by Chris Stevenson
A Buffalo family recently endured threats and attempted violence by a woman angry over her daughter dating a man of another race. This took place Saturday evening 11/27. Dianna Goodwin received a phone call from someone warning her that Natalie Bernard was on her way to her home to slash her car tires. Mrs. Goodwin immediately called 911 and told them to send someone to her 1387 Kensington home and warned them that if Bernard touches her car she would be forced to retaliate. Goodwin said the officer answering the call warned her the call was being recorded, but according to Mrs. Goodwin since Bernard had a knife in her possession that’s what she wanted them to know.
Soon after Bernard drove up in front of the Goodwins house liberally screaming racial epithets and accompanied by her husband and son still sitting in the car. She allegedly made several lounges at Marvin Goodwin Jr. on their driveway using her pocket knife, only to have Marvin Jr. avoid getting slashed. Marvin Jr. then was said to have punched Bernard in the face, sending her tumbling to the ground. At about this time two squad cars arrived, and patrol officers Dawn Lopez and Melinda Jones (also a PBA union officer) intervened. According to Mrs. Goodwin Lopez seemed bent on manipulating the outcome rather than securing the crime scene and arresting Bernard-who clearly seemed out of line while on someone else’s property. Ms. Bernard was still shouting and screaming the N-word with the officers present.
Mrs. Goodwin-also a well-known community activist- felt that for some reason Lopez was adamantly reluctant to arrest Bernard, even going so far to order the Goodwins to “shut up” instead of the N-word spraying Bernard and her family. Goodwin had no problem with Officer Jones handling of the situation. This behavior makes it look as though Bernard was way out of her element, verbally and physically assaulting a black family on their own grounds, and Officer Lopez seemed to be giving her a pass. Goodwin said she was playing fast and lose with the law, making statements such as ‘I can’t arrest her without arresting him (Marvin Jr.).’ Of course in unofficial white vernacular any black defending themselves against a white attacker(s), even on their own property must be arrested by default. Officer Lopez was even quoted verbally rewriting the law, “She said it was only my property if it was inside the house,” said Goodwin. Marvin Jr. works for the state, any arrest whether valid or not puts his job in jeopardy.
Mrs. Goodwin claims Lopez was on her own program, insisting ‘if you won’t press charges against her, I won’t arrest him.’ If this is true this can only put a disturbing light on Officer Lopez, especially considering the gravity and danger of the situation; using her job and position to forcibly coerce him, and he’s the victim. Mrs. Goodwin says she called 911 again to let them know how Lopez was handling the incident. Ms. Bernard was said to have tried hiding the knife once she saw the officers arrive until Mrs. Goodwin told them about it.
Marvin Goodwin Jr. and Nicole Skurka
This is not Natalie Bernard’s first visit to the Goodwin home. roughly a year ago Mrs. Goodwin disclosed to me that she rode onto her driveway on a motorcycle accompanied by several other bikers using the same racist language she used on the 27th. What has sent Bernard over the edge is the fact that her daughter; Nicole Skurka, has been dating Marvin Jr. for some time and she is trying to put a stop to it. Truth be told, more forces out there than Ms. Bernard have shown vehement opposition to this relationship. The two of them met each other while employees of the Walden Ave. Target store, and since then Marvin has become a Target, but that’s a story for another article.
Indeed it seems Goodwin Jr. would have certainly been locked up were it not for the arrival of a newly appointed Sheriff’s Deputy/Community Liason that she contacted; Willy Stewart, whom immediately came on to the Central Booking and adamantly suggested to Lopez not to arrest Marvin Jr. In fact Stewart was with Goodwin at the station from about 10pm-1am to make sure. Stewart questioned the Duty Officer and then asked Marvin Jr. his side of the story. Once Goodwin told him he pushed a lady who came at him with a knife Stewart said he couldn’t be arrested under Article 35 (obviously Article 35 wasn’t written for blacks, particularly in situations confronting whites. But conveniently it’s not worded as such): “When I talked to the Duty Officer that’s when everything changed, I asked for the arresting officers, they hadn’t showed up yet.” Stewart says he hadn’t told them he worked for the Sheriff’s Department, but the officers present agreed with him that due to Article 35 Goodwin couldn’t be arrested: “This was a lady Lt. and she said ‘yes he had a right to protect himself.'”
Eventually Lopez and Jones arrived and according to Stewart, kept looking at him and going back and forth and talking to each other trying to figure out who he was. Stewart wasn’t approving of how Lopez was said to behaved during the incident: “For them to be so disrespectful of taxpayers, that was out of pocket… they knew, they just didn’t think we knew that (about Article 35).
According to the police report Bernard is charged with “a misdemeanor/violation of Criminal Possession of a weapon in 4th Degree/Menacing in 2nd Degree… That the defendant, while at 1387 Kensington, did have possession of pocket knife, in that the defendant did yell threats from across the street at 1387 Kensington. Defendant did pull out a knife and did yell threats. Knife recovered by P.O. M. Jones, all evidence submitted by P.O. Dawn Lopez… Defendant, while at 1387 Kensington, did intentionally place Marvin Goodwin, in fear of imminent serious physical injury by means of a deadly weapon to wit; pocket knife, and did yell threats.” Now try matching the statements in this report filed by the two officers and match it against the alleged behavior of Officer Lopez and from the most objective standpoint it doesn’t make sense. Yet Lopez does have some pretty well-known history of not making sense.
Back on 7/28/06 Officer Lopez and a close friend went joyriding along I90 late one night after apparently barhopping, Lopez pulled her car over and began firing her gun into a field in the dead of night and then allowed her friend (a high school art teacher no less) to fire the weapon as well. A state trooper caught them doing this and arrested them, after which Lopez was charged with “2nd degree reckless endangerment (a misdemeanor).” It’s not like she was young at the time (she was 37 and her partner 39), and even DA Frank Clark-usually accommodating to erring officers-aired suspicions about alcohol impairment. She was given departmental charges and allowed to keep her job.
Like Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, Stewart seemed more upset with Officer Lopez than Ms. Bernard. He said her behavior makes it seem as if police choose to be in bed with white perpetrators and racists. “I explained to Diana and her husband ‘don’t let them get you upset because that’s what they are trying to do; get an arrest based on goading you into stereotypical behavior. I was just there as a buffer, as an adviser.” It seems Deputy Stewart was a good preventive buffer against another cited white Buffalo Police obsession; Get young black boys without a criminal record in the system. This is a subject matter that is not exposed and discussed enough around Buffalo. It is literally a job and career-stopper for blacks, and most importantly designed to break the spirits of black youths. This reporter has seen Goodwin Jr’s.’ degrees and academic achievements over the years, maybe his arrest would have been quite a prize for Lopez among white officers of the E District Precinct (or the Crooked E as I call them).
Stewart offers a preventive measure to combat “Get-’em-in-the-system” We need to have some legislation so when it’s wiped clean, it’s wiped clean. If you get an ACD it goes off your state record (after so many months of good conduct), but it stays on your federal record.”
I asked Chief Young about Lopez’ methods and if this was standard operating procedure within his precinct? He said no, but he’s only heard Mrs. Goodwins side of it. He said that what he wants to know is why did it take another officer arriving on the scene to make Lopez do the right thing? The main question regarding Officer Lopez is if there was anything going on in her mind outside of this incident that impeded her judgment? If for example Bernard physically broke into the Goodwins home, would Officer Lopez still have tried to find a way to arrest Marvin Jr? Is there room to wonder if not charging Bernard with a hate crime, a hate-crime on the part of the officers in itself?
What Ms. Bernard and many others see when they think about their daughters’ interracial dating
Evidently Bernard was booked and given an appearance ticket, but did not spend the night in a jail cell. She was said to have been arraigned on 12/7 at 9:30am and returned with a lawyer who was trying to get her an ACD on the 12/14 court date. This type of racism is common in much of the country, but is made more interesting by the mindset of too many members of US law enforcement who carefully interject their own bias and race barriers into their work. I will update you on this story as it goes on.
Chris Stevenson is a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, Btweetz.com blackcommentator and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice and The Network for clbTV. Respond to him on the link below.