RACINE — It’s been a year since the death of 26-year-old Donte Shannon.
Shannon was killed Jan. 17, 2018. Two Racine Police officers fired 20 bullets and shot Shannon 10 times after he allegedly fled from a traffic stop on foot. The officers reported that Shannon had pointed a gun at them, according to a Wisconsin Department of Justice investigation.
The two officers, Investigator Chad Stillman and Officer Peter Boeck, were not charged with any crimes and have since been cleared for active duty, after being placed on leave for three months.
Despite the passage of time, court proceedings and the district attorney’s findings, plenty of anger remains among Shannon’s surviving friends and family.
About 75 people marched at 4 p.m. Thursday, starting at Shannon’s former home on the 1200 block of Grand Avenue to the place he died, in a backyard near the intersection of 14th Street and Park Avenue, as part of a vigil marking the one-year anniversary of Shannon’s death.
Community leaders and family members shared messages that varied in tone, from hope to anger to resolve to calls for action, before clusters of red, purple, white and black balloons were released into the early evening sky.
Peace and anger
The Facebook event that announced the march, organized by Shannon’s great-aunt Karen Simpson, expressed a desire of “wanting to make peace.”
“In this year, I didn’t know many of you (who) were Donte’s friends, but through the course of the year you have continued to show love. And my family appreciates that,” Simpson said, speaking into a microphone Thursday. “I have come to know many families that are in our shoes — black, white, brown, mental illness — who have suffered the same and felt the same injustices. All lives do matter.”
Other speakers took a more aggressive stance.
“The police are not your friends,” Donte Shannon’s grandfather, John Shannon, said. “If you have 100 good cops, and one bad cop does one bad thing and the 100 so-called good cops back him up, then why are they so good? … We have been deceived.”
Donte Shannon’s father, Nakia Shannon, said that a new attorney has been hired and another lawsuit against the Racine Police Department and/or the City of Racine could be on the horizon; a lawsuit filed by Shannon’s family against the city was dismissed in November.
“I don’t want my people, my black people, to be afraid of walking down the street because they know the police are against them,” Nakia Shannon told The Journal Times. “Stuff like this shouldn’t happen.”
Corey Prince, a friend of the Shannon family and the vice president of the NAACP’s local chapter, implored those who would listen to channel their anger and use it for productive purposes.
“Donte died. Why? … To the young people here, we have to be about a little bit more. We have to want a little bit more,” Prince said. “I would like people to be motivated into action … There are a lot of ways to create change besides marching and protesting.”
At one point during his speech, Prince asked for listeners — regardless of their race — to raise their fists in a showing of solidarity. Protesters took the same pose during a demonstration last January outside of the Racine County Law Enforcement Center, two days after Shannon’s death.
“I think you all forgot about the power of this, of togetherness,” Prince said, fist raised.
After the march ended at about 5 p.m., chants of “Long live Donte!” mixed with yells of “(expletive) the police!” were heard coming from vigil attendees who had returned to the Shannon home.
Throughout the march and speeches, police officers quietly stood on the sidelines. They had been called upon to control and block traffic along the five-block route so that the vigil-goers could walk and speak undisturbed. As soon as the march ended, the officers departed in their squads, with few words exchanged between members of the two groups.