A vocal contingent of community activists at the Riverside City Council meeting Tuesday called on the council to fight a court ruling ordering the city to reinstate one of the four police officers fired after Tyisha Miller was shot to death in 1998.
The charged comments came after the council met in closed session to discuss an April 25 court ruling by Superior Court Judge Charles E. Stafford Jr. requiring the city to allow Wayne Stewart to return to his job with back pay. The council met with legal counsel for more than an hour, but did not reach a decision on whether to reinstate Stewart, appeal the court ruing or negotiate a settlement.
At least two African American leaders told council members they would face major obstacles for reelection if they voted against appealing the ruling.
“If you don’t do something about it, we’re going to do something about you,” said the Rev. Reginald Beamon, president of the San Bernardino-Highland Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The council will continue deliberations during a closed session May 20 at Riverside City Hall. The mayor said it could take a month or more to make a decision.
Before the council meeting Tuesday evening, one of Tyisha Miller’s relatives joined several others in urging the city to appeal the decision. “We’ve been slapped in the face once by the murder and blowing out her brains through the back of her head,” said Joan Miller, Tyisha’s paternal grandmother. “We don’t want to be slapped again by you choosing not to appeal the decision by this judge.”
In December 1998, Miller, 19, locked herself in her disabled car at a service station and passed out with a gun in her lap. When police officers broke a window to try to get her medical aid, Miller awakened with a start and police said she reached for the gun. The officers fired 12 times.
The four officers involved, who were fired after the shooting, were subsequently cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Riverside County district attorney’s office, the state attorney general’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice. The case triggered an uproar in Riverside’s African American community, and included demands for the four white officers to be tried on murder charges.