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Interview With Ralph Crenshaw

Aired June 18, 2003 - 20:09   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Two nights of rioting, all as a result -- in the aftermath of the death of a motorcyclist involved in a police chase.
I want to talk a little more about that right now. The man, Terrance Shurn, described as popular, as likable. Our next guest, Ralph Crenshaw, is Mr. Shurn's uncle. He also happens to be the mayor pro-tem of Benton Harbor. He says his nephew is the second youth to die in a high-speed police chase there in two years. Mr. Crenshaw joins us now from Benton Harbor.

Mr. Crenshaw, thank you very much for being with us. I'm sorry for your loss and your family. Please extend our condolences to the rest of your family. Who do you blame for the death of your nephew?

RALPH CRENSHAW, MAYOR PRO-TEM, BENTON HARBOR, MICHIGAN: Well, certainly we blame poor judgment on the part of the pursuing officers from Benton township. We think that there was totally unnecessary to continue to pursue anyone within the residential area of the city of Benton Harbor. So we know that there was poor judgment. We know that at one time during the pursuit the state policeman abandoned the pursuit into the city of Benton Harbor. So therefore, we think this should have happened with the township also.

COOPER: You know, Mr. Crenshaw, there are a lot of people who have not been to this community, who do not understand perhaps why these riots have occurred as a result of your nephew's death. Can you explain a little bit -- obviously there has been tension before this. Why has it erupted now into rioting?

CRENSHAW: Well, I think it was just the last straw that broke the camel's back. There has been a considerable amount of tension in the city of Benton Harbor, especially as we relate to young people.

We have a city that's almost 50 percent 20 or under, so that is one problem. We have a city that four square miles, there's no jobs for young people here. There's almost virtually no recreation activities. So the combination of those things, in relation also to this being the second killing of a youth in Benton Harbor by an officer pursuing a person into the city limits is just totally exploded.

COOPER: Mr. Crenshaw, you know, losing a family member is -- I mean, it's just -- it's an unspeakable tragedy. To then have riots following in the wake of it, how has this affected your family? Has it made it -- I guess it's made it all the worse.

CRENSHAW: Well, certainly, you know, we feel bad not only for the family but we also -- the family's position is that we simply do not condone any type of violence. We're a loving family, and certainly that is not in good character with the family or our feelings.

But however, we do realize that this situation -- if the legacy is that there is something positive comes out of this, then I think that we can endure that. And we would hope that...

COOPER: And what -- sorry. Go ahead.

CRENSHAW: We would hope that two positive things will come out of this is that there will never, ever be another person killed in the city of Benton Harbor through a high-speed chase. The second thing is that we hope that through the governor or other individuals recognizing the legitimacy of these issues involving young people, that someone begins to listen and we can begin to address some of those issues involving young people in this community.

COOPER: So -- do you -- do you -- if -- I think for people who are just starting to follow this case, it's a little confusing. Do you not want police to -- if someone is being chased in one district, you're saying they should call off the chase as soon as the person being chased crosses city lines?

CRENSHAW: We're saying that if it's a situation where it's not a major crime to pursue someone for, say, a traffic violation or a warrant or something that may cause death, it's totally not a good judgment call.

In this instance, they knew who my nephew was. They could have issued him a ticket later. They could have waited some other time to pursue him and to end up in the loss of a life certainly is not appropriate for him or anyone else in any community.

COOPER: Ralph Crenshaw, we appreciate you joining us. And again, our condolences to you and the rest of your family. Appreciate you joining us tonight. Thank you very much.

We're obviously going to be following this story throughout the evening very closely, bring you any developments as warranted. Jeff Flock live on the scene.


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