Monday, September 15, 2008
How to Spot a Criminal--They'll Blame a Black Man
On August 23, 2003 a White dude named Brian Wells walked into the Pittsburgh National Bank in Erie, PA with a real, live bomb locked around his neck. Brian passed a note to tellers saying he was being forced to rob the bank. If they didn’t give him cash, he and they would blow up. Petrified, bank employees gave him $8,700. A pizza deliveryman, Brian claimed that a “group of Black men” had taken him hostage after duping him to make a delivery to a bogus address. These Black men purportedly fitted Brian with a collar bomb, one so intricate, that it could not be removed from Brian’s neck. As Brian fled the bank, police caught up with him and while police watched, the bomb blew Brian to bits.
Five years later the FBI confirmed what Sisterdoc knew then—no Black people were involved in the odd, poorly planned crime whatsoever.
According to law officials, here’s how it really went down. Some guy named Ken Barnes and some woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong met up with another guy named William Rothstein at a gas station. William called Mama Mia’s Pizza asking Brian to deliver a pizza to a fake location. They were all part of the robbery gang. When Brian showed up at the location, he discovered his buddies wanted him to wear a real bomb, not a fake one, to scare the tellers and to rob the bank. That’s how Brian ended up with a bomb around his neck. According to police, the robbery was supposed to finance the hiring of a hitman, for $200,000, to kill Marjorie’s father. Oddly, Ken was the hitman looking to get paid.
Marjorie is in a mental hospital for the criminally insane because, in addition to all of this, she killed her boyfriend James Roden because he was going to tell police about the robbery plot. Oh, and William died of cancer. With Brian dead, that only leaves Ken to go to jail. Wow.
What gets me is how readily and easily the ‘scary Black man’ is invoked by the real criminals. When Charles Stuart shot his pregnant wife in the head, killing her and their baby, he blamed a Black man, claiming the Brother was trying to rob them. Susan Smith strapped her two kids into her Mazda Protégé and rolled the car into a lake, drowning them. She blamed the disappearance of her kids on a carjacking Black man. Then there was Rep. Bob Allen of Florida. He propositioned an undercover Black police officer in a park’s public bathroom, offering $20 for oral sex. Allen’s defense—he was afraid of the “stocky Black guy” and rather than become a “statistic” and get robbed in the park, he offered sex. Yep. That was his story, and he stuck to it.
The problem is, as what occurred in the Stuart and Smith cases, police actually find innocent Black people to arrest. Still, racists keep invoking the scary Black man stereotype because they assume the public will buy in to it. And, sadly the public does…at great risk to Black lives.
(Images: Brian's final moments)