Survivor of Police Brutality: Baltimore Law Enforcement Lied in My Case
Fenyanga Muhammad was shot three times in the back and once in his left hand and was never found guilty of any crime
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore where we are continuing our coverage of the Freddie Gray case.
When we talk about police brutality, one voice that is rarely heard is the voice of the victims. But our guest that is joining us in studio says that is something that needs to change. Now joining us in studio is Fenyanga Muhammad. He’s a Baltimore native and survivor of police brutality. He was shot four times by police after they jumped him from behind during a botched arrest, and he survived to tell the story.
Thank you so much for joining us, Fenyanga.
FENYANGA MUHAMMAD: Thank you, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So let’s first off talk about what happened that day. You said it happened in 2007.
MUHAMMAD: Yes, uh-huh.
DESVARIEUX: It was you said around 3:30 in the afternoon. Explain, what were you doing?
MUHAMMAD: I was, I just had returned back home to Baltimore so I can invest in real estate. I had an interest in helping to rebuild the poverty-stricken neighborhoods in West Baltimore. And on this particular day my cousin and myself had just got finished looking at properties. We ran a few errands, and we had lunch. We took his car to the mechanic place. Stopped past Mr. [inaud.] on the corner of Gilmor and Riggs avenue. And I bought me two Popsicle sticks. And I have a habit of sucking on the Popsicle stick when I get finished eating.
DESVARIEUX: Yeah. You’re just chewing on the stick.
MUHAMMAD: Chewing on the stick. And so we decided to walk down to the barber shop. The barber shop was closed. And on the way back to the mechanic shop, we cross the old folks’ home. It’s a old folks’ home on the corner of Parrish and Mosher Street. And I seen some residents that I haven’t seen in years. And they was greeting me, there were hugs, and how you doing? And before I knew it, I was jumped from the back.
It happened so quick, happened so quick–.
DESVARIEUX: How many officers?
MUHAMMAD: I didn’t know they were officers. Initially all I knew, that someone had jumped me from the back. And happened so quick, the people that was out, they started screaming at some point that there was police officers.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. So what are they saying to you? Put your hands up?
MUHAMMAD: They saying, spit it out. Spit it out. By this time, the officer had grabbed me, did a choke hold. The Popsicle stick had lodged down my throat. And so I was like, choking. Like seriously choking, like dying, choking.
DESVARIEUX: Oh my gosh.
MUHAMMAD: So I ended up on the ground. And at this point someone is beating me in the head. Kicking me. This other guy’s choking me. And someone screamed out, don’t shoot him. Officer, don’t shoot him. And at this point, that’s when I knew it was police officers.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. But they did shoot.
MUHAMMAD: Yeah, they did shoot.
DESVARIEUX: Where did they shoot you, exactly?
MUHAMMAD: I felt the gun pressed in my back. They shot me three times in my back, and one time, once in my left hand.
DESVARIEUX: Oh my gosh. So after the shooting–I’m assuming you go unconscious–.
MUHAMMAD: Yes, yes.
DESVARIEUX: You wake up, you’re in the hospital.
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Chained to the hospital bed. My legs, my arms. The hospital room was filled with police officers. Very intense moment, not knowing what just happened. And to wake up under arrest, chained to the hospital bed, couldn’t move, not knowing.
DESVARIEUX: So they basically charged you with what, exactly?
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Um, in the beginning they charged me with narcotics.
DESVARIEUX: They–what were they saying? They were–what were they saying?
MUHAMMAD: The undercover officer initially stated that they watched me from half a block away doing drug sales. Making drug sales. But–which was false. They never found any narcotics I had in my possession. Three or four credit cards. A dollar and 32 cents in currency. Driving license, social security card. A Watchtower. A Watchtower with–Jehovah’s Witness, Watchtower. A set of cuff links.
DESVARIEUX: Now, basically no drugs.
MUHAMMAD: Basically no drugs.
DESVARIEUX: But they also said that you–they thought they saw you swallow a bag of narcotics. Is that right?
MUHAMMAD: Yes. Yes, yes. Not only, not only did they claim allegedly they watched me sell narcotics, but I had swallowed the entire bag of narcotics.
DESVARIEUX: But you proved this all to be false.
DESVARIEUX: And there was–talk a little bit about how you were able to prove that you were not guilty of those actions.
MUHAMMAD: Through my first criminal trial. Well, before the criminal trial they wasn’t able to–they eventually dropped the drug charge. They eventually dropped the drug charge but they continued to pursue resisting arrest, assault, those charges.
DESVARIEUX: And they dropped the drug charge–because you were telling me this off-camera. Can you explain how that eventually got dropped?
MUHAMMAD: They didn’t have enough evidence to move forward. They signed the warrant for the doctor at the hospital to search my internal, my bowel movement. They did very drastic maneuvers to search my internal body, to look for them drugs. And no drugs were ever found.
DESVARIEUX: No drugs were ever found. So of course now, like you said, no drug charges, that’s dropped. But then they’re still–were they still pursuing other charges?
MUHAMMAD: Yes. They were still pursuing resisting arrest, assault on two officers. Now they flipped it as though I assaulted the police officers.
DESVARIEUX: So now they’re saying you approached them?
MUHAMMAD: Yeah. I, not approached them, but when they approached me that instead of submitting to the search that I attacked them.
DESVARIEUX: That you attacked them.
DESVARIEUX: But you knew that was completely false.
MUHAMMAD: Exactly. Exactly. I knew it and everyone out that day that witnessed it, they knew it.
DESVARIEUX: Okay, okay. So for you now, that we have this case of Freddie Gray, and considering your experience and what you went through, what is your reaction to all of this, all of this talk about Freddie Gray? What we saw on the video, all of–what is your response?
MUHAMMAD: As, as a child growing up in the inner cities, it was always a fear of police planting drugs on you. Lying and harassing you. So we always understood the risk that we took every day going outside and encountering a police officer. So I just never thought I would find myself in a position to be attacked in that manner. So before Freddie Gray, how many other individuals in Baltimore had got beaten and killed and murdered? Fortunately, Freddie Gray’s case have created opportunity that we can talk about this.
So the more I see them creating other scenarios about Freddie Gray’s case, it reminds me of the lies and the twisted stories that they did with my case. And to make it seem as though I was in the wrong. So Freddie Gray case is opportunity for–we all, for everybody to sit down and really address this issue of police brutality. Not just, not just from, not just from the level of them attacking him, but what led up, what led up to them even arresting him. What did he do wrong that forced them to arrest him in the first place?
DESVARIEUX: Those are all questions that–and that we’re trying to answer here at The Real News and trying to get the best information for our viewers out there. But Fenyanga Muhammad, thank you so much for joining us in-studio.
MUHAMMAD: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.