Is a Human Life Worth More than $1,000


Last week, Dennis Doster, Manager for the Black History Program in Prince George’s County, shared an incredibly troubling story about an all too familiar story in African American history – a police shooting of an innocent man.  This story, however, brought it much closer to home, to a small Prince George’s County town.


The shooting occurred on October 19, 1925 in the African American community of Muirkirk (near Laurel/Beltsville).

Four officers had gone [to Muirkirk] looking for Williams Brooks, alleged to have assualted his wife earlier in the evening. After they had gone to the Brooks’ home where they failed to find their man, they went to the home of Thomas Higgins, and while two officers went inside Olexie and Scanlon stood on guard on the outside.

Weems, making his way to his home in the village through a path which led up to the house where the officers were making their search, was suddenly stopped by Scanlon in plain clothes, who flashed a search light and commanded him to stop.

Weems, in fright, ran and both men opened fire, one of the bullets striking the fleeing man in the back of the head and killing him instantly.

And as the story so often goes, evidence was suppressed. The State’s Attorney didn’t cooperate. The officers were sentenced and convicted, but each given a $500 fine, the equivalent of $6,771.91 today.

The case was covered by The Afro-American in the January 31, 1925 edition of the paper.

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