An East Side Community is greatly divided in the recent aftermath of the not guilty verdict that has come from the civil trial ending on April 6, 2017 at the John Wood Federal Courthouse. The verdict handed Marquise Jones family the second major blow of defeat.
Off duty San Antonio Police Officer Robert Encina fatally shot Marquise Jones, 23, in the back Feb. 28, 2014, at the Chacho’s and Chalucci’s restaurant on Perrin Beitel Road. The jury considered whether Encina used excessive force; Encina maintained that he fired because Jones was carrying a gun and Encina feared for his life and for those around him.
“We’re always sorry that anyone loses a family member,” said Mark Ralls, an attorney for Encina, as he left the courthouse. “It’s unfortunate that it was his actions that caused this.”
Following the civil case, Cheryl Jones, mother of Marquise expressed her dissatisfaction with the verdict as Mike Lowe led a rally protesting the court decision to exonerate officer Robert Encina.
Mike Lowe, a community activist and friend of the Jones family, said it will be interesting to see how the city’s African-American community reacts to the verdict. “The community says unfortunately he deserved it — although he didn’t deserve it,” said Lowe, who founded SATX4, an organization similar to Black Lives Matter. “It wasn’t like he was a perfect individual. … I’ve heard it said to me that you have to look at his past. I say it doesn’t matter if he’s an angel or a saint. We lost a young black man.”
Robert Encina, left the court house with a smile on his face, with his City attorney. Some perceived his smile as being really arrogant and typical of young police officers. However he was exonerated and found innocent – I verdict that he also hoped for. Some leaders in the community commented on the arrogance of the entire city as this battle was fought. Really the smile of Encina reflects a greater concern that Black lives truly don’t matter.
San Antonio Police Officer Robert Encina leaves the John Wood Federal Courthouse on Thursday, Apr. 6, 2017 after a federal jury found him not guilty in a civil case for the February 2014 shooting of Marquise Jones. Walking beside Encina was City Assistant Attorney Debbie Klein. (Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)
The other view may be that while Marquise Jones has now been etched into the folklore of San Antonio, social media is divided to account for a young man who had a long history of getting into trouble with the law. Still with all that, “I am Marquise Jones” shirts and signs were displayed in tribute to this young man. The truth is grey despite two verdicts that have gone in favor of Officer Robert Encina. Sad to say, but the truth, Black and Hispanic families have much more educating to do when it comes to the matters of dealing with the police.
The NAACP is scheduled to hold its’ national convention in San Antonio in the Summer of 2018. The question is, to what extent will the NAACP conference focus on police-community relationships? Will the case of Marquise Jones be remembered a year from now? Or will the focus be applied to perhaps a new case or a new injustice?
The City Council race is also coming to a close. While this tragic death occurred outside of the East Side, the reminder that our Black youth are being profiled like no other time in our history. Is the community talking to the Marquise Jones, discussing with them about their behavior and building character to avoid being a negative statistic.
Many of the Texas State Representatives and Senate members have focused on criminal justice reform and education for minority youth as their way to eliminate situations like what we have witnessed. While the 85th Legislative Session is still underway, we don’t know what the outcomes will be since every piece of legislation is actively being debated.
At the national level, Marquise Jones case probably wouldn’t draw a blink of concern from President Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. US Attorney Jeff Sessions, who has been working hard to roll back any progress made by President Obama with dealing with policing issues, the community must understand the political climate will change to be even tougher on Blacks and Hispanics. Maybe the church pastors – the many churches that dominate the community, must preach harder to warn and forewarn the community to self police and not to give up on our young people.
Taj Matthews, a community activist who is on the Mayor’s Council on Police-Community Relations, said it is frustrating that city leadership has not publicly supported Jones’ family. “There are people in authority who could have spoken out but did not. They are politicians that are playing politics,” Matthews said. “We had people in leadership who look just like us who are not doing anything.” Matthews declined to identify anyone by name.
As difficult as it is to close the chapter on this tragic story, is this tragedy really over? As we have seen new leaders emerge on the East Side, to compliment old school activist TC Calvert, a new generation is rising up. Hearing voices of concerned young leaders like Mike Lowe, and Taj Matthews on critical issues is important. However, we also note a great divide with how young people speak and address their concerns. The chatter on social media with different views is similar to the 1960s hearing Dr. King be called an Uncle Tom by Malcolm X. The past does have a way of repeating itself.
We heard Mike Lowe’s “Uncle Tom” criticism and rant applied to a broad stroke of San Antonio Black leaders. This conflict – at the root – spurred on from the shooting, and killing of Marquise Jones by Officer Robert Encina, has shaken people, to see themselves deal with controversy and conflict. People have shown they all have had a different way of dealing with the situation. Is the “Uncle Tom” or “sellout” label true for this case or is there a much deeper frustration that is sweltering on the inside of San Antonio ? Are we becoming the next Ferguson?
The truth be told, this verdict was not good for our city. The case placed more doubt on the reputations of the Police Chief McManus, Bexar County DA Nico Da Hood, Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Manager Sheryl Sculley and created a major rift within the community of civil rights first responders and Black Lives Matter.
Remember, this case was discussed on a national stage – from Martin Luther King III at DreamWeek to Hill Harper at the 2016 MLK March, the cries for justice were heard and the desired outcome may not have been reached. For Officer Encina, he was elated to be proven innocent. But what did we each take away from the verdict? How did Marquise Jones, even if you didn’t know him, change your life? Let us know on our Facebook page by clicking HERE.