Abdul Jalil Rasheed-Burnette is a 20-year-old young man living with Autism and ADHD. On April 17, 2017, he was arrested by officers of the Durham Police Department and charged with misdemeanor simple assault (stemming from a warrant issued on April 6, 2017 in response to a complaint made by Caleb Alexander Hoover on April 3), misdemeanor disorderly conduct at a public terminal, and misdemeanor assault on a government official/employee. He was released on a $5,000 bond. On May 25, 2017, he was arrested again and charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, misdemeanor communicating threats, and misdemeanor assault on a government official/employee. In addition, officer Baker of the DPD alleged that Abdul resisted during his arrest. For these misdemeanors, Abdul was held in the Durham County Jail on a $13,000 bond, until on October 12, 2017, he was found incompetent to stand trial and all of the charges were disposed of. However, instead of being released, Abdul was sent to Central Regional Hospital in Butner, NC for “evaluation” under H.B. 95, which allows pre-trial detainees to be held in a hospital until an adjudication of their competence can be made. Abdul was held after October 12, even though he had already been found to be incompetent and his father had been appointed his legal guardian.
On April 24, Abdul was brutalized by the arresting officers. He and his friends were walking from a friend’s grandmother’s house and the police pulled up and began harassing them. When Abdul asked why they were being harassed, the police grabbed him and his friends and slammed him on his face. Sergeant Johnson of the Durham Police Department later made a statement to Abdul’s mother, Estellalah Rasheed, admitting that officer Offenburg had subjected Abdul to excessive force. Both Sergeant Johnson and Officer Offenburg are white. Medical examination and photos later showed that Abdul had injuries to his head, face, and wrists. Inside-Outside Alliance has obtained these photos from Abdul’s father. On April 24, Abdul’s father filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs Unit of the Durham Police Department, who stated that they had received witness statements to the effect that Abdul had been harassed and assaulted by the DPD officers. Captain Pickel of Internal Affairs also told Abdul’s father that Sergeant Johnson had requested medical leave for two weeks while the IA investigation took place, presumably to avoid accountability. Since that time, however, he has not received any response to his complaint or even an acknowledgement of it.
As Inside-Outside Alliance, we want justice for Abdul Jalil Rasheed-Burnette not only because he has, himself, been heinously abused by every part of the “justice” system in Durham – brutalized by the police, held in the degrading conditions of the Durham County Jail, given an outrageous bond, and held far longer than was necessary or even legal by officials who are clearly incompetent, greedy, or both – but also because his case bears witness to the larger issue of how Durham County treats people with disabilities and mental health issues, particularly if they are black and working class. While those wealthy and privileged enough to afford it can get treatment and care, Abdul’s case shows how Durham has effectively decided to make people with disabilities and mental health issues a police issue rather than a community or a medical issue. This is why, even though seven people have died in the Durham County Jail in the last five years, even though it continues to cost $20 for those detained in the jail to see a doctor, and even though Inside-Outside Alliance and other community groups have documented a sustained pattern of abuse against detainees, the Durham County Board of Commissioners approved a $228,000 grant from the US Department of Justice and kicked in $55,205 of county money for the jail to create a “mental health pod” instead of redirecting those funds to provide disability and mental health services in the community. Durham County has effectively decided that, at least for working class people and people of color, it will address the problem of mental health and disability with cops and jails, not with doctors and caring communities. In Abdul’s case, we see the result of that decision: the brutal beating of an autistic kid, one instance among way too many more of violence and brutality towards the members of our community whom it should be our highest priority to support.
As Durham community members, as Inside-Outside Alliance, as friends and comrades of Abdul Jalil Rasheed-Burnette, we say NO MORE!
- The immediate and unconditional release from custody of Abdul Jalil Rasheed-Burnette.
- Police accountability – we want to know what Internal Affairs found and what, if anything, happened to the officers who beat Abdul.
- Documentation – we want any body camera and dash cam footage of Abdul’s arrest.
- Fire Chief “CJ” Davis – and all other police officers in Durham.
- Care for People with Disabilities and People with Mental Health Issues in the Community, not from Cops and Jailers – Durham County should take the $55,205 and any other money for the so-called “mental health pod” and put it towards community care instead of policing and incarceration. The rest of the Sheriff’s budget, too. Really, all expenses for health care should come directly out of the Sheriff Andrews’ salary and the Sheriff’s department’s budget.