New evidence released by the Rialto Police Department proves that Donisha Prendergast, the eldest granddaughter of Bob Marley and Rita Marley, alongside Komi- Oluwa Olafimihan and Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, were all racially profiled and unlawfully detained by the Rialto Police Department while checking out of an Airbnb on April 30.
Attorneys Jasmine Rand of Rand Law, L.L.C., and Benjamin Crump of Ben Crump Law, have reviewed evidence released by the Rialto Police Department and began conducting their own investigation into the incident. Attorneys now state that there is irrefutable evidence that their clients were racially profiled. “Unlike the Rialto Police Department my office did research on the woman that called the police and found that her social media contained posts indicating phobia and hatred of Islamic people, gay people, and racially-biased posts aimed at Black people. Her social media presence affirms that this woman perceives the world through a lens of racism and equates Black skin with criminal behavior. Another neighbor that lives on the same street reached out to our office and informed us that the woman placed false calls reporting Black people in the neighborhood to police on several prior occasions. Our office has requested public records relating to any prior calls this woman placed and have been denied access.”
The recording of the call revealed that the neighbor initially placed the call and reported that she saw a Black man pulling luggage out of the house and loading it into a car and that she found the behavior suspicious. The Rialto operator immediately asked for the “nationality” of the homeowners to which the neighbor responded “White.” The operator reconfirmed that the male pulling the luggage to the car was Black, and then immediately escalated the call alerting police to a “burglary in progress.” The operator continued to question the neighbor and confirmed that the Black man was not dumping the luggage into the car and reloading it, that he was not carrying anything else out of the house like a tv, and the only other item he carried out was a briefcase. The operator did not deescalate the call. Next, the neighbor reported a Black woman exiting the house with a phone in her hand, and a short time later reported that another Black woman exited the house with a water bottle and a small bag in her hand. The neighbor never told the operator that either Black female was pulling luggage out of the house or removing any object from the home. The neighbor’s racism became exceedingly transparent when she reported that a White woman that she also did not recognize was exiting the home, and that now “everything might be okay,” and that the White woman whom she also did not recognize, “might live there.” The operator then asked where the Black male and two Black females were located, and she responded that they were sitting in the car with the doors open. Despite the neighbor’s explicit racial bias, the operator failed to deescalate the call but affirmed it was “suspicious.”
Radio communications revealed that officers stated that suspects possibly broke into the home and were taking loads of stuff out, which is an inaccurate description of what was reported and again escalated the response. When the Rialto Police Department officers arrived on the scene, a body camera reveals the officer approaching the window of the car to inform Donisha, Komi and Kelly, that the caller stated: “three Black people were stealing stuff.” The officer brazenly relayed the information through the window next to the fourth person seated in the vehicle, a White woman named Ashlee Hutchinson, whom the caller reported was also leaving the house. Despite the fact that Ashlee was seated in the car next to the other three alleged Black felons, she was clearly not a suspect. Donisha, Komi, and Kelly repeatedly informed the Rialto police that they believed they were racially profiled. Despite having clear evidence of racial profiling, the police became agitated and angry telling them that they were “not going there,” and walked away without listening. At one point, an officer verbally commanded another officer to physically remove himself from the situation and to stop listening to their allegations of racial profiling.
The Rialto Police Department ignored their duty to uphold the law and to investigate whether or not the call the neighbor placed was motivated by racial bias and based in false allegation.
Following the incident attorneys sent a Notice of Representation and Public Records Request to the Rialto Police Department. The police department responded by holding a press conference with Marie, the White female homeowner, despite the fact that she violated the law under RMC 5.70.040 for renting out the Airbnb per the incident report. Unbeknownst to the Rialto Police Department, Marie had already given her Airbnb guests a glowing review following their stay, a copy of which is attached to the instant Press Release. When the case began to garner national attention, Marie changed her position, sent harassing messages to our clients, and attacked people on social media including sending sexually explicit messages to a person known to the victims. Instead of issuing an apology to Donisha, Komi, and Kelly as Mayor Robertson had already done, the Rialto Police Department held a press conference and stood next to Marie providing her with a platform to lie by saying that her neighbor approached them and waved which never happened; and then chastised Donisha, Komi, and Kelly, for not waving and smiling at her White neighbor.
Clearly Rialto’s right-hand or the Mayor’s office, did not communicate with Rialto’s left-hand, or the police department. After the Rialto Police Department held their press conference, Mayor Robertson held a press conference backtracking her position and stating that the officers did not do anything wrong after she had already privately apologized for the incident. Mayor Robertson’s near immediate apology signified her awareness of the Rialto Police Department’s long history of racially-biased policing as she clearly did not doubt that race was a motivating factor in the incident. Mayor Robertson assumedly faced backlash after our clients publicly announced that she apologized, and then changed her position clearing the police department and the caller without conducting an internal investigation. According to Crump: “Mayor Robertson made a disingenuous and calculated decision to side with the police department. It is a sad day in America when Mayor Robertson holds a press conference in essence retracting the apology she privately issued to our clients. Instead, she stood in front of a camera and denied to the world that the incident was racially-biased in spite of glaring and irrefutable evidence. What dangerous judgment and precedent did she set for residents of Rialto? For her own children?”
Rand states, “This case provides a clear example of how an individual’s racism is encouraged and systemically perpetuated by our justice system. The evidence in this case is irrefutable. The woman that initiated the call was clearly motivated by racial bias, the 911 operator and police officers escalated and perpetuated racism, and the Chief of Police and Mayor Robertson rubber- stamped the racism. Instead of apologizing to three innocent Black people who did not violate ANY law in Rialto, they aligned themselves with a White homeowner that violated a law by having an unauthorized Airbnb and another White woman that placed a racist call to police wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars. Apparently in 2018 in Rialto a Black man pulling his luggage out of a White person’s house is ‘not right.’ Rialto citizens should be concerned that they have a de facto racial segregation law in effect that certainly would not allow for the safety or security of mixed-race families. In Rialto, there is no room for a White homeowning mother to have a Black son that loads luggage into his car. This is why states have statutes in effect to hold people accountable whom place false emergency calls that endanger the lives of others and law enforcement needs to start using them.”
Donisha, Komi, and Kelly, have jointly stated: “We must hold accusers accountable for placing false and misleading calls to law enforcement agencies, and we must hold the agencies accountable to have better training and policies in place to identify racial bias. The monetary cost to taxpayers is high. The cost for us could have been our lives. A misleading 911 call cost 12- year-old Tamir Rice his life. Our nation is setting a dangerous precedent wherein Black people cannot go to a Starbucks, eat at Waffle House, check out of an Airbnb, move out of an apartment, have a barbecue, and college students can fall asleep without being accused of criminal activity because of their skin. That is why we have chosen to align with other victims across the nation to initiate systemic policy change in the form of Accusers Accountability- to ensure operators and law enforcement officers receive better training to identify racial bias and to hold the people who place the calls accountable for the costs and consequences suffered by the people affected by their racism.”
Komi Olaf stated, “With the power of 911 at the fingertips of people with bad intentions and no consequences for their actions due to the privilege of anonymity afforded them, the police are being used as a tool to criminalize and incarcerate innocent people. The chilling evidence is in the voice and the language used by the caller, the response of the operator enforcing the bias and escalating the call, and in the excessive response of the seven police cars and a helicopter sent to detain us.”
Tamara Jackson was born in Houston, TX and raised in Buffalo, NY. At an early age, she realized her love for words. She began writing poetry which evolved into songs, then skits, then plays, then screenplays. Currently, Tamara is a graduate student at Savannah College of Art and Design where she is working towards her MFA in performing arts. She is writing her first book. (Update: She graduated from SCAD in 2012).