After Gregory Frazier was shot by deputies from the Broward Sheriff’s Office in his Pompano Beach backyard, it didn’t take long for local media to start portraying him as a criminal.
“Florida Department of Corrections records show Frazier had served several brief stints in prison,” the Sun-Sentinel noted in the initial story about the shooting. “His most recent was for cocaine possession — he was released in 2004.”
Frazier’s court record would be relevant if he had a history of violent confrontations with the police, which might explain — though not justify — why the officers were so quick to use lethal force. But based on his arrest reports, that wasn’t the case. Had he broken the law before? Yes. Was he a violent criminal? No. Rather, he seems to simply have had the bad luck of being a black man who had substance abuse issues and lived in a neighborhood that was heavily patrolled by law enforcement.
Here’s the full history of his documented interactions with the police prior to the night when he died:
-In 1986, a relative spotted Frazier entering his grandmother’s house through the front window and called the police. According to the arrest report, he told officers that he just wanted to get something to eat. His grandmother, who wasn’t home at the time, confirmed that he didn’t have permission to be there, and he was charged with burglary.
-In July 1989, undercover officers busted Frazier for selling crack when they tried to buy a rock from him. A few months later it happened again, only the “small, white, crack-cocaine-looking pebble” he handed over in exchange for a $20 turned out to be fake. He ran away after taking the money, but officers caught up to him a few minutes later. He was charged with sale of a counterfeit controlled substance and resisting arrest.
-In June 1992, Frazier’s sister, Deborah, reported that he had stolen $635 of jewelry from her. When confronted, he admitted that he had sold it for $70. He was charged with grand theft. Two months later, he was walking down Dixie Highway when police officers stopped him and searched the box he was carrying. It contained $80 worth of vacuum cleaner bags that he had allegedly stolen from a nearby appliance store, as well as a security lamp and a pair of old, rusty pliers. He was charged with burglary, grand theft, and possession of burglary tools.
-In 1997, police officers were “conducting a premise check” in a Pompano Beach neighborhood near Frazier’s home “in reference to people trespassing and selling illegal narcotics.” (Translation: looking to catch people doing drugs.) They spotted Frazier walking around in the parking lot and asked him if he lived on they property. He replied that he didn’t and consented to a pat-down — perhaps not knowing that he had the right to refuse. The officers found a used crack pipe in his sock and charged him with possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia.
-In 1999, a police officer spotted Frazier drinking a 16-ounce can of Miller Lite behind a vacant building and arrested him. He turned out to have a small amount of crack in his left front pocket and got charged for cocaine possession as well as an open container violation.
-In 2002, police detectives who were conducting surveillance in northwest Pompano Beach saw Frazier “make a hand to hand transaction with an unknown B/M [black male].” They found $10 of crack cocaine in his bag and charged him with possession.
-In 2012, a police officer saw him sitting on a bench at Founder’s Park, drinking beer out of an old Ragu jar. He poured it out when the officer approached but was written up for an open-container violation.
He pleaded guilty to all charges.
Notice what’s missing? Any reference to him threatening to harm police officers — or anyone else, for that matter. Of course, the reality is that the two officers who opened fire — both of whom had just a little over a year’s experience — probably weren’t aware of that.
“They arrived at 22:01 and shot him at 22:02,” Shay Chery, a Pompano Beach-based activist, points out, referring to the time stamp on the BSO’s official incident report. “They didn't know he had a criminal record because they didn't take the time to find out anything.”
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Meanwhile, the question still stands: Why did the initial reports of Frazier’s death have to mention his prison time at all? Under what other circumstances does an ordinary person’s untimely death merit such a thorough background check?
“Mr. Frazier did have a record that we are well aware of, but he paid his debt to society by serving whatever time the law rendered,” local activist Sarahca Peterson says. “The fact that the media always brings up the past of the deceased is despicable and inhumane. His crimes did not warrant death, point blank, period. Anything else is the media constantly demonizing people of color, even after death.”
You can view Frazier's arrest reports here: