On Tuesday, August 26th, more than 40 people gathered at the corner of State Street and Corn street in the parking lot of Diane’s auto repair, to remember the life of Keith Shumway.
On August 25th, 2011 Keith Shumway was killed by the Ithaca Police Department after an altercation with an officer. He had a history of mental illness, and he was a man of color. He was 20 years old.
He was walking to the State Street Diner to meet his girlfriend. He almost made it. His family said that he was having a bad day. He was stopped by a police officer after someone reported a suspicious person acting erratically. The police say he reached through the window of a police vehicle, unholstered the officer’s gun and fired a shot that “grazed the officer’s leg.” when backup officers arrived, he was shot dead in the parking lot.
Community members still dispute the official story. Many ask how he was able to reach into the vehicle unholster the officer’s weapon, and fire a shot. While others wonder how the situation would have unfolded if unarmed mental health professionals responded to the scene instead of an armed police force.
Every year since 2011, members of Keith’s family and members of the community gather here to remember Keith’s life. The event has since transformed into an organizing event focused on discussion about how to improve the relationship between the police and the community, so that the people like Keith, who are the most vulnerable, are protected by those public servants who have sworn to protect them.
The anniversary of the police killing of Keith Shumway comes as we are in the midst of a local as well as national conversation about interactions between the criminal justice system and communities of color.
As we stood there, the parents of the teens who were stalked, chased, detained, and held at gunpoint by an un-uniformed ithaca police officer driving his personal vehicle,had just sopken to an audience at GIAC about their concerns for the safety of their children, and at the same time, the nation continues to mourn the death of Michael Brown in Furgeson, Missouri.
Chris Knight attended the rally and vigil, and spoke to some of the attendees about why they remember Keith Shumway.