Seeking Justice for the Death of Latasha Walton
|thenorthstar||Apr 1, 2019|
Almost three weeks after the death of Latasha Walton at the hands of a Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) trooper, Alphonso Wright, 28, tearfully cherishes the life of her sister. “There are so many great memories I can’t tell you. We went on a journey together when we grew up. Latasha was different and took care of us,” Alphonso told The North Star. “She was the greatest person in the world, and my heart aches because she’s gone. We developed a different type of relationship; it was unique.”
On March 12, Walton was shot near the Golden Glades Park and Ride Station in North Miami-Dade, Florida. Authorities said that Officer Ronald Melendez-Bonilla was conducting a traffic stop when an exchange with the driver of a white BMW escalated, Channel 7 news reported at the time. FHP said that the officer “was forced to fire” following the altercation with the driver, who was later identified as Walton. Footage shows forensic investigators marking shell casings to find out what led to Walton’s death.
A cellphone video shows the moment Melendez-Bonilla opened fire. The trooper’s union argued that Walton, 32, “was driving erratically” toward troopers who attempted to pull her over. Nevertheless, Walton’s family questioned why she had to be shot several times and wants the Department of Justice to carry out a thorough investigation. They have retained the services of lawyer Benjamin Crump, who issued a letter to US Attorney General William Barr to handle this case.
“We’re remaining suspicious about the state of Florida investigating the State of Florida. We request a fair investigation because at the end of the day the video is pretty straightforward,” Crump told The North Star. “Latasha got two little boys and now her family has to explain to them why she hasn’t come home. We’re going to fight on their behalf because we want this police officer to be charged, but we know that we can’t control that other than to add public pressure on them.”
Witnesses told local channels that six shots were heard at the time of the altercation. Bystanders waiting for a bus ducked for cover. “I was waiting for the bus, and then I heard gunshots, heavy gunshots, ‘Boom, boom, boom!'” a witness told Channel 7. Crump added that Walton’s family and members of the Miami area community gathered this week to demand justice for Latasha at the spot where she was killed. When asked about expressions of support, Crump said, “It’s been overwhelming. Over two million people have commented on social media posts. National Black Lives Matter and rapper T.I. have joined calls for justice. The National Council of Negro Women has also demanded a thorough and comprehensive investigation into this matter.” Crump cited the case of Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old Black male who was shot by then-East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld. A jury took less than four hours to acquit the white officer on Friday, despite video showing that the young man was not a threat.
“The system hopefully will work for us this time. What we’re doing is making sure to let the highway patrol know that we’re not going away quietly, and we’re going to demand that they make sure this police officer is charged for his crime,” Crump said, adding that they’re waiting for a trial date.
In the meantime, Alphonso will find the strength to continue supporting his family in the midst of grief. “I feel numb. I don’t really feel anything. I’m not as confident as I used to be because they took her out of my life, but I hope there’s justice for my sister,” he said.
About the Author
Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International, and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.