Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry –
“Rain wets a leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots.”
Another Black man, Silvon Simmons, was shot in the back by a racist white RPD cop, Joseph Ferrigno, who claims Silvon fired a shot at him with a semiautomatic 9mm pistol that did not contain any DNA evidence of Silvon having physically possessed it. Neither did Silvon’s hands show any gunfire residue because “residue testing (was not done because it) can be unreliable” and any suggestion of it would have been grounds for challenge by the defense.
Ferrigno has a history of civilian complaints, and he has “faced nearly two dozen complaints” of excessive force (against Black men no doubt), none of which have been upheld because the police review process is controlled by the Rochester Police Department and its cohorts; the “same process (that) determined Ferrigno was justified in shooting Simmons.”
Did Simmons wipe the gun clean as he fell to the ground with three of Ferrigno’s bullets in him? Or perhaps Ferrigno and his pal, Samuel Giancursio, cleaned the gun before dropping it in close proximity to Silvon as he lay prone on the ground. (Certain cops are known to carry extra guns for that purpose.)
Let’s retrace Ferrigno’s motivations for a moment. Leaving other cops earlier on a lookout for a suspect, he and Giancursio roused someone on a traffic stop on Lyell Avenue (a Black man no doubt) and then went their separate ways solo in their cruisers.
Ferrigno, spoiling for an encounter with a suspect, spots a Chevrolet Impala “that seemed to match the colors of the vehicle that the individual they were seeking (earlier) was known to drive.” Ferrigno followed the car and alerted Giancursio.
Silvon, who works full time at a heating and air-conditioning operation, and the driver of the car, both of whom live on the same street, without a doubt observed Ferrigno following them. They, smartly one would think, made their way to the car driver’s home and backed into the driveway.
Once safe, they believed, in the driveway of one of their homes, and for whatever reason they or anyone sitting in their car decides to lean downward to retrieve a dropped book of matches, to pull their socks up, to stash some money in their shoe, to scratch an itch, or to simply pick up something inadvertently dropped, Ferrigno surmised that the downward movement was “as if (the individuals were) trying to conceal something or reach for something.”
Ferrigno instantly went into his attack mode. He flipped on the spotlight of his car and lit up the area of the car in which Silvon and the driver were seated. Simultaneously Ferrigno steps out of his cruiser with his 40-caliber Glock with flashlight attached and directed the sight of his gun and flashlight directly at the car in which Silvon and his friend were seated.
Silvon, no doubt in fear for his life, no doubt recalling the plethora of white racist cop killings of unarmed Black men, exited the car and took off running for his life. Mistake. Ferrigno pursued Silvon because Ferrigno “thought (Silvon) was our wanted suspect.” Ferrigno’s thought, however, was not attached to any reasonable evidence of proof. His mindset was already set.
District Attorney Hahn assumed as a fact, doubtless from some hearsay in the tumbling of her mind, that a witness said Silvon had been arguing with someone in a car earlier about someone having disrespected him. Gun shots were reported minutes later, and a .22 caliber casing (singular) was found in the area where the argument is alleged to have taken place. Hahn then speculated that the shots may have been fired toward Silvon’s house, and that Silvon was “upset, didn’t like being disrespected—because it is a known fact that being dissed is fighting words for a Black man—(and) shots were fired near (Silvon’s) house where he lives.”
Hahn then raises the question: “What if (Silvon) had gone to get a gun for security.”
The better question, however, is why was there no DNA evidence of Silvon’s on the recovered 9mm pistol, if Silvon physically possessed the gun for any period of time, and he fired it at Ferrigno?
Hahn’s arguments, from beginning to end, rested solely on her pleas for the jury “to not drift onto the shoals of the occasionally tempestuous relations between the police and the low-income communities,” a euphemism for the Black community.
The jury, doubtlessly led by a white male, while finding no real evidence to reach a guilty verdict against Silvon for attempting to kill Ferrigno (because of the lack of DNA evidence on the gun Silvon was said to have physically possessed for an extended period of time), found Silvon guilty of possessing the gun. How that balances with the facts is a mystery, but it results in a jury conviction and a prison term for Silvon that can be overturned upon appeal which, of course, will take years to accomplish.
Meanwhile, Ferrigno is free to go about his business of intimidating Black men and when he is so determined, shoot them with the blessings of the Rochester Police Department and the Office of the Monroe County District Attorney.