Imagine living in a Stand Your Ground state and having a crazed, angry individual ram their car into yours. To make matters worse, your two-year-old daughter is in the car, and your mother is standing nearby. Fearing for their safety, you grab your unloaded, legally purchased firearm from inside the car to scare off the attacker. But soon after the incident, you’re the one who finds themselves behind bars, serving a two-year mandatory prison sentence on felony possession of a firearm charge because police reports state you committed a felony with your firearm. Furthermore, the individual who intentionally crashed their car into yours, making you fear for your life and the lives of your family, gets off scot-free.
It sounds like insanity, but this is the account of Siwatu-Salama Ra, a pregnant, African American woman, and legal gun owner.
It is important to note that the details above are disputed by the woman who may, in fact, be the aggressor, Channell Harvey. Unfortunately, Harvey’s account versus Ra’s turns this case into one of she said, she said. However, if Ra’s statement is accurate, one has to ask, is this still the United States of America? Or is this Great Britain, where the law seems to work against those trying to defend their lives or the lives of others from a legitimate threat?
Before the day of the incident, Ra and Harvey had a feud that started when Ra’s niece and Harvey’s daughter got into a fight at school. On the day of the incident, Harvey brought her daughter to Ra’s mother’s house so she could have a sleepover with Ra’s niece. Ra quickly objected and had Harvey’s daughter call her mom to come back to pick her up. That’s when the situation escalated.
Jane Coaston of Vox writes:
What follows is still unclear. At first, Harvey told police that when she returned to pick up her daughter from Anderson’s home, Ra threatened her, then pulled a gun out of her car after saying, “I got something for you.” Harvey then told police that she took pictures of Ra holding the gun, and then drove to the police station and filed a complaint.
But that’s not what Ra and her family say happened. In a video made for supporters of Ra’s case, Ra said that Harvey was “literally going back and forth with this car, putting it in reverse and fixing herself to come at us again, and go after my mother, who was also standing very close to me and wasn’t able to run.”
Harvey later told police that she may have “accidentally” hit Ra’s car while leaving Anderson’s property. According to Ra, she then pulled her 2-year-old daughter out of her car (where she had been playing during the dispute), then grabbed her unloaded handgun out of her car and pointed it at Harvey. After Harvey left, Ra also filed a police report.
“During the trial, a DPD detective testified that the department considers the person who arrives at the police station first to be the victim, lawyers say. Thus, detectives were not allowed to speak to Ra directly.”
Let’s start with the fact that the alleged attacker, Channell Harvey, was treated as the victim in this situation simply because she beat Ra to the police station. The fact that the first person to file a police report in Detroit is considered to be the victim is problematic. Imagine being slugged in a Detroit parking lot and being forced to defend yourself. Your attacker then gets away and reaches the police station first to file their report. The incident is not on camera, and it’s only your word versus theirs. You’re in for some trouble.
Even if Harvey filed the complaint first, one would think the Detroit Police Department would take into account Ra’s claim that Harvey intentionally crashed her car into her vehicle, right? If that was, in fact, the case, then it’s pretty clear the reason Ra grabbed her weapon in the first place was because of Harvey’s actions.
Well, as stated, Harvey did not mention anything about hitting Ra’s car in her report until later, and detectives could not ask for Ra’s side of the story.
In today’s society, there are plenty of stories where people play the victim, to either frame someone else or to play the system. In a situation like this, the DPD should have looked to get all of the details first. The fact that police ultimately brought felonious assault charges against Ra appears to be absurd.
Here’s what Ra’s attorney, Victoria Burton-Harris, told Democracy Now!:
Siwatu, after she pointed this firearm at the complaining witness and her daughter, the complaining witness snapped three photographs and said, “Oh, you’re a CPL holder. I have something for you.” She snapped the three photographs and immediately drove to the nearest police station, and she gave a false report. In this report, she did not mention that she attempted to hit Siwatu’s mother. In this report, she neglected to mention that she even hit Siwatu’s car, which she later admitted to doing in a subsequent police report. The police listed this complaining witness and her daughter as the victims in this case, victim one and victim two. And Siwatu was noted as the aggressor…
Burton-Harris also stated that SWAT came to arrest Ra:
Siwatu had one opportunity to provide her version of the events, and that was when she made her report a few hours after this mother and child. And the next thing that she knew, she was being contacted by the police, not for an interview and follow-up, an investigation, but because SWAT was outside of her home to arrest her.
Ra’s pregnancy makes this situation even more devastating, as Burton-Harris explains:
Prison is no place for a pregnant woman. It’s hard enough to carry a child, to carry a child full term. And Siwatu did not carry her first child to term. She had an early pregnancy, or she had an early delivery date with her first child. She had serious complications with that pregnancy. And she’s currently showing signs and symptoms of the same complications now with the second pregnancy. And so, we are working diligently to get her released on an appeal bond, so that she can deliver her child safely at home.
This statement couldn’t be more accurate. Prison is no place for a pregnant woman, especially one that shouldn’t be behind bars due to circumstantial evidence. Not to mention, Ra has a history of pregnancy complications. The judge has already refused requests to postpone her sentence until after giving birth.
Bearing Arms requested comment from the NRA, but the organization did not respond at the time of publishing.
On Monday afternoon, the NRA tweeted out its support for Siwatu-Salama Ra, stating, “No one should be imprisoned for exercising their right to self-defense.”
— NRA (@NRA) May 7, 2018
Let’s hope that Ra’s charges will be overturned.