At 8:30 am December 9, 1992, a long nightmare of terror began for Wylanda Williams as she answered a knock at her door in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. It was police, an Oak Park police officer and two Minneapolis police detectives, all part of the investigation into the murder of slain White police officer Jerome Haaf and African American Edward Harris in Minneapolis.
This all became a part of one of the most celebrated homicide cases in modern Minneapolis history. The nightmare extended to at least 10 individuals sentenced to the penitentiary for terms ranging from 25 years to life.
The nightmare extended to 600 young Black men and their families as the 600 were rounded up, each wondering when it would happen again whenever they go out. That is terror.
At least four homicides remain unsolved, including the murder of Edward Harris. The homicide of Officer Jerome Haaf sits at the center of a 15-year quest for justice and answers. This ongoing nightmare reign of terror that extended to friends and family is unparalleled in the history of the Minneapolis African American community.
Ms. Williams’ story became a significant part of the investigation, of the subsequent trial, and of the appeals. Her story illustrates how young African American women were all too often treated at that time and a behind-the-scenes look revealing how investigators and the court didn’t believe she, as a Black, had any constitutional rights they had to protect.
When Ms. Williams was taken to the police station in Oak Park, Illinois that fateful December 9, 1992, she was detained, threatened, and questioned for 10 hours, until she finally signed a statement she didn’t write. She was told she would testify at the trial of A.C. Ford, one of the four indicted in the killing of Officer Haaf.
On March 10, 1993, a squad of law enforcement officers, including Minneapolis detectives and the Hennepin County prosecutor, forced Ms. Williams to accompany them back to the Twin Cities, where she was held a prisoner for four days in a hotel in the vicinity of the Mall of America.
The terror continued. As revealed in Ms. Williams deposition given later, she was the victim of serious misconduct on the part of the prosecutor and, more chillingly, of the trial judge. All of these details can be found in the formal complaint filed with the Minneapolis Police Department Internal Affairs Department, September 10, 1993.
In her sworn affidavit now before the appellate court of the 8th Circuit Court, Ms. Williams stated she was forced to meet with the presiding judge who told her that her testimony was to be crafted such that they could “get A.C. Ford,” as “Once we get him, the rest of them will be easy to get.” By a judge. That’s terror.
I have recently found out that a number of appeals in the last decade have emerged, a current one being by A.C. Ford. The information, affidavits and investigations raise serious questions about what happened at “the trial of the century” that led to the convictions and their appeals.
Will justice be served? When was the last time 600 young White men were rounded up after a White person committed a serious crime?
Clearly the system was very comfortable violating Ms. Williams’ rights and extending her persecution by pursuing her all the way to the state of Georgia. The Georgia courts, to their credit, refused to extradite her back to Minnesota.
Ms. Williams dropped out of sight after the police and the prosecutor told her she was the target of a contract to take her life. Is she still alive? We wonder.
The report filed with Internal Affairs by her attorney in Oak Park, Illinois raises the question of how a system knew so much about inner workings of gangs in the Twin Cities but could not help to identify who assigned the contract to take her life. It causes us to ask what else is going on.
There is obviously more behind this, but what? Some of this history is now contained in the appeal being pursued by Sharif Willis. It stirs a lot of muddy waters and will no doubt make extremely nervous those in law enforcement and in the judiciary system.
It will be interesting to see who, in the coming months, is revealed to have really been involved in the assassination of Officer Jerome Haaf and the murder to silence Edward Harris and others.
Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, hosts Black Focus Blog radio, 3 pm Sundays, and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 5 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development, and “web log” at www.TheMinneap olisStory.com.