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JUSTICE COMES ONE VICTORY AT A TIME FOR POLICE BRUTALITY VICTIM ANTWYNETTE HOUSTON

Assault by a Former Louisville Metro Policeman and Subsequent Treatment by the Justice System Does Little to Deter Her Fight for Justice.

By:  George L. Addison

“Justice can sleep for years and awaken when it is least expected. A miracle is nothing more than dormant justice from another time arriving to compensate those it has cruelly abandoned. Whoever knows this is willing to suffer, for he knows that nothing is in vain.”
Mark Helprin, Winter’s Tale

August 3, 2017, will mark the 4th year that Antwynette Houston’s life was changed forever. She recounts the incident to all those who will listen, “I was attacked one early morning around 3 a.m. by former  Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officer, Scott Sturgeon, who was off duty at the time.  I had just returned from an out-of-town funeral and decided to stop at a gas station for a snack before going home. My son who was nine-years-old at the time was sleeping in the backseat.  The incident stemmed from a verbal altercation over a parking space, which was initiated by the police officer. The result, in the end, was that he completely separated my shoulder. I sustained multiple injuries and had four surgeries on my shoulder.  I am still unable to fully use my arm today.”

Living Life One Victory at a Time…

Houston’s first victory was the total dismissal of charges stemming from the incident.  This vindicated her assertion that she was innocent.   She also stated that at first she was unaware that she’d been charged with anything at all.

Houston explained it this way, “Actually it’s funny, because I didn’t even understand that I’d been charged with anything until months and months later.

My attorney kept going back and forth to court, and once he said we were going to have to go to trial, that’s when he explained it was over the false charges that had been put on me alleging I was parked in a handicap space and I didn’t have a license.  It just did not make any sense to me that we would go to trial over something that was so obvious and wasn’t true.  It was my word against his.

He was a police officer and they were taking his word even though the video showed something totally different.  Plus the other officers that came said something different.  It didn’t make any sense but that’s what was happening.  They dismissed the charges with prejudice.  So they aren’t supposed to be able to bring it up again.  So after they did that I felt like that cleared my name.  Now everyone will know I did nothing wrong.

But what difference does it make if your name is cleared if nothing changes after that?  And that’s exactly what happened.  My name was cleared, and although my character was not dragged through the news like they have done to many other people, it really didn’t matter, they didn’t have to.  There still is a video of me explaining what happened to me, and the news reporter is saying that I was allegedly drunk.”

Since her injury in August of 2013, Houston has staved off homelessness for herself and her son.  She made it financially as a result of numerous yard sales plus the support and efforts of others.

In December of 2016 a Kentucky Judge gave Houston her second victory when he ruled that she was 100% disabled as a result of Officer Sturgeons actions. This put to rest those assertions by some that she was somehow not injured.  This verdict also provided the needed financial resources to provide for Houston and her son.

Gone is the struggle with day-to-day challenges to put gas in her car or pay rent.  Now Houston has enough to take care of monthly bills.  She no longer has to sell every item she owns to keep the lights on.  The Medicare was a godsend which allows her the flexibility to cross state lines for medical treatment.  Prior to that she had to pay for services up front.  Something she could not afford.

In addition, it also provided health coverage essential for surgery and other medical needs.  Houston said, “I felt completely validated, and I never cared much or felt like I needed validation.  But in this case I needed people to know.  I don’t know why anybody would think I was faking for years and years. I’ve said it before – it doesn’t matter if I got up and ran the day after surgery.  It still happened to me, what happened caused my surgery and it doesn’t matter.  So pretending that I’m hurt four years versus one is crazy.  I now have disability and I got 100% disability.  So it feels good to know that they ruled in my favor.”

Recently, Houston underwent her 4th surgery, it was her 3rd surgery stemming from the incident.  Her surgeon Robert Thompson, MD., Director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, provided another victory for her, when he confirmed and identified her injury as the rare condition known as Quadrilateral Space Syndrome .  Dr. Thompson specializes in Vascular Surgery, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Subclavian Vein Thrombosis, Subclavian Artery Aneurysm, Cervical Rib, and Brachial Plexus Compression.

Houston shares a light moment before surgery with her social media supporters. Photo Courtesy: A. Houston

In 2016, Houston single handily boycotted the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby.  She received words of support and encouragement from numerous people who saw her protesting.  In addition, her petition on Change.org drew support from people living in countries like; France, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Ireland, South Korea, Grenada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  There was also support from residents living in some thirty-five states.

This year was no different and her protest of the 143rd Kentucky Derby was another moral victory for Houston.  She said it was important for her to protest both the 2016 and 2017 Kentucky Derby?  “I’m protesting because nothing has changed.  The city still hasn’t done anything to rectify my situation, my petition is still going forward, and I felt like I had to come back out here to continue to share my story until something changes.  Until then it’s my duty to be here every year.”

Support Begins At Home…

Houston’s staunchest supporters include her mother and her son (their names are omitted per Houston’s request).  Her son had this take on his mom’s situation. “It makes me sad and mad at the same time because she shouldn’t have to go through this.  That should have never happened to her.  Sometimes I wish it never happened because everything she does is hard.  Mom works hard and goes through a lot of stuff every day.  But she has to work harder now because of that experience and how it affects her.  I don’t like it.  I sometimes wonder how she is doing and what she’s thinking about when we’re out.  For instance, does she still think about that night or have flashbacks?  But she works hard to keep going because she knows that one day things are going to work out.”

Houston braves high winds, rain and cold while protesting 2017 Kentucky Derby. Photo Courtesy: beenetworknews/ A. Houston

Asked how he would like to see the situation resolved he said, “First I want her arm to be fixed because that’s impacted her most.  I wish she could get a job again.  She finished her medical training but after she was hurt she couldn’t go back to work.  I want to see her fulfill her dream.”  He also stated, “Others in a similar situation like my mom have to remember to work hard and not doubt themselves otherwise you can’t overcome it.”

Coping with Houston’s situation has been challenging for the whole family.  Her mother stated, “It’s been hard to go through and see her struggle the way she’s been struggling.  It’s very hurtful to see that she needs so much and she has to try so hard to get everything that she needs.  But, by the grace of God, I’ve been able to help her and people have been sending donations.  So, she is doing well as far as that.  I’ve seen a big change in her overall.  The way she looks at things.  She’s nothing like she used to be..  She was very outgoing, she liked to get out and do things, she was a stepper, she traveled, she was very comical, she was in school, and now she’s just different.  She was never paranoid, she’s in pain every day, she doesn’t go out, and her whole life has been put on hold.  She’s ready to get her life back and be normal, which we know now may never happen.  But I pray for days without pain, and for her to be able to get out and do things with her son because now she spends most of her time in bed.”

“I think it’s a shame that the City is not behind her.  Our preacher is not behind her and I think it’s pretty sad that she’s gotten more help from other cities, other preachers in other places or states.  Kentucky is not looking at her situation.  They could care less.  Things like this are happening every day and not just to her.  It’s very hurtful and I’m ready for it to just be over so we can move on with our lives.  Its been a long struggle but, I know in my heart something good will come of it.  She’s going to do something great to help somebody else.  With what she’s in and the struggle she’s going through somebody else will be helped because of this.

I’m very proud of her, she’s more of a woman than I could have been under these circumstances.  She’s very strong and that keeps me strong and it makes me want to do more to help her with the protests and other things.  It all makes me very strong for her.  It has changed our lives tremendously, we now know what to expect and it’s just different, but it’s all good.  It’s only made us stronger.  We want to be a forgiving family, we don’t intend on holding any grudges or animosity behind this, we want it all to be over and everybody just go on and do what they need to do, and we can do the same.  I want it to be a good ending.”

For mom’s struggling who may have lost their child through police brutality or violence she added, “Just hang in there, don’t give up because there is always something that you can do that can help you or help somebody else.  Just stay strong, stand by your child because family is everything.  Hope that the community and friends get behind you too.  Don’t give up, do something about it.”

Looking Ahead to Better Days..

Houston (left) is joined by her son (middle) and her mother (right) as traffic passes by. Photo Courtesy: beenetworknews / A. Houston

Houston plans to help other victims once her case has been resolved.  The plight of young black men being killed and assaulted by police troubles her immensely.  “I think our black youth are like an endangered species.  We really have to pay attention to them.  There’s really no way to make sure they’re safe.  Trayvon Martin was targeted, Tamir Rice was targeted, and these little boys are being targeted because they’re black.  The recent attacks in schools illustrate they’re doing it mostly to black children.  It’s a shame.  All we can do is educate them.  I tell my son he needs to pay attention to his surroundings but I really do believe that if they want you they’re going to come after you.  I don’t think you can dress a certain way, I don’t think you can be super nice and they won’t hurt you, I don’t think you can be compliant.  We’ve seen that you can be compliant and still die.  I really don’t know what the answer is.

I don’t know how to keep our young boys safe.  It’s like they’re walking around with a target on their back and it makes me sad, It makes me sad for my son because I don’t know whats going to happen to him.  All I can do is keep him close to me.  Remind him to carry himself a certain way when he goes out into the world.  But to be honest it doesn’t matter how he carries himself, how smart he is, what kind of job he has, he’s still a black man.  So knowing that makes me sad.

Houston said her heart aches for her son, her grandson and all the black youth.  She understands that they go after young girls and women as well as black boys and black men   It’s a problem she believes we must find a solution to.

 

 

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