I Just Want to Know What Happened

root - Posted on 01 October 2001

Meesha Irazarry, mother of Idriss Stelley, is forced to file civil claim against SFPD for excessive force and negligence

by Leroy Moore and Tiny/PoorNewsNetwork

Idriss Stelley’s soul is not at rest although his physical body was put down by San Francisco police on June 13th at the Sony Metreon Theater! Idriss’s soul was beside his mother on the front steps of City Hall for a press conference and community rally on Wednesday, September 5th. Through her words and the strength of her son’s spirit, Meesha Monge-Irizarry discussed why she, community activists, her lawyer, representatives of Bay Area Police Watch, and many more have called on the media to shed the truth about her son’s killing at the hands of San Francisco police officers.

"The undertaker had to charge me extra because there were so many bullet-holes in my baby’s body." With each word Ms. Irizarry’s eyes trembled with tears. "He said there was a bullet in his head... I cremated the body because it was the right thing to do at the time—I guess I shouldn’t have."

It has been 11 weeks since Idriss Stelley, a 23-year old African American college student with a 4.0 average who lived with mental illness was shot more than twenty times by San Francisco police officers at the Sony Metreon Theater. In those 11 weeks the Bay Area community, grassroots organizations, activists and progressive media outlets have strategized on how to get justice for the family and others who have been put in the grave because of the encounters between police and people with mental illness. After 11 weeks of putting pressure on the police commission, the mayor and other political leaders, Meesha Monge-Irizarry still doesn’t have the basic information about her son’s killing, access to his property—his bookbag or a list of witnesses who were present at the Metreon Theatre.

Out of desperation at the lack of responsiveness to all of her inquiries for help from local police and most government officials, Meesha Irizarry sought help from activists and government officials in France. Meesha is of Basque descent, born in France. In contrast to the local climate of apathy, French political leaders immediately signed on to support the efforts of Meesha and her supporters to get justice for her son and other young folks who have been victims of these kinds of police crimes.

After her well-needed rest and organizing in France, Meesha came back to the Bay Area only to find out that she had to file a civil claim for damages against the SFPD for excessive force and negligence. This is an administrative claim filed last week with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which names the officers involved in the shooting as well as the Chief of Police, and cites the inadequate training of the officers involved. "We hope that the filing of this claim and any subsequent litigation will force the SFPD to finally release basic information such as the names of the civilian witnesses," said Samantha Liapes of Bay Area Police Watch.

"I just want to know what happened that night!" Meesha whispered to the multitude of press present on Wednesday. The same tactic, to file a claim for damages, was done by the son of Margaret L. Mitchell, a Black mentally ill homeless woman that was shot by Los Angeles Police Department. Unfortunately just recently the police officer who shot Margart L Mitchell walked away a free man. A police officer in the shooting and killing of Errol Shaw, a Black deaf man with mental illness was set free by a juror. We must stop this deadly, uncontrollable train of police getting away with shootings and brutality of people with mental illness. We can stop this train before it rolls into San Francisco by supporting the efforts of the Idriss Campaign which will look into the training of police around people with mental illness
among other institutional changes.

Leroy F. Moore Jr., Executive Director of Disability Advocates of Minorities Organization and staff writer for PoorNewsNetwork
Tiny, co-editor and founder POOR Magazine and PoorNewsNetwork.


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