American Proscenium

Justice for All

Five years before Michael Brown and Eric Garner would become household names, there was Mark Barmore.

On August 24, 2009, Rockford, Illinois, police officers Oda Poole and Stan North were patrolling in a prisoner-transport van when they received a notice from a dispatcher that 23-year-old Mark Anthony Barmore was wanted for questioning in a domestic disturbance.  While Barmore’s mother would later declare that her son (whom she did not raise) was “a good man,” all Officers Poole and North knew was his record: As the Washington Post reported in October 2009, Barmore “had been arrested multiple times on battery and weapons charges and spent time in prison for residential burglary.”  The “domestic disturbance” call concerned Barmore’s girlfriend, whom he had allegedly threatened with a knife; Barmore was to be considered armed and potentially dangerous.

Officers Poole and North spotted Barmore in the parking lot of Kingdom Authorities International Ministries church, where he was speaking with the wife of Pastor Melvin Brown.  As the officers approached, Barmore entered the church, followed by Sheila Brown.  When the officers entered as well, Barmore proceeded to the basement of the church, where children were gathered for a summer camp.  (While local media in Rockford invariably referred to the church’s “daycare,” conjuring...

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