This post was originally published on St. Louis American

Gina Torres escorted her son to his graduation on Monday. Missing was her oldest son, Isaiah Hammett, who was killed during a “no-knock raid” by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2017.

“St. Louis families: stand with us and help us hold these police accountable!”

Toni Taylor, whose son Cary T. Ball, Jr., was 25 years old when killed by an SLMPD officer.

“Yesterday, I had to go to my son’s graduation, and he didn’t have his big brother there,” she said during a Fatal State Violence (FSV) Response Program rally outside St. Louis City Hall on Tuesday.

“That’s really hard for me. We do not need the police to have more money or to have training to keep killing us, because that’s all they keep doing. They keep killing us.”

The FSV Response Program is a coalition of families who have lost relatives and friends to police killings and deaths in jails. Faith for Justice and ArchCity Defenders work with the group, and the event gave families impacted by fatal state violence an opportunity to collectively share their personal experiences and advocate for policy changes.

Don Clark, Sr., 63, also died in a 2017 raid by the SLMPD Special Weapons and Tactical [SWAT] unit of the (SLMPD

“Those things [no-knock raids] are not only dangerous to my family, they are dangerous to your family. The things that have happened to my family will continue until we get control of the people who are sworn in to protect us,” said Clark’s son, Don Clark Jr.

Clark, Jr. and Torres shared their feelings of loss, their advocacy efforts with the FSV Response Program, and their demands for “a full, unequivocal ban on the use of no-knock raids, quick-knock raids, and other forms of militarized policing on St. Louis residents.”

Larry Graves, the father of Julius “Jules” Graves, who was 43 when he was killed by police in April 2019, advocated for a complete ban on the police use of vehicular chases, “which endanger not only the person being chased but the officers doing the chasing, people in traffic, and bystanders.”

According to ArchCity Defenders, since December 1, 2021, St. Louis and St. Louis County Police have killed at least 15 people, with over 50% having died from vehicular chases.

Earlier this month, Anngelique Simmons-Walker (52), Ephriam Simmons (47), Luther Simmons (44), Rhonda Simmons (34), and Takera Thompson (11) reportedly died in a tragic car crash involving a police vehicular chase. A GoFundMe for the family is here.

Toni Taylor, whose son Cary T. Ball, Jr., was 25 years old when killed by an SLMPD officer in April 2013, said “truly independent” investigations of killings by police, with real consequences and accountability are needed. Taylor continues to seek an independent investigation into Ball’s death and other victims killed by the state. 

“We truly feel like we could come together as the St. Louis families and apply pressure,” said Taylor. “We ask you, as St. Louis families: Stand with us and help us hold these police accountable!”

Tammy Bufford, the mother of 24-year-old Cortez Bufford was killed by a SLMPD officer in December 2019. She called for increased transparency for surviving families in regard to the circumstances of their loved ones’ death. Like others, she said she could not access information and records about her son, details of his death, or even where their loved one’s body was located.

“We are here today because today would have been Cortez’s 27th birthday, but he didn’t make it to 27. We stopped counting at 24, because that officer decided to be judge, jury, and executioner. We are fighting for, [and] demanding transparency in these cases, and also reparations,” said Bufford.

Brittney Watkins, an ArchCity Defenders staff attorney, called for reparations for families who have lost loved ones to police violence. The speakers concluded the press conference with a commemorative balloon release in honor of Cortez Bufford.

Families are also calling for:

  • Inviting elected officials to get in contact and meet with the families.
  • Donations to support the Simmons family’s GoFundMe. 
  • More members of the community to advocate for and amplify the families’ demands with their elected officials.

The group also invited people to the 5th Angelversary of Isaiah Hammett, outside of City Hall on June 7, 2022.