April 28, 1973, a 10 year-old was executed on a street in South Jamaica, Queens. His name was Clifford Glover. He was walking with his step-father, when a car pulled up and out jumped 2 men with guns. Clifford and his father tried to run, fearing they were going to be robbed, but one of the gunmen fired. Before firing the fatal shot that would strike little Clifford in the back and take his life, the man yelled out, “You black son of a bitches!”
The man who killed Clifford was not a robber. He was a New York City police officer by the name of Thomas Shea. Shea and his partner, Walter Scott, were plainclothes cops working the South Jamaica neighborhood. After Clifford was shot, Officer Shea’s partner, Walter Scott exclaimed, “Die, you little bastard!” These comments were picked up by the police dispatcher from the officers’ walkie-talkies. After the shooting, one of the cops could be heard yelling out a victory cry of, “The good guys won!” This victory celebration was abruptly interrupted when the precinct’s commander arrived on scene, he asked “didn’t you recognize that he was a kid?”
Clifford Glover was a 10-year-old, 4th. grader, who weighed just 90 pounds when he was killed. The officers who shot him claimed they where trying to question Clifford and his father because they looked like suspects who had robbed a cabby earlier in the day.
There were two accounts of the shooting, one from the officers involved and the other from Clifford’s step-dad. The cops said in their sworn statements that Clifford pointed a gun at them. According to Scott, the boy told him “Fuck you, you’re not taking me.” Thomas Shea said he shot Clifford because the child “mad a reaching motion…and I saw what I believed to be a revolver. I put up my revolver and fired. I was very, very scared.” When Glover was hit, the officers claimed his father took the alleged weapon from him. Because of this account, hundreds of cops swarmed the area looking for this mystery gun. The weapon was never found. Thomas Shea was subsequently charged with murder because the prosecutors felt he lied about the shooting. He became the first New York City police officer to ever be tried for murder while on duty. On June 12, 1974, a jury of 11 Whites and one Black found Thomas Shea not guilty.
Clifford’s death, and the policeman’s later acquittal, led to riots in the South Jamaica section of Queens, New York. Immediately following the shooting, there were several days of riots in the South Jamaica neighborhood. At least 24 people, including 14 policemen were injured and 25 protestors arrested. There were also smaller demonstrations accusing Shea of racism outside the courthouse during the trial. The day after Shea was acquitted, hundreds of people began a riot. Several cars were turned over by the angry crowd. Windows were broken and cash registers stolen. One protestor was arrested. Two police officers were injured by the rioters.
The NYPD admitted that Thomas Shea had a penchant for using his police issued gun. At the time of Clifford’s killing, officer Shea had been employed with the NYPD for 13-years. In a span of six-years, Shea used his gun 5 times in the line of duty. At one point, he used his gun twice in a two week period. The only person to believe Thomas Shea’s account of the shooting was his police union representative, Bob McKiernan. The NYPD was forced to institute new rules detailing when officers are able to use their guns because in 1971, they had 600 officers firing their guns, which accounted for 93 killings and 221 people being wounded.