Micah Taylor's mother: 'What we’re up against is the blue wall'
By Kevin Abourezk
OMAHA, Nebraska – The bullet, so close to his spine that a sudden movement of his head could paralyze him, remains in Micah Taylor’s neck.
And Taylor, a 22-year-old citizen of the Santee Sioux Tribe, remains incarcerated in a county jail in Omaha.
Indeed, very little has changed since March 8, when Taylor was pulled over and shot in the neck by an Omaha police officer. Taylor is scheduled to go to trial starting April 15 on four felony charges related to the incident.
He is facing charges of assaulting an officer, operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest, distribution and possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a deadly weapon while committing a felony.
But he maintains his innocence, saying he never intentionally injured the officer who pulled him over and only began driving away after the officer began shooting at him.
“I’m hanging in there,” he said by phone from the Douglas County Jail. “I’m not going to let this place get me down.”
Children hold signs at
a rally for Native justice held at the Nebraska State Capitol on May 12, 2018, following the shooting of Micah Taylor and other acts of police aggression against Native people.
Photo by Kevin
Meanwhile, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said recently that he believes police properly handled the incident involving Taylor.
During the December 18 meeting of Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert’s Native American advisory committee, John Pappan, a citizen of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska, asked Schmaderer to further investigate Taylor’s shooting.
Pappan said he was concerned that the same officer who shot Taylor, Dave Staskiewicz, served as one of the primary witnesses calling for the acquittal of former Omaha officer Scotty Payne, who had been accused of shocking a mentally ill Native man, who later died on June 5, 2017, a dozen times.
An Omaha jury acquitted Payne of second-degree assault and use of a weapon to commit a felony on December 10.
But Schmaderer said he had already reviewed footage from Staskiewicz’s body camera and from a helicopter that flew above the scene that day and was satisfied with his department’s handling of the incident.
“I saw that incident,” he said. “There’s not a dispute as to what took place there.”
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shooting of Micah Taylor
Taylor’s mother, DeAnna Taylor, said she believes her son has become a victim of the Omaha Police Department’s efforts to cover up their mishandling of the traffic stop and Staskiewicz’s subsequent shooting of her son.
“What we’re up against is the blue wall,” she said. “They’re allowed to lie.”
On March 8, Micah Taylor was driving his Toyota Camry in north Omaha that afternoon, on his way to pick up his spiritual adviser to go to a sweat lodge.
Having grown up in a city, far from his tribe’s lands, the young man had spent several years trying to reconnect to his Native spiritual practices and culture. He’d attended sweat lodges, gathered and delivered donations to social programs that help Native people, and even took supplies to pipeline protestors at Standing Rock several times between 2016 and 2017.
He’d even purchased instruments, including guitars, keyboards and harmonicas, for Ojibwe children in Minnesota who’ve suffered from trauma.
#NativeLivesMatter: Native Americans
are more likely to be killed by law enforcement
A photo his mother snapped March 7, the day before he was shot, shows him packing up clothes and blankets and toys in his living room that he planned to deliver to needy children on his tribe’s lands, the Santee Sioux Reservation.
So it had come as a surprise to him, as he steered his car onto a north Omaha freeway the afternoon of March 8, when flashing police headlights suddenly appeared in his rearview mirror.
According to Omaha police, the city’s gang unit had conducted surveillance on Taylor, whom they suspected of dealing marijuana and possessing firearms. Around 2:15 p.m. March 8, they saw Taylor sell marijuana and a helicopter unit and an officer in a marked cruiser followed him. Around 2:30 p.m., the officer pulled him over on an interstate in north Omaha.
Staskiewicz asked Taylor for his license, registration and insurance, but Taylor initially refused. He eventually handed over the items, and Staskiewicz then asked him to step out of his car. Again, police say, Taylor refused.
“I am not asking you, I am telling you, step out of the car!” the officer yelled.
Micah Taylor, 22, who
has been accused of assaulting an officer, marijuana distribution and possession
of a deadly weapon related to a March 8, 2018, traffic stop in Omaha, Nebraska,
is shown here loading up donations a day earlier to be sent to the Santee Sioux
Reservation. Courtesy photo
Staskiewicz then opened Taylor’s car door and tried to pull him out, but Taylor struggled to pull away from him, according to police. While holding Taylor’s arm, Staskiewicz stepped back and drew his gun. Taylor then began driving away, which led to Staskiewicz being pulled alongside his vehicle, according to police.
The officer then fired three rounds as he was being dragged and fell to the ground.
Taylor, injured, drove south on the interstate with gang unit officers in pursuit until he struck stop sticks laid out by another Omaha officer. The sticks caused him to lose control of his car, and it struck a concrete median and came to rest in a shoulder area.
Police then took him into custody, initially taking him to an Omaha hospital for treatment.
The entire traffic stop, from the time Staskiewicz pulled Taylor over to when Taylor drove away, lasted less than two minutes.
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A day later, Schmaderer cleared the 49-year-old Staskiewicz – a 19-year veteran of the department – for his use of deadly force.
"Based on the evidence we can verify at this time, which includes multiple sources of video, Officer Staskiewicz’s use of deadly force was reasonable and justified,” he said.
Taylor was given a $1 million bond and is now facing 76 years in prison.
Prosecutors also have charged him with domestic violence assault and strangulation, as well as witness tampering, for a separate case in nearby Sarpy County.
But Taylor questions the police department’s description of the traffic stop that led to him being shot.
He said Staskiewicz never told him why he pulled him over, and Taylor immediately became concerned that he was being racially profiled. When the officer told him to get out, Taylor said he refused and asked to speak to his attorney instead.
“Then he just started ripping me out of my car with his gun on me,” he said.
DeAnna Taylor, 62, is
shown here in her Bellevue, Nebraska, home last March. Her son, Micah Taylor, 22, has been
accused of assaulting an officer, marijuana distribution and possession of a
deadly weapon related to a March 8, 2018, traffic stop in Omaha. Photo by Kevin Abourezk
He said he reached for his phone to call his lawyer, but then the officer fired a shot from his handgun, striking him in the neck.
“Then I pulled off because I wasn’t just going to sit there and keep getting shot,” Taylor said. “He would have killed me.”
He said he doesn’t know why Staskiewicz began shooting at him, but he wonders whether the officer thought his phone was a gun.
He said he didn’t have any marijuana on him when he was stopped, and the brass knuckles that police found were in his trunk, not on his body.
And he contradicted the police department’s description of him as a gang member who was known to possess guns and sell marijuana.
“I’m not a gang member,” he said.
He said the bullet that Staskiewicz fired that struck his neck is still there, lodged dangerously close to his spine. So close that an emergency room doctor told him he wouldn’t remove the bullet because doing so might lead to Taylor becoming permanently paralyzed.
Since then, Taylor has seen a doctor just a handful of times, and he said he’s been denied even the most basic treatment for his neck injury, including antibiotic ointment promised to him by his emergency room doctor. He said it took 12 days for jail staff to even respond to his initial request for Ibuprofen.
Officer Gregory O’Neil, spokesman for the Omaha Police Department, told Indianz.com that the department hasn’t denied Taylor medical treatment.
“The OPD has not impeded Mr. Taylor's medical treatment, and any and all medical questions need to be directed to his doctors,” he said.
Medical professionals could not be reached for comment, but Taylor and his family say his medical records prove that the bullet remains lodged in his neck.
Micah as a boy.
Micah in a school
Micah playing guitar.
DeAnna Taylor said her son has started to exhibit memory loss and she worries the bullet might have dangerous lead in it that has begun poisoning his brain.
“I need to know what has intruded into my son’s spinal column,” she said.
She said she just wants people to know her son is not a gang-banger, doesn’t own a gun, takes care of his mother and brother and has dreams of doing big things to help his people.
The 62-year-old mother of eight children, including six Native children she has adopted, said Micah is the youngest of her children. She adopted him when he was age 2, by which time he had already been in 15 different foster homes.
And he suffered abuse while in some of those homes and has struggled in recent years with anger problems and delinquent behavior, including drug use, DeAnna said. But he’s been working on those issues and continues to work to try to deal with his anger.
She said he got involved with a woman in nearby Sarpy County and was involved in a domestic violence incident with her late last year. She said Micah and the woman had a fight and police were called. By the time police arrived, Micah had left, but he began texting the woman asking her not to tell the police about their fight. Later, he was charged with witness tampering, domestic violence assault and strangulation.
Micah Taylor is seen
here with two of his spiritual mentors, John Pappan, left and Dr. Rudi Mitchell,
right. Courtesy photo
DeAnna said the incident happened last year, and the woman has even asked to drop the charges against Micah. But the court hasn’t agreed to drop the charges.
She said she was surprised to see a warrant for her son had been issued for her son for the Sarpy County domestic incident when Omaha police announced the March 8 shooting to the public. She said prosecutors are attempting to use the domestic violence incident to justify more serious charges against her son.
She said the incident last year showed her son has a lot to learn and anger problems to address, but it shouldn’t be used to define him as a hardened criminal.
She said her son had been supporting her for nearly two years since she injured her back and became unable to work. She has had to move in with his friends since her son’s arrest.
“He was supporting me,” she said. “I have nowhere to go for help. Nowhere.”
Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other racial or ethnic group, according to the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
Jason Pero, 13
Bad River Ojibwe. Ashland, Wisconsin. November 8, 2017.
Zachary Bear Heels, 29
Rosebud Sioux. Omaha, Nebraska. June 5, 2017.
Loreal Tsingine, 27
Navajo. Winslow, Arizona. March 27, 2016.
Paul Castaway, 35
Oglala Sioux. Denver, Colorado. July 12, 2015.
Allen Locke, 30
Oglala Sioux. Rapid City, South Dakota. December 19, 2014.
Joy Ann Sherman, 52
Oglala Sioux. Mitchell, South Dakota. November 8, 2014.
Jordan Willis, 30
Choctaw. Mississippi. August 12, 2014.
Mah-hi-vist GoodBlanket, 18
Cheyenne-Arapaho. Clinton, Oklahoma. December 21, 2013.
John Williams, 50
Ditidaht First Nation. Seattle, Washington. May 30, 2010.
Christopher Capps, 22
Oglala Sioux. Rapid City, South Dakota. May 2, 2010.
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