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David Coolidge

Dewey Action Whitewashes
Freeport Killer

(12 August 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 32, 12 August 1946, pp. 1 & 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

After receiving the report of his “investigator,” Lawrence Greenbaum, Governor Dewey has decided to close the Freeport, Long Island, case of the Ferguson brothers. This is the case of the two Negro brothers, ex-GIs, who were shot and killed by a white policeman, one Joseph Romeika, as they stood in line with their hands over their heads awaiting the arrival of the patrol wagon. The excuse given by Romeika for the shooting was the one usually given by cops after they have murdered somebody: he shot in self-defense, he saw the man drop his hand to his hip.

According to Greenbaum, there was some testimony given in his “investigation” to the effect that one of the brothers talked about having a gun and that one of them “leaned over and dropped his right hand to his hip.” One of the brothers is said to have corroborated this. The policeman killed the man who was supposed to have the gun but did not stop there. He immediately fired another shot at one of the others, hitting him in the arm.

It is claimed that this shot went through this man’s arm and lodged in the head of one of the brothers who was standing in line, causing his death. This cop was having a real field day with his target practice on the heads, arms and bodies of these Negro ex-GI’s. With bullets doing such queer things as going through one man’s arm and lodging in the skull of another standing at his side, it is to be wondered how this cop escaped shooting himself.

Furthermore the “investigator” did not answer the question as to why the cop fired the second shot. Charles Ferguson had already been killed. Joseph was standing next to him. The cop fired at Joseph and struck him in the arm. Alphonso was standing beside Joseph and this same bullet after passing through Joseph’s arm entered Alphonso’s skull killing him! Greenbaum, the “investigator” could not account for the movement of this erratic bullet.

There are some pertinent questions to be asked. Why did this cop fire the second shot. The men were said to have been standing in line with their hands over their heads. Charles had already been shot and killed. Why was Joseph shot with his hands up over his head? Furthermore if Joseph did not have his hands over his head how could the bullet go through his arm and strike Alphonso in the head even though Alphonso had moved from beside Joseph to his rear? The “investigator” is puzzled about this. Only two shots fired but two men are killed and one wounded.

Perhaps Joseph and Alphonso did move after Charles was shot. “... there must have been a movement out of line by one or two of these men,” says Greenbaum. They must have disobeyed “the order of the officer to stand in line with their, hands up.” What would Greenbaum expect? Here are four men lined up with their hands up. The policeman begins shooting and kills one. It is conceivable that the men became frightened and started to run. At least one would expect some sort of movement on their part to try and escape being murdered in cold blood. But Greenbaum seems to think that the normal thing for a human being under such conditions is to stand perfectly at ease and have one’s body made into a sieve. One further question: if the three who were still alive were running or beginning to run, why did this cop find it necessary to shoot them down?

Investigation a Fraud

This so-called investigation by Greenbaum was a farce and a fraud. It was a whitewash of the District Attorney of Nassau, the grand jury and of the killer, Romeika. Greenbaum may as well have said, in the Georgia manner, that the Ferguson brothers met their death “at the hands of persons unknown.” The only basis on which Greenbaum’s investigation makes any sense is to say that the Ferguson brothers were shot down and murdered because they were Negroes. If they had been white there would have been a real investigation and a real attempt to establish the facts and the responsibility in such a way that all decent human beings would have been satisfied.

This case has been hushed by Dewey because the Ferguson brothers were Negroes. Despite his pious but hypocritical protestations that “there is no evidence to establish that the officer, who thought his life was in danger, would have acted in any different manner had the four men before him been white and not colored.” This is a lie! Greenbaum knows it, and Dewey knows it. Greenbaum gives the whole thing away when he says that the grand jury “concluded that there was no reasonable chance of a conviction by a trial jury.” Greenbaum agrees with the grand jury and says: “... it is difficult for me to see how there could be any reasonable chance of a conviction ...”

Here were two men killed who had only committed a misdemeanor, and there was no chance in Nassau County to convict the policeman who had killed them. Therefore Greenbaum, the “investigator,” feels that it was just well that no trial by jury be held.

Greenbaum’s whole report to Dewey is hedged about with the quibbling and technicalities of a shyster lawyer who is not really conducting an investigation, but who is protecting someone and someone’s interests. He closes his nauseating report with more pious and disgusting rubbish. “Each community must by itself work out decent livable relationships among its members, and thereby integrate itself into our American way of life.” The dead Ferguson brothers have been “integrated into the American way of life.” The integrator, Romeika, is free to continue his integration. There are more bullets in his gun.

We would like to ask investigator Greenbaum: would he take the same attitude if the two murdered men had been native white Americans and not Negroes?

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