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Mumia Abu-Jamal's Radio Broadcasts

When a Child is Killed

mp3, 1.3 MBs, 3:18

[Col. recorded 2/22/03]

There is something unutterably terrible about the death of a child.

The universe seems to pitch and turn, and fall into itself when something so unnatural as a child leaves the realm of the living. On Christmas Eve, 2002 it happened.

Indeed, more than that happened.

A 12-year old boy was shot into eternity on that date, shot by a cop who would later claim that the boy was running from a suspected stolen car, with his hands in his pockets (!). Putting aside, for a minute, the absurdity of the image of one running with hands in one's pockets, the State Police would later claim that the boy, Michael Ellerbe, was shot because his partner had fallen, and he thought that he was shot.

The city of Uniontown is a fair-sized town, roughly 150,000 people, and it is the county seat of Fayette County in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It has a Black population roughly equal to the percentage of blacks in the nation's population, but population, standing alone, means little if that population doesn’t have real representation, and more importantly, power.

There was a coroner’s inquest into the case, but it was composed of an all-white jury. Despite the eyewitness testimony of a young white boy, who was looking at the shooting from his window, the jury and the judge running the show declined to charge the cops with anything. The witness recalled that he saw the two troopers shooting at the boy. A few days later, the local DA would announce that she would not charge them with anything.

In the wintry weather of February, some 300 Uniontowners and others gathered at the Fayette County Courthouse to protest the tragic killing, and to demand justice.

Michael Hickenbottom, the boy’s father, spoke simply and eloquently to the gathering: "I'd like to thank particularly God who blessed each and everyone of us to be here today. The Pennsylvania State Police shot and killed my son and now they're trying to cover it up. I know there's love in this world when I look out and see all of you here today." (New Pittsburgh Courier, 2/19/03, p. A1,A2)

The family has filed a federal lawsuit charging civil rights violations and wrongful death.

Some of the marchers expressed anger that nationally known Black leaders did not join them in their protests against the Fayette County criminal 'justice system'. Many of the big names were invited, but none showed.

Pictures of the child show a boy with a sweet half-smile, a knowing glint in his eye, and a sense of the immortality that all children seem to delude themselves with.

Once again, the police have set forth the 'Amadou Diallo defense'; the 'I thought my partner was hit' bit. They are allowed the old 'I- was-just-doing-my-job' excuse, and are thus able to, quite literally, get away with the murder of children.

A child is dead, shot in the back by a minion of the State.

A Black child is dead, a hole burrowed into his heart.

Once again, a boy does not live to become a teenager.

A child is gone.

And according to the Law, no one is to be charged for it.

A Black boy is dead...again.

Check out Mumia's NEW book:
"Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People" at

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa


Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.