Daily Archives: September 27, 2013

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Keep Hope Alive with a new War on Poverty

By Jesse Jackson, Sr.
NNPA Columnist

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Only a couple of weeks ago, as the nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s powerful “I Have a Dream” speech, I was reminded of the Rev. King’s last birthday, in January 1968.

He combined it with work — a staff meeting, planning for the multiracial Poor People’s March, where we made plans to occupy the National Mall. He spoke to us of the need to march to demand an end to the War in Vietnam and to push for a full commitment to the War on Poverty.

This week — four-and-a-half decades later — the U.S. Census Bureau reported that “the nation’s official poverty rate in 2012 was 15.0 percent, which represents 46.5 million people living at or below the poverty line.” That’s up from 46.2 million in 2011, and translates to a poverty rate of 15 percent — one out of every seven Americans. The Census Bureau says that number includes about 16 million children and almost 4 million seniors. Is anybody listening?

The Census Bureau reported that median household income also dropped. As Reuters summarized it, “While the Standard and Poor’s 500 index gained 16 percent on a total return basis last year . . . median household income slipped to $51,017 from of $51,100 in 2011.” Is anybody listening?

Or as Bill Moyers puts it on his web site: “That number may sound familiar to anyone who remembers George H.W. Bush’s first year as president. . . . because household income in 2012 is similar to what it was in 1989.”

The Census Bureau report was released on the second anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which drove the issue of inequality in America into public debate. Unfortunately, House Republicans continue to try to head the nation the wrong way down austerity’s one-way street.

Their latest act of meanness? The GOP-dominated House voted to cut $40 billion out of food stamps over the next 10 years.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) had the details: “In a party-line vote, 217 House Republicans voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamps program.” In a press release titled “Reverse Robin Hood,” CAP continued: “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that Thursday’s cuts will bump 3.8 million off the program next year, with an additional 2.8 million losing them each year on average over the next decade. Additionally, an estimated 210,000 children will lose access to free school lunch programs and 55,000 jobs will be lost in the first year of cuts alone.”

This is not a War on Poverty, but a War on the Poor! Is anybody listening?

Perhaps not in Washington, where the collusion with Wall Street has created a 1 percent economy. As Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez’s new study shows, “the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery.” Ninety-five percent of the gains to the top 1 percent. That’s just not right.

Here’s a good example of how such outrageous greed works. Earlier this month, Vodafone agreed to sell its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, to the tune of $130 billion. To quote Barron’s, “As it happens, the dividend will be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” Of course it will — the 1 percent writes the rules.

Barron’s also noted: “The Vodafone group will incur only about $5 billion in U.S. taxes on the transaction, or just about 4 percent.” You don’t say.

Not a single African-American, Latino, or female bond firm will share in the $265 million in fees generated from the mammoth $49 billion bond offering Verizon will use to fund the cash portion of the transaction.

And the deal was government approved.

But the poor did get some good news this week. It sounds like Pope Francis has been listening, has heard the cries of the poor.

When asked what he wished for the Catholic Church, Pope Francis replied in a way that gave me great hope: “ . . . the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. . . . Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. . . . And you have to start from the ground up.”

Unfortunately, as writer Steven Rosenfeld pointed out, the “House GOP didn’t get the pope’s memo before slashing food stamps.”

These cuts must be blocked. Even better, we could honor Dr. King and the March on Washington with a new War on Poverty. Keep hope alive.

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Jay-Z, Beyoncé Top Celebrity Couples Earning List with $95M

Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

Beyonce and Jay-Z

Beyonce and Jay-Z

Forbes has released its list of this year’s highest-earning celebrity couples and that Jay Z and Beyonce have once again come out at the top of the heap.

Between June 2012 and June 2013 (the time frame established for the rankings), the hip-hop power-couple took in a combined $95 Million. The couple also topped Forbes’ celebrity couples list last year.

Beyonce is said to have earned $11 million more than her husband did this year, thanks in large part to her Mrs. Carter Show world tour, with average grosses of $2 million per night.

Jay Z also had success on the concert stage. Much of his earnings came from his profitable Watch The Throne tour with Kanye West – who also makes an appearance on the top earning celeb couples list..

NFL star Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, came in at No. 2 on the list with $80 million in earnings. Brady’s three-year extension deal with the New England Patriots included a $30 million signing bonus. Bundchen is the world’s highest paid supermodel, with $42 million in yearly earnings.

Brad Pitt and Angelina rounded out the top 3, taking in an estimated $50 million.

West and Kim Kardashian came in at number five with $35 million.

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On Fatherhood: Floyd Mayweather Sr. Speaks

by Ja’han Jones
Special to the NNPA from The Arizona Informant

Floyd+Mayweather+Sr+Floyd+Mayweather+Jr+Floyd+4QeptUDPcyBlFatherhood is an interesting gift, because it is just as much a gift to the giver as it is to the recipient. The father showers love unto his son, and in return, he is rewarded with a pupil, the most loyal of friends, and a seed to be imparted upon and carry on the father’s legacy. The son casts love up to his father, and in return,he is rewarded with a mentor, a fortress of affection and security, and an indelible sense of pride in his roots. It is true, however, that fatherhood has almost nothing to do with genetics and almost everything to do with upbringing. That a man fathered a child is of little importance to whether that child regards the man as his father. Instead, there are prerequisites a man must meet in order to truly assume a fatherly role. A man wishing to be a father must endure the stressors of his son’s adolescence; a man wishing to be a father must embed knowledge within his son; a man wishing to be a father must love, and teach, and discipline his son.

When the world views Floyd Mayweather Sr. through the television screen, it will likely see a man often at odds with his own seed—a man facing the tumult of a strained father-son relationship. Time spent in close quarters with the man, however, reveals a much more complicated dynamic. It seems, actually, that while the two men may voice their differences, the root of their conflicts is embedded in their similarity. In regard to parenting and fatherhood, a deeper look into the psyche of “Senior”, as he is often called, reveals not a man who failed to impart himself upon his son, but rather a man who imparted almost all of himself upon his son. Floyd Mayweather Sr.’s approach to fatherhood is what makes him, perhaps, the greatest boxing trainer of all time, yet it is also what brings him into occasional dispute with his son.

On the morning of September 1st, 2012, Senior stood at the base of a stairwell leading up to a second-floor boxing gym in Scottsdale. The shimmering lights aligning the Las Vegas strip were no longer. The world’s pace had changed, and a man who had familiarized himself with the “City of Sin” was now in a markedly different environment. Scottsdale, Arizona, is where celebrities go to hide from celebrity. It is Hollywood, New York, and Las Vegas, scaled down and slowed from a hustle to a mosey. And for that reason, Senior seemed overcome with an air of comfort. Dislodging himself from against the stairwell’s concrete banister, Senior made his way to a nearby coffee shop, mini-entourage in tow; behind him, a duo of representatives and the owner of the boxing gym, a cousin of mine. As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a slight man, dawning red athletic wear from head-to-toe and a gold necklace, and I knew this to be Floyd Mayweather Sr. I leaped from the vehicle to intercept Senior, and while shaking his hand generously and pelting him with praise, I managed to explain that I would be the journalist shadowing him for the day. I expressed my gratitude, and his response was marked with brevity and a profundity that would both foreshadow the day and explain Senior’s past: “Oh, no problem, man. I’m a people person. As soon as you turn on people, it comes back to you.”

After following Senior to the coffee shop, his group—myself now included—entered the gym. A hush swept through the room the second Senior’s sneaker touched the floor, and the sight of single boxing gloves tossed to the ground was telling of the boxing world’s adoration and reverence for the man. In an instant, Senior was surrounded by outstretched arms—requests to shake the hand of the legend who trained the likes of Ricky Hatton, Layla Ali, B.J. Penn, and of course, his son, The World Champion. Senior mingled with the boxers in the gym for a bit before deciding to step in the ring. He needn’t say a word to bring the boxers to attention. Word traveled quickly that the trainer was, perhaps, ready to begin training, and soon enough, an audience buoying against the ring ropes surrounded Floyd Mayweather Sr. It was this image which gave credence to my belief that Senior’s approaches to fatherhood and boxing training are similar.

An entire room of athletes now hung on Senior’s every word, and such a sight was surreal; the intrigue and respect on behalf of the boxers made their relationship with him more a resemblance of a parent-children relationship than a trainer-athlete relationship. In individual clinics, Senior stripped each boxer down to foundational level and attempted to rebuild them, equipped with the defensive techniques he’d mastered in his own boxing days. Senior’s attention to detail carried with it a degree of intimacy. Much like a father with his child, Senior evaluated each boxer, noting any flaws. Much like a father with his child, Senior underwent the rigor of teaching specific technique to each boxer. Much like a father with his child, Senior disciplined each boxer; he critiqued until the skill was to his liking. And much like a father, Senior imparted a bit of himself—a bit of his own boxing acumen—which will forever be present in each of his pupils.

In conversation, Floyd Mayweather Sr. once told me “The Lord made me to make champions.” With a divine directive of that nature, it is no wonder why Senior has pursued training with such fervency—with such passion. It is the belief of Floyd Mayweather Sr. that he was placed on this Earth to train—to build—to father boxers. The inarguable evidence of his success is the laundry list of top-notch talent he has trained. Yet, perhaps, his most clear product of fatherhood is evident in his son, Floyd Mayweather Jr.; not only Floyd Mayweather Jr. the boxer, but Floyd Mayweather Jr. the man. If we subscribe to the belief that the duty of a father is to equip his son with tools necessary for survival, we must credit Floyd Mayweather Sr. with fatherhood. And if we subscribe to the belief that the duty of a father is to impart himself upon his son, the fact that Senior has given the world a man similar to him in almost every way—from his swagger to his physical skill to his combativeness—is a testament to his fatherhood, not a denial of it.lailaali mayweatherpadrehijo1

The Butler

Lessons of ‘The Butler’ Still Relevant Today

By Marc H. Morial
NNPA Columnist

marc-morial-offical_headshot_-_2-07 “Everything you are and everything you have is because of that butler.” Gloria Gaines, wife of Cecil Gaines as played by Oprah Winfrey in “The Butler.”

We tend to think of politicians, pundits and school books as the great troubadours of history and shapers of public opinion. But when a movie such as Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” comes along, we are reminded that nothing moves the spirit or traces time like simple storytelling. The film not only offers a rare glimpse inside the everyday world of the dignified men in tuxedos who silently serve American presidents and their guests, in two hours it covers four decades of civil rights history as seen through the eyes of a Black White House butler who worked through eight administrations.

Hollywood has historically shied away from more serious Black, historical themed movies, believing they have limited box-office appeal. In fact, the film’s African American director, Lee Daniels, had a hard time corralling 41 producers to finance “The Butler.” Some critics have also claimed weariness at the retelling of the African American freedom story. But, recent events tell us that this story isn’t simply being retold; it is being relived – and there are still lessons to be learned.

After seeing the film, three observations stood out for me. First, the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin reminds us of the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till as described in the movie. Second, the recent extremist and Supreme Court attacks on voting rights are wake up calls as chilling as the 1960s Freedom Ride bus bombings depicted in the film. Lastly, growing income inequality and the less-than–living-wages paid to millions of African American and working class citizens today recall the decades-long fight for equal pay that was waged by Black White House butlers in the movie.

“The Butler” also has some interesting insights into the ideological and generational divide within African American families that has sometimes caused rifts between fathers and sons, as well as mothers and daughters, who have different perspectives on the pace and methods of civil rights activism. The movie also explodes the myth of mindless subservience often associated with Black maids and butlers by highlighting their dignity, intelligence, and sometimes subversive contributions to African American progress. Young people today must not forget that “everything they are and everything they have” was made possible by the grandmothers and grandfathers who came before them, many of whom struggled to make a better life for the next generation.

Finally, the admonition to “The Butler,” Cecil Gaines, that “the room should feel empty when you are in it,” reminds us of the phenomenon of “double consciousness” – the need to assume a dual identity – first described by W.E.B. Du Bois that many African Americans from all walks of life still experience today.

“The Butler” delivers these and many other important messages with an all-star cast of African American actors, including Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lenny Kravitz, David Oyelowo, and Terrence Howard. The movie was inspired by the real life story of Eugene Allen who retired as head butler in 1986 and died in 2010 after serving 34 years in the White House. Allen’s story was first told in a 2008 Washington Post article by Haygood Will in which Allen and his wife, Helene, shared their excitement over the chance to vote for America’s first Black president. Helene died before the election. Allen lived to cast his vote and attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Perhaps one of the most important lessons for Hollywood, as the film’s North American total hit $100 million this weekend with support from a multicultural audience base, is that the African American story is the American story – and that never gets old.The Butler

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Obama Reignites Push for Gun Legislation

By George E. Curry
NNPA Editor-in-Chief

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WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the wake of high-profile gun violence in the nation’s capital and  Chicago, President Barack Obama told members of the Congressional Black Caucus and their dinner guests that he will renew his effort to persuade Congress to pass legislation toughening the nation’s gun laws.

Speaking at the CBC Foundation Dinner Saturday night, Obama said, “We can’t rest until all of our children can go to school or walk down the street free from the fear that they will be struck down by a stray bullet. Just two days ago, in my hometown of Chicago, 13 people were shot during a pickup basketball game, including a 3-year-old girl. Tomorrow night I’ll be meeting and mourning with families in this city who now know the same unspeakable grief of families in Newtown, and Aurora, and Tucson, and Chicago, and New Orleans, and all across the country – people whose loved ones were torn from them without headlines sometimes, or public outcry.  But it’s happening every single day.”

President Obama, in his role as comforter-in-chief, addressed 4,000 people mourners Sunday night at the Marine Corps Barracks, several few blocks from the Navy Yard where Aaron Alexis, 34, a former Navy reservist with a history of mental problems, killed 12 people on Sept. 16 in Building 197 before being killed himself.

‘Part of what wears on . . . is the sense that this has happened before,” President Obama said. “What wears on us, what troubles us so deeply, as we gather here today is this senseless violence that took place in the Navy Yard echoes other recent tragedies.”

Exasperated by inaction in Congress, the president said, “By now . . . it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that’s from the American people.”

Obama acknowledges that he faces an uphill battle getting gun legislation enacted.

Despite strong support from President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and relatives of the 20 first-graders and six educators killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last December, legislation requiring expanded background checks failed to clear the Senate earlier this year.

“We fought a good fight earlier this year, but we came up short,” Obama said at the CBC dinner.  “And that means we’ve got to get back up and go back at it.  Because as long as there are those who fight to make it as easy as possible for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun, then we’ve got to work as hard as possible for the sake of our children.  We’ve got to be ones who are willing to do more work to make it harder.”

A study of Black homicides by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national non-profit educational organization that conducts research and public education on violence in America, found the Black homicide rate is more than six times that of Whites.

Using FBI figures, the center said there were 6,469 Black homicide victims in 2010. The homicide rate among Black victims in the United States was 16.32 per 100,000, compared to a rate of 2.66 per 100,000 for Whites. About 14 percent of the Black victims were female.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes legislation that would require background checks for gun purchases.

A new report by the Violence Policy Center titled, “Blood Money II – How the Gun Industry Funds the NRA,” disclosed that members of the gun industry have donated between $19.3 million and $60.2 million to the NRA since 2005. Because the NRA is required to report only a range of donations, VPC said, it is impossible to determine exactly how much the organization receives from the gun industry.

In its first “Blood Money” report in 2011, the Violence Policy Center said the gun industry contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to NRA, a figure that has increased considerably since then.

628x471-2The latest “Blood Money” report, issued this month, states: “Despite the widespread cover of Blood Money’s findings received after the Newtown shooting, the NRA’s escalating efforts to bring in gun industry dollars, and the growing number of NRA programs ‘sponsored’ by members of the gun industry, to this day the NRA continues to falsely state on its webpage that the organization “is not affiliated with any firearm or ammunition manufacturers or with any businesses that deals in guns and ammunition.’”

In a press release, the Violence Policy Center said, “One of these ‘corporate partners’ is Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the mass shooting of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Cerberus Capital Management, which owns a 94 percent share in Freedom Group, pledged to sell its investment in the days following the Sandy Hook shooting but has yet to uphold its promise.

“After ramping up its financial support to a million dollars or more, Freedom Group’s leadership was inducted into the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom at the organization’s annual meeting in May 2013. The Golden Ring of Freedom is reserved for those who have ‘given gifts of cash totaling $1,000,000 or more,’ according to the NRA.”

It continued, “A second inductee was Smith & Wesson, manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the July 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 wounded. In a promotional video on the NRA’s website, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney explains, ‘I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.’”

According to the new “Blood” report, high-capacity ammunition magazine manufacturers or vendors who contributed to the NRA included: Midway, with a contribution ranging between $5 million and $10 million. Those giving $1 million to $5 million were: Beretta USA Corporation, Brownells, Freedom Group, Springfield Armory, Inc., Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Approximately 50 other gun companies or distributors – including Winchester, Glock, Browning, Colt, and Remington – gave lesser amounts.

ObamaJosh Sugarmann, author of the study and executive director of the Violence Policy Center, said in a statement, “Less than five months after the tragedy in Newtown, while families and the entire community still mourned, the NRA was celebrating its financial ties to the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the shooting. In the wake of declining household gun ownership, the NRA has turned to the funder of last resort: the gun industry itself.”

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Shooting of Unarmed Black in N.C. called ‘Murder’

By Cash Michaels
Special from to the NNPA from
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP says the tragic death of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a White Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer nearly two weeks ago was not voluntary manslaughter as formally charged, but “murder.”

Rev. Kojo Nantambu, chapter president, said, “This [police officer], to me, executed this young man, for whatever reason. To me, it had to be rage, or hatred or something that clicked in this [officer]…you’re trained to deal with stressful situations.
When later asked if the charge of voluntary manslaughter filed against the White officer should have been stronger, Nantambu replied, “Yes, this was murder. No doubt about it, this was murder.”

No doubt others in Charlotte’s Black community share Nantambu’s assessment of what happened to Jonathan A. Ferrell, the 24-year-old former Florida A&M University football player fatally shot by CMPD police in the early morning hours of Sept. 14.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Randall Kerrick reportedly fired 12 shots at Ferrell as he ran towards him following a serious traffic accident, fatally hitting him 10 times. The police were called by a startled woman after Ferrell banged on the door of her home seeking help at 2:30 that morning.

Kerrick, who has been with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) since March 2010, was charged with voluntary manslaughter, a felony, after a criminal and departmental investigation determined that he used excessive force in the incident.

Investigators consulted with the Mecklenburg District Attorney’s office before charging Kerrick. Prosecutors will review the case, however, before taking it to a grand jury for possible indictments.

WBT-TV in Charlotte reports that Kerrick was briefly suspended for a day last December by the police department for unknown reasons. Before becoming a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer, Kerrick reportedly worked as an animal control officer, the TV station reported.

Sources told another television station, WSOC-TV, that video from a patrol car dashcam clearly showed not only showed that Ferrell was unarmed, but even hiked his pants to show he had no weapons.

Ferrell’s fatal shooting took place out of camera range.

“You took a piece of my heart that I can never put back,” Ferrell’s grieving mother, Georgia Ferrell, told reporters Monday while clutching her son’s favorite Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal from his early childhood. She said she never thought she would ever have to bury her son.

Attorney Chris Chestnut, the Florida-based lawyer representing the Ferrell family, acknowledged the speed with which the Charlotte Police Department charged one of its own with manslaughter, but still raised questions about police training, and how Ferrell’s race may have played a role in the tragic outcome.

“The officer is White [and] Mr. Ferrell is Black,” Chestnut reminded reporters. “This might be more of a reflection of where we are as a country.”

According to published accounts, three CMPD police officers answered the “breaking and entering” 911 call that the woman, whose home Ferrell repeatedly knocked on the door on after his car ran off the road, crashing into some trees.

Last week, CMPD made that 17-minute 911 call public, and it’s clear that the woman, who tells the police dispatcher that she has a “sleeping child “ in the home, believes that Ferrell is trying to break in because of his constant pounding.

As the officers reportedly approached Ferrell on Reedy Creek Road, he ran towards them, apparently gratified to see that help had arrived.

The story becomes murky then, because one officer allegedly shot Ferrell with a taser, but reportedly missed. That was followed by Kerrick discharging his weapon 12 times, hitting Ferrell 10 times before he fell to the ground.  Kerrick was the only officer to fire his sidearm.

“The evidence revealed that Mr. Ferrell did advance on Officer Kerrick and the investigation showed that the subsequent shooting of Mr. Ferrell was excessive,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police said in a statement Saturday. “Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter.”

A police incident report reveals that Kerrick alleged that he was “assaulted,” though it doesn’t state by whom, and suffered “minor injuries.” He refused medical treatment, however.

Officer Kerrick turned himself in to authorities after he was charged. He is free on $50,000 bond. All three CMPD officers involved have been placed on paid leave. There have been six other killings by CMPD officers just this year.

Jonathan Ferrell played safety for the FAMU Rattlers in 2009 and 2010 football seasons. His family described him as a “good” young man who had moved to North Carolina in February to start a new life. He worked two jobs and was engaged to be married. He had no criminal record in North Carolina, and a 2011 misdemeanor charge in Florida had been dismissed.  Had he lived, Ferrell would have turned 25 next month.

His mother, Georgia Ferrell, said , “I truly forgive him. I pray for him. And I pray that he gets off the police force.”

Attorney Chestnut was noncommittal on whether the Ferrell family would be suing the Charlotte Police Dept.

On Tuesday, Officer Kerrick, 27, was scheduled to make his first court appearance on the voluntary manslaughter charge, but did not attend. Instead, attorneys with the Fraternal Order of Police appeared on behalf of the officer, saying that when all of the evidence is considered, the court and the public will see that Kerick “did nothing wrong.”

In fact one of Kerrick’s attorneys, Michael Greene, an African American, told reporters afterwards that the officer’s actions “were justified.”

Kerrick’s next court date is Oct. 7 for a probable cause hearing. That’s when it will be clearer whether prosecutors intend to stay with the voluntary manslaughter charge, raise it to murder, or dismiss the charge altogether.

The Ferrell family attorney, Chris Chestnut, said that he has reviewed the video from the CMPD patrol car dashcam. Based on what he saw, he says, the charge should be raised to murder.

“That is murder, cold blooded, badge no badge, that’s murder,” Chestnut said after he, and the Ferrell family, viewed the video.  He said for them, “It is completely devastating.”