May 26, 2003
On May 16, a New York police raiding party battered down the door of a Harlem apartment, supposedly in search of a dealer's stash of drugs and guns. In fact, there were no drugs or guns, nor had any drug dealer been there. And the dealer who the police say they were trying to find had been arrested and jailed four days before – living at a different address.
Alberta Spruill, the 57-year-old woman who did live in the apartment, was a 29-year employee of the city's personnel office.
After breaking down the door, the police threw a stun grenade into the apartment that produced a shocking flash and concussion. Even though Ms. Spruill clearly wasn't the man being sought, nor was anyone else in the apartment, the police placed her under arrest and handcuffed her to a chair for several minutes. She suffered a heart attack. Before EMS got her to the hospital, she died.
A nearby resident of Harlem was quoted in the press: "When police deal with situations in this community and other communities, it's not the same. And that's what makes me angry. You see people on Fifth Avenue, they're not being dragged out in handcuffs. They're asked to come out, even if they're being arrested."
A judge had granted the police a "no-knock" search warrant for this raid based only on the assertion of the police that they had a tip from an informant.
Oh, certainly, New York's mayor and police commissioner expressed sorrow over Ms. Spruill's death and said there would be an investigation. They said that the police lieutenant in charge of the raid was suspended and use of stun grenades was put on hold.
For a minute. By the day of Ms. Spruill's funeral, the suspended lieutenant was back on the job, just in a different area. The ban on the use of stun grenades was already ended. Another unarmed innocent man had been shot to death by a plainclothes cop in the city.
This is the real reality show put on in New York City's black working class neighborhoods every day.