Monday will mark the first day of work for Durham’s new Police Chief Patrice Andrews.
By early Sunday afternoon, nearly 100 people had signed a petition demanding “admission of wrongdoing” for Andrews’ role as Morrisville’s police chief in 2018 when Samuel Oliver Bruno, an undocumented immigrant, was lured out of sanctuary at a West Durham church, “kidnapped” in her jurisdiction, and deported back to Mexico.
On October 11, Durham City Manager Wanda Page announced that Andrews, a veteran Triangle law enforcement leader, would become the city’s new police chief.
Andrews, who had led the Morrisville Police Department since 2016, becomes the second African American woman to lead the department, replacing Durham’s first, Cerelyn “CJ” Davis, whose five-year stint ended on June 1 when she left to become chief of police in Memphis, Tennessee.
Page praised Andrews as a law enforcement leader who possesses the right combination of leadership skills, training, and knowledge to lead the department.
But David Jinorio Swanson, in his petition, “Tell the Police Chief No to 1st Amendment violations and collaboration with ICE,” that’s posted on the website change.org said the petitioners have several concerns about the new Durham police chief’s “direct involvement in the deportation” of Bruno and “the comments she made at the trial of the arrestees that protected him.”
The petitioners are also demanding Andrews apologize for statements she allegedly made at the trial last year of the Durham residents who were charged after they tried to protect him from being taken into immigration custody.
During the March 6 trial at Wake County District Court when 10 people were charged with misdemeanor failing to disperse, and resisting a public officer, the petitioners state that Andrews testified, “Post Ferguson in 2014 the Durham police department experienced a series of protests, some were peaceful but a majority were not.”
Swanson added that when the former Morrisville police chief took the stand during the March 6 trial she stated that because someone had said “F- the police,” she had the right to disperse the crowd for fear of violence. Case precedent shows that such phrases are not grounds for fear of violence and crowd disbursement.”
The new police chief’s assertion about the threat of violence at Bull City’s protests is in marked contrast to the George Floyd demonstrations that took place months later. In early June, Raleigh protesters’ destruction of the downtown district prompted Governor Cooper to call in the National Guard, while Durham residents gathered peacefully, marched, and at one point sang “Lean on Me” in front of the downtown police headquarters.
In a letter to City Manager Page, from Swanson, Andrews is taken to task for “breaking her promise not to cooperate with ICE,” and “her bias against Durham protestors.”
The petitioners say Andrews’ involvement with Bruno’s arrest and subsequent deportation ran counter to statements she made during a community discussion with Cary Police Chief Tony Godwin on March 10th, 2017, when she “shared her commitment to support the immigrant community and not to engage with ICE, and yet she complied fully with ICE agents on November 23, 2018.”
Page, in response, told Swanson the information he shared was important and that he would receive a comprehensive response.
“I am certain Chief Andrews will make herself available to meet with you after she arrives and is serving as Durham’s Chief of Police,” Page stated in her response.
“As observed by you in your communication, Chief Andrews will become Durham’s next Chief of Police, and her first day at the City of Durham will be November 1, 2021. Your concerns will be shared with her after she is on-boarded in her new role here in Durham,” the city manager added.
The November 23, 2018, arrest of Bruno who had been in sanctuary for nearly a year at the CityWell United Methodist Church on Chapel Hill Road garnered national attention, largely because of the circumstances surrounding his detention and his supporters’ response.
One year before, on December 10, 2017, Bruno entered sanctuary at CityWell. The undocumented man’s move was prompted by his annual check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a few months before, when he was told that he was to be deported.
“Rather than leave his son and sick wife in the United States, he moved into sanctuary, hoping and praying that he could find a way to remain with his family,” according to the petition.
Swanson said Bruno was arrested when he left the church to go to a routine appointment with officials at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Morrisville.
“Waiting for him there were ICE officers in plain clothes who jumped on top of him, knocking him to the ground and sending his shoe flying across the floor,” Swanson states in the petition. “He was placed in an ICE van behind the building where friends, neighbors, and church members encircled the vehicle to prevent ICE from transporting Samuel to an imminent deportation.”
When ICE agents placed Bruno in a van in the rear of the building, his “friends, neighbors, and church members encircled the vehicle to prevent ICE from transporting Samuel to an imminent deportation,” Swanson wrote.
The petition author says 28 people were arrested by Morrisville police the day Bruno was detained.
“Present that day was Chief Andrews,” Swanson said. “Although community leaders pleaded with her not to assist ICE, she gave the orders for each one of the individuals who were protecting Samuel to be arrested. They were forced to sit on the curb with zip ties around their wrists and watch as their friend was driven away in an unmarked, tan van.”
Andrews, they say, should offer an “admission of wrongdoing and apologize to Bruno’s family and to his supporters “who have experienced trauma and grief because of her actions.”
In April of last year, Bruno was mortally injured in Veracruz, Mexico where he was hit by a semi-truck.
“The accident caused severe brain damage which led to his death on July 4, 2021,” Swanson wrote. “Because of Chief Andrews’ assistance in Samuel’s deportation, his wife was unable to be with him as he passed, had to watch his funeral on zoom, and was not given the privilege of one more kiss or hug goodbye.”
The petitioners say Andrews’ involvement with Bruno’s arrest and subsequent deportation ran counter to statements she made on March 10th, 2017, when she “shared her commitment to support the immigrant community and not to engage with ICE, and yet she complied fully with ICE agents on November 23, 2018.”
The petitioners say there are two reasons for concern with the city’s hiring of Andrews as police chief. They wonder how she will protect the city’s “vulnerable, undocumented immigrants” and if residents’ First Amendment right to speak out against injustice will be protected.
“The actions she took on November 23, 2018 speak louder than any words she may share. She had an opportunity to protect a kind and gentle man who was taking sanctuary in a church but chose to remove his protection and allow him to be deported. If Samuel was not safe, who is?” Swanson asks in the petition.
Meanwhile, he adds, “Durham is known for its desire to create a more just, equitable community for all…We are proud of Durham’s ethos of welcoming and defending migrants and refugees from every walk of life. The example we saw of Chief Andrews on November 23, 2018 and during the trial on March 6, 2020 show her commitment to order, arrests, and deportations over progress and free speech.”
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