past North Hill’s historic African American AME Zion cemetery, and down to Cervantes Street. The march ended at the steps of the Pensacola Police Department.
Hundreds of people wearing white shirts, many carrying signs that read “Stop the War on Black Americans” and “Justice for Tymar Crawford,” stood in front of the police headquarters. One person held a large photo of Crawford praying.
A number of people, including Crawford’s mother, gave brief speeches to the crowd. Morrissette then held the megaphone and addressed the demands listed specifically by Crawford’s family.
The demands included the release of the officers’ names, immediate termination of all officers involved, civilian oversight of the Pensacola Police Department, de-prioritization of criminal marijuana possession, implicit bias training for all Pensacola police officers and “restitution to the family that will include funeral costs and long-term trauma-specific therapy.”
Morrissette asked the crowd, “Do we want that?” The crowd yelled back a resounding, “Yes!” and broke into chants of, “No justice, no peace!”
Crawford’s partner then addressed the audience. Henderson said, “Thank you to everyone who came out to support Tymar. This has been really hard for me … I promise y’all, I’m gonna need y’all more after the funeral.”
Several members of the crowd hugged her as she held back tears. Williams was among the last to speak. She said that as a victim of police harassment, this issue was personal to her. She then led the audience in a call-and-response chant, with the crowd repeating each sentence—“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The march ended as it began, peacefully. No members of the Pensacola Police Department stepped outside of their headquarters to address the crowd or to speak to anyone. The marchers then walked the mile back to the spot where Crawford was killed.
While no specific plans for future marches have been set, Dream Defenders and ANSWER Coalition—a co-organizer of the rally—call on the public to attend Pensacola City Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 5, the one-month anniversary of the shooting.
Mayor Promises More Training
By Jeremy Morrison
Alluding to conversations with citizens in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Tymar Crawford, Mayor Grover Robinson said Monday that he is committed to increasing the training of the Pensacola Police Department.
“We can’t do enough training,” Robinson said during his weekly press conference July 22.
The mayor said that while some of the demands made in the aftermath of the shooting would interfere with the current FDLE investigation, he was on board with others—such as more training for police officers, which he said he had already discussed with Police Chief Tommi Lyter.
“We absolutely agree with the point on that letter about training, and we’re already on that,” Robinson said. “That’s something we need to do a better job of.”
The mayor also said he agreed with a point raised in the posting regarding the de-prioritization of marijuana possession. Robinson said. “I’m not sure we’re just totally decriminalizing, but we are looking at how we police that, and we’re going to be evaluating that from our own standards internally, how we do things moving forward.”
Perhaps most notably, the mayor said that once the FDLE investigation has wrapped up, and regardless of its findings, the city will then conduct its own investigation into the officer-involved shooting.
“I think we need to step back and evaluate any time something goes wrong,” Robinson said. “You’ve got to look at what happened and what you did and did not do.”
The mayor said that such an internal investigation should not be read as the city signaling that this recent event was not handled properly, and he also stressed that he wanted the FDLE investigation “to go forward without any prejudice.”
Robinson said the FDLE investigation would determine if the officer acted appropriately or not. The city investigation, meanwhile, is geared more towards questions about best practices than it is concerned with legalities.
“The investigation that is going on now is simply a matter of the legality of what happened. And I do think that no matter what is legal, that is the bottom-most standard. We need to be doing what is right for our citizens,” the mayor said.
Mayor Robinson wasn’t sure when the FDLE investigation might conclude. He said, “I was told it could be a couple of months.”