Lawyer Grilled In Malik Jones Appeal

Thomas MacMillan Photo As three federal judges weighed the death of Malik Jones at the hands of an East Haven cop, they zeroed in on the significance of shots fired at another young black man, six years earlier, by the same cop.

The judges, John Walker, Rosemary Pooler, and Pierre Leval of the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, heard oral arguments Wednesday in New York City in an appeal to the case of Emma Jones v. Town of East Haven.

Jones is the mother of New Havener Malik Jones, who was killed at age 21 by former East Haven police Officer Robert Flodquist following a car chase from East Haven to New Haven on April 14, 1997. The case became a cause celebre for civil-rights activists, led to the creation of a statewide racial profiling law, and sparked years of painful urban-suburban soul-searching and contention.

After her son’s death, Emma Jones sued the town of East Haven. She argued that her son’s wrongful death was part of a pattern of discriminatory and unlawful behavior by East Haven cops. An initial verdict that awarded Jones $2.5 million was tossed out due to a technical error. In 2010, a jury awarded Jones $900,000.

The town of East Haven appealed the decision, leading to Wednesday’s hearing, at which judges heard oral arguments but did not make a decision.

A decision could take weeks or months. At stake is whether Jones will secure the $900,000 award, and maybe even be awarded more, or whether it will be taken away from her.

After the 1997 shooting, Officer Flodquist said that Jones gave him a “Go to Hell” look, and the car Jones was driving may have been slowly rolling backwards at the time of the shooting, so he thought his life was at risk. Jones was unarmed.

It was the second time Flodquist had shot at an unarmed 21-year-old black man following a car chase that ended in New Haven. The first time, six years earlier, Flodquist shot at a man named Shane Gray, but missed. (Subsequent to the Malik Jones shooting, East Haven promoted Flodquist to the position of department spokesman, a job he held until his retirement.)

Wednesday’s hearing hinged on the potential racial significance of that incident, as a possible precursor to the Jones shooting that East Haven officials may have ignored.

The hearing was the latest chapter in a nearly 15-year-old battle between a grieving mother and an embattled East Haven police department. The same department has recently been found by the Department of Justice to have engaged in a longstanding practice of racial discrimination and, more recently, open defiance of federal civil-rights investigators.

Who Knew What, When?

The crux of East Haven’s appeal is a challenge to Jones’ “Monell claim,” which sought to prove that the town had ignored a pattern of police policies and practices prejudicial to African-Americans.

To back up that claim, Jones’ attorney, David Rosen, cited in court Wednesday a several incidents of alleged discriminatory behavior by the East Haven police department.

East Haven, represented by New Haven attorney Nancy Fitzpatrick Myers, countered that most of those incidents occurred after the shooting of Malik Jones in 1997. They can’t therefore be used as evidence that the police chief ignored a pattern of behavior that led to the shooting, she argued.

At 12 p.m. in the large marble-and-wood-lined ninth-floor courtroom on Pearl Street in Manhattan, Myers stepped to a podium in the center of the room and began to make that argument. Judge Walker quickly interrupted, however, and did most of the work for her.

“As I understand it,” a Monell claim has to establish a “pattern or practice” of discrimination that the city understands but ignores, Walker said. “That immediately in my mind seems to cut the evidence down” to only allegations of discriminatory incidents that occurred prior to the 1997 shooting, he said.

That leaves, then, only two incidents cited as evidence by Rosen, Walker said. One is the so-called “Donald Jackman incident,” which occurred a year before the Jones shooting. In that case, several East Haven cops allegedly severely beat a white man named Jackman. One of the officers allegedly put his gun to Jackman’s head and said, “You’re lucky you’re not a nigger because you’d be fucking dead.”

Walker dismissed this as evidence supporting the Monell claim, because the incident was never investigated by higher-level officers. It’s therefore not evidence that higher-ups were ignoring a pattern of prejudicial behavior, he said.

That leaves only “the Shane Gray shooting” as pre-Jones shooting evidence offered by Rosen. “It’s basically a pattern of one,” Walker said.

Black, White, Gray

In that case, six years before Officer Flodquist shot Jones, he shot another unarmed black man, Shane Gray. In September, 1991, Flodquist had heard a report of a carjacking by three black men on Rt. 80 in New Haven. Flodquist crossed the town border and chased the car, driven by Gray. When Gray fled on foot, Flodquist shot at him twice, missing both times. Flodquist later claimed he thought Gray had a gun.

Gray later testified during the trial against East Haven during case against the town brought by Emma Jones.

The Shane Gray incident was not investigated for allegations of racial discrimination or excessive force, Myers told the judges. Like the Jackman incident, it therefore should not be used as evidence that higher-ups should have known about problems of prejudice, she said.

Even if the court were to consider the evidence of race-based discrimination Rosen cites after Jones’ death, it’s only “a tiny smattering” over years, said Judge Leval. And there’s “no indication” of official approval in any of them, he said.

Judge Pooler raised the Jackman incident again. Myers acknowledged that the cop involved had made an “inappropriate comment,” but “there were no policy-makers there, so it doesn’t show that the city was aware of and ignoring racist behavior prior to the Jones shooting, she said.

“It doesn’t go up the chain,” she said.

Thread To Sew A Button

As with Myers’s remarks, Rosen’s argument was quickly interrupted by Judge Walker. Rosen began to raise the fact that the East Haven police department at the time of Jones’ death had T-shirts for its softball team that said depicted two officers cuffing caricatures of gang members face down on the front of a cruiser, accompanied by the text: “Boyz On Tha Hood.”

“That was afterwards,” Walker said. The existence of the T-shirts came to light and was acknowledged by the police chief, James Criscuolo, after Jones’ death.

After Walker laid into Rosen about the lack of pre-shooting evidence of discrimination practices in East Haven, Judge Pooler stepped in with a lifeline. She asked: Shouldn’t the shots fired at Gray, an unarmed black man, have triggered an investigation by itself, given that it had potentially “catastrophic consequences” had Gray been killed?

“This was one shooting. Do you want to wait for a second?” she asked.

Pooler’s thrown you “a life ring,” Walker said to Rosen.

Rosen took it. The Gray shooting could be seen “through a racist lens,” he said. “The incident itself portends catastrophe.”

But Leval questioned why he should believe that the Gray incident “reeks of bias.” The cops were chasing a car that had been reported stolen at gunpoint. They had every reason to believe Gray was armed when he jumped out of the car and ran, Leval said.

The officer testified falsely that he thought Gray had a gun, Rosen responded; that was his justification for shooting him. The chief should have done an investigation and made sure that his officers knew that the shooting of a black suspect would be treated just the same as the shooting of a white one, he said.

“How do we know they were [treated] different?” Walker asked. If cops had heard a report that three white guys had stolen a car at gunpoint the day before the Gray incident and ignored the call, then you’d have some evidence, he told Rosen.

Rosen’s evidence doesn’t connect the way he wants it to, Leval told him. “You’re trying to bring in a thread to sew a button. It isn’t up to the job.”

“We’ll reserve decision,” said Judge Pooler, ending the hearing.

Afterward, Emma Jones said the litigation process continues to be very difficult for her.

“This has been a very long, painful and rigorous struggle,” she said. “I’m still looking forward to justice. I would hope that it would come very soon.”

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Comments

posted by: DKR on January 19, 2012  8:28am

wow,...over and over again,....like beating a dead horse…bottom line is this,...has emma jones thought just once,...and said to herself,...gee,..if my son had only stopped the car he was driving once the police spotted him for the violation and cooperated,..i bet he would still be alive today,...what she fails to realize is,,her son caused the chain of events that led to his death,...but she wants to point the blame to everyone else,.....,by 16yrs old Malik had 116 contacts including arrests with the police…

posted by: VeteranCop on January 19, 2012  8:28am

Hopefully this can all finally be put to rest. Floodquist has retired and lives with this everyday of his life.
I grew up with Bobby and know he was never out to hurt anyone, let alone kill someone.
Jones was a product of his surroundings and would be alive, or at least not killed that night had he simply stopped when pursued by police.
Is it really that hard to understand right and wrong?

posted by: HaHaHa... on January 19, 2012  10:26am

Well, well, well…once these matters leave the ridiculous, cop-hating area we call New Haven County they don’t seem to add up to much.  Glad to see these results.  And by the way, hasn’t Emma Jones always said “this is not about the money.” It certainly appears that it is….

posted by: EastHaven... on January 19, 2012  10:43am

As a law abiding black man from New Haven I have had far too many run in with racist and abusive east haven cops.

The fact is that East Haven Cops won’t admit this but it is a sundown town and shooting a few black men/children every few years “keeps that element in their place.”

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on January 19, 2012  11:03am

It is attitudes like those expressed by DKR and VeteranCop that lead to distrust of and non-cooperation with the police by African-American youth and the Black community in general. 

Your seeming total lack of sensitivity for a woman whose son was shot and killed though he was unarmed, and shot by a cop who shot at another unarmed Black man, a cop whom you seem to believe is not AT ALL culpable in causing “the chain of events that led to (Malik’s) death”, is beyond shocking. ...

VeteranCop: If you feel it’s such a travesty/tragedy (I can’t tell which) that Floodquist “LIVES with this everyday of his life”, perhaps you could ... consider that Malik Jones doesn’t live with anything, because he was shot and killed by your colleague.

DRK: It is not uncommon for young (and sometimes Older) Black men to have multiple “contacts” with the police. I’ve had my own just walking down the street on at least two occasions. We call it walking (or sitting, or standing, or driving, etc, while Black). 

Contacts with the police is not evidence of having committed a crime, no more than being arrested is evidence of having been found guilty.  So what’s your point, that if the Police have made “contact” with you in the past, they have justification for shooting you at some future date?   

And the very fact that the courts are only willing to award this mother such a paltry amount of money shows how little value our judicial system places on Black life, pain or suffering.  I guess your attitudes are sustained by the dominate culture at the highest levels, uh?

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on January 19, 2012  12:24pm

To the Editors:

Your constant editing of my remarks is both annoying and arbitrary.  Unless you can show me in some objective sense what is wrong with my characterization of “VeteranCop’s” perceived attitude as a “Pity Party” for a Living Cop, with little or no concern for a Dead Kid, or what is wrong with my asking him/her to take “a SECOND” to consider that Dead kid, or even expressing that I feel the attitudes of the first two posters are “shameful”, I will strongly consider not posting here anymore.

Despite your providing a useful forum to for citizens to engage issues (and each other), your subjective decisions to deem comments made about another’s remarks is a bit over-the-top at this point, I believe. 

I understand that this is YOUR medium, hence YOUR right to decide.  It is, however, my right to decide not to engage it, and despite the fact that I like doing so, I don’t like being censored in the way you choose to do.

[Editor’s Note: Thank you for your participation in the comments section. We do remove comments that insult other commenters, tell them to get a life, talk about what kinds of attitudes they have or whom they do or don’t care about, whether they are shameful or other negative adjectives. We feel that takes discussions off topic and makes them personal back-and-forth insult exchanges, and sets a different tone for the section.]

posted by: vince on January 19, 2012  1:25pm

@Rev. Lee.  Given the kind of life Malik Jones was living, what kind of value did you expect a jury to put on it?  If he wasn’t killed in a confrontation with police, a confrontation he himself chose to initiate and escalate, given his lifestyle, he would have ended up dead or in prison for life soon enough.  Sad to say, but true.  Look at his rap sheet for heaven’s sakes.  Also, to the NHI, your reporting is hardly complete.  The EHPD did fully investigate the Malik shooting. But to avoid charges of departmental bias, the investigations were turned over to Henry Lee, the State’s attorney and the state police.  All concluded that Officer Floodquist acted reaasonably.  Yet Malik’s lawyer misleadingly faults the East Haven chief and the department for not investigating.  If they had done the investigation and cleared Floodquist, Malik’s lawyers would have screamed “inside” job and bias.  Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. But that’s lawyer’s for ya.

posted by: Robbin on January 19, 2012  1:26pm

I was always taught that when when the police lights say “pull over”, you pull over. You take your ticket, you get arrested, whatever the case may be, you settle it in the courts later. What if Mr. Jones had run over a small child in his chase through two towns?  Would he still be seen as such a victim today?

posted by: DKR on January 19, 2012  1:54pm

@ the Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee,..with all due respect sir,...my opinion regarding this issue has nothing to do with being black,..white,...blue,...hispanic,..or asian ,..or gay or male or female,.....not one bit,..it’s about the race card,....no buying it,..the bottom line is this,..when a police officer signals you to stop for whatever reason,...stop…not that hard to understand or figure out,...if the encounter goes against you,..then by all means make a complaint against the officer,..that’s your legal right,..as far as the 116 contacts,..well i know for a fact i’d be pretty embarrassed as a parent knowing my son has had that many encounters with the police in the first place,.

posted by: freedomofthepeople on January 19, 2012  2:33pm

@DKR many White people ASSUME there is a race card if you look in new haven and nationally it’s the only card to play when your guilty for being black in the wrong area and subject to what malik lost his life too, and that is systematic ignorance, the same stuff that Newt Gingrich believes (a rascist in the african american community). Your suggesting that it’s not a color thing is unfounded. ... the truth and facts relating to black people and police misconduct are a reality. Most police are’nt ever persecuted for killing unarmed black people crazy thing is it was apart of the U.S. policy at one time, when joe louis was boxing champion, a black man was lynched everyday often while police watched. The concern being a person of african descent in contact with police is the same because there is still insensitivity and blaming of the victim….

posted by: Eric Smith on January 19, 2012  4:50pm

DKR…you’re right.  When you see lights and sirens, you’re supposed to pull over.  VeteranCop…I respect your assessment of Floodquist based on your interactions with him.  At the same time, and I’m not saying this is the case with Floodquist because I don’t know him, I’m sure you’re aware that people are capable of putting on a front in one context, while harboring less savory characteristics in another context.  Rev. Mr. Ross-Lee is also right.  At the very least, the EHPD should have shown more sensitivity to the fact that a woman’s son is dead.  I said as much to Chief Gallo (at least he showed up) and others at a service shortly after the shooting.

With that said and with putting the history of race relations in America aside for a moment, the core issues are, given that Jones did not stop, was the shooting justifiable and, given the fact that a civil rights case was filed, were his civil rights violated?  It was ruled that the shooting was reasonable and justified, but it was also ruled that Jones’ civil rights were violated, hence the award for E. Jones.  In addition, if I remember the report correctly, S. Robinson’s report did question Flodquist’s tactics.  Furthermore, the recent DOJ report on the historical practices of the EHPD relative to minorities does give people a reason to question the conduct of the EHPD when these types of incidents happen.

At this point, so that East Haven, New Haven, and the community at large can move forward, East Haven should pay what the jury awarded E. Jones and Chief Gallo should come forward and acknowledge that the EHPD under his leadership has engaged in unjust tactics as documented in the DOJ report and implement reforms in a serious way.  If he fails to do so, Mayor Maturo should fire him.

posted by: VeternCop on January 19, 2012  5:09pm

Hopefully people understand I was commenting on a small part of this case. The loss of a child and someone as young as Mr Jones is tragic. Why he chose to flee the police only he knows for sure, but I’ve never ever known any cop who would choose to use his weapon as easily as some may think.

Someday may all the wounds opened heal.

posted by: Average Joe on January 19, 2012  8:59pm

How long will we continue this nonsense. Malik Jones was a criminal who failed to stop when ordered to. The fault for his death is his own. ...

posted by: The Count on January 20, 2012  10:20am

Maybe it’s me (nah, that can’t be it!) but it seemed as though this story was muted for the years April Capone was in power.Hmmm….

posted by: freedom of the people on January 20, 2012  12:12pm

I understand you are attempting to protect something by blocking my factual messages that eliminate much of the debates relating to african americans and how they are judged in policy and the public eye falsely I would appreciate if you do the research to understand the relevance of the information to your readers on the site.  My comments have never been derogatory or against anyone I just state the facts please consider then when attempting to allow freedom of speach relating to topics that affect african americans like my self within regards to the mis-informed making generalizations on your sight about “black” people with allowing for a person researched and who happens to be african american to express the facts thats all I’m saying.  There is alot of coverage of what the jewish community does in new haven, whats up with that? relating to the Black community in a grass roots sense not the politically correct negative of different actuality that my people experience? you allow christian reverends to comment but not an actual person affected by the biases present in the issues discussed cmon now. If you have a person up here stating like dkr that the black card is something black people do when my people are oppressed systematically why not allow for the facts to come out and allow for the comments to be a discussion?

posted by: Liana on January 20, 2012  11:13pm

NHI,

Would it be possible for you to point me in the right direction for corroborating the following?:

“Rosen began to raise the fact that the East Haven police department at the time of Jones’ death had T-shirts for its softball team that said depicted two officers cuffing caricatures of gang members face down on the front of a cruiser, accompanied by the text: ‘Boyz On Tha Hood.’”

I covered that story for the New Haven Advocate in the months following the shooting. it was subsequently covered on the front page of the New Haven Register when the East Haven Board of Polcie Commissioners held a special meeting on it. The shift was the official jersey for the team. I would recommend the archives of the Adovcate and the Register from that time.

posted by: PCPresponsible on January 21, 2012  10:14pm

Malik and the other young man who was in the car at the time were both high on PCP and other drugs. PCP is a hallucinogen and people on PCP often act in a dangerous and threatening manner and can seem to have the strength of 10 men. It is understandable why Officer Floodquist felt threatened. It also explains why Malik fled through the streets and did not stop when signaled to do so. And a review of Malik’s prior encounters with police show that he had a history of criminal behavior and drug abuse…. Malik’s death was a tragedy, but not one caused by a supposedly racist East Haven cop. The tragedy was rooted in the fact that this young boy was failed by his parents and the community many years before that night he died. He did not receive appropriate treatment for his drug problem, which his parents chose to ignore. And once he was adult, it was his responsibility to make wise choices, including seeking help for a drug problem, which he did not do.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on January 23, 2012  9:40pm

In response to my complaint about being censored on this site (and this post) “The Editors” said this:

[Editor’s Note: Thank you for your participation in the comments section. We do remove comments that insult other commenters, tell them to get a life, talk about what kinds of attitudes they have or whom they do or don’t care about, whether they are shameful or other negative adjectives. We feel that takes discussions off topic and makes them personal back-and-forth insult exchanges, and sets a different tone for the section.]


And then the Editors accepted and printed the following comments from other posters.

In response to my comment about the paltry amount Ms. Jones was awarded for her son’s life “Vince” said this: “Given the kind of life Malik Jones was living, what kind of value did you expect a jour to put on it”

“Average Joe” gave us this (apparently non-offensive) gem: “Malik Jones was a criminal.”

From “PCPresponsible” we have this (irenic?) remark: Malik and the other young man who was in the car at the time were both high on PCP and other drugs. The tragedy (of Malik’s death) was rooted in the FACT (emphasis mine) that this young man was failed by his parents…many years before that night he died.”

And NONE of these comments, including the two to which my initial, edited, comments were address, are “personal insult(s)”, “negative”, or speaks to “attitudes” of others?

ARE YOU KIDDING ME, Editors?

Your subjective editing allows you to determine that it’s ok for people to come on here and make veiled racist comments about the value of a man’s life to his family or to the community based on their value system, which perhaps are more in sync - N.B.: Ms Jones - Malik’s Mother (remember her) could very well be reading this comments about her son that you think are perfectly fine to post here. 

But if I point out the not so damn subtle bias in the statements they make, you censor it on the claims they it might take the discussion “off-topic”.  And what, pray tell, is the PROPER topic, the continued denigration of an unarmed young man who was shot and killed by a police department that the DOJ has deemed Racially Biased? 

Take note, people of color, if you depend on others to tell your story or to help you make your case, you will ALWAYS be disappointed.  ALWAYS! You MUST own your on.

P.S. Remember this when Y’all are begging them to pay for the rejuvenation of the “Community “Q” House”!!!!

P.P.S: I don’t really expect this to show up on the site, and don’t really care if it does or not. I just wanted you (the Editors) to know that I see your double standard in practice AND in plain view.

posted by: T on January 24, 2012  5:56pm

i hate the fact that people are still blaming malik for his own death. what amazes me is that your missing the point rather he black white green purple the cop was wrong and he seemed trigger happy. I used to live in new haven be a black lawyer. Yes i have been pulled over 4 times in east haven and yes its a lot of profiling going on in that town. I don’t think the mother is after money,I believe she is after justice.