New Jersey’s Rowan University won’t renew the contract of a head security official who fatally shot a 14-year-old black male in 1994 when he was a local police officer, PhillyVoice reported.
University President Ali Houshmand made the decision Monday as a petition to fire Peter Amico gained support, the outlet said. The school hired Amico as a contractor in 2008 and he rose to become head of Rowan’s Office of Emergency Management in 2013, PhillyVoice added.
What’s the background?
In April 1994, Amico was a police officer in Glassboro — where Rowan University is located — and was called to a domestic dispute after which he said Eltarmaine “L.T.” Sanders lunged at him with a knife, PhillyVoice said. Amico fatally shot the teen, and days of protests ensued, the outlet reported. Amico claimed self-defense, and a federal investigation found no civil rights violations, and a grand jury declined to bring charges against him, PhillyVoice added.
Sanders had been fighting with his older cousin and was chasing him with a knife, according to accounts from those close to the family, the outlet said, adding that Sanders’ mother called police. Amico was 29 at the time and a six-year veteran of the police department, PhillyVoice said.
A year later, the Gloucester County Police Awards Committee gave Amico a Combat Cross award for “combat with an armed assailant,” which further angered the black community in Glassboro, the outlet said. Amico retired from the force in 2009, PhillyVoice said.
What did the petition say?
The petition to fire Amico characterized the award he received as “racist” and that Rowan University making Amico head of the Office of Emergency Management is a “revolting insult to the Sanders family and to African Americans everywhere.”
“Peter Amico’s continued presence as the person in charge [of emergency management] says loudly that ‘Black Lives Don’t Matter’ at Rowan University,” the petition added.
How did Rowan respond?
“Given the circumstances of Amico’s employment prior to serving at the university and the necessarily painstaking evaluation of Rowan’s institutional commitment to racial justice and equity, Amico’s employment will be discontinued,” Houshmand said in a statement, according to PhillyVoice.
Houshmand added, “As a university, we believe black lives matter. We are looking hard at our own organization, our policies, structure and culture,” the outlet added.
‘You reap what you sow’
Delores Sanders, the mother of the fatally shot teen, posted on Facebook in regard to her loss about a week after George Floyd’s death which sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.
On the same day that Rowan announced that Amico’s contract wouldn’t be renewed, Delores Sanders posted the following on Facebook:
The updated version of the change.org petition to fire Amico states, “Victory. Good citizens of our beautiful nation and the world, on behalf of the Sanders family and all others suffering the loss of a family member due to police violence, we have, with unity of action, won a measure of social justice in the long train of police abuse for Black Americans. Peter Amico is being dismissed and the university is investigating the systemic racism on its campuses. In unity there is strength!”