Press Buries Black-on-Hispanic Hit while Killer Hires Trayvon Martin Lawyer
On September 12, Miami-Dade police arrested a 17-year-old black teenager, Jamal Jackson, for the August 21 execution-style murder (see shocking video) of Hispanic-American Miguel Pilotos.
The black-on-Hispanic killing in Opa-Locka, Florida didn't get much press when it happened. Only after the suspect was arrested three weeks later did various news outlets release more details of the crime.
Within those reports a familiar name appeared: Rod Vereen.
Vereen was Trayvon Martin's pal Rachel Jeantel's lawyer in the Seminole County trial of George Zimmerman. Now he's representing the Opa-Locka killer.
Seminole County and Miami-Dade are 225 miles apart geographically, but symbolically, in the Martin and Pilotos cases, they are practically next-door neighbors.
Before Trayvon Martin went to his dad's girlfriend's place in Sanford right before his death, he lived in Miami Gardens, a couple of miles from the Pilotos killing.
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's parents, resided in Miami Gardens before and after their divorce.
Fulton was a long-time Miami-Dade County employee up until the time her son's death became a political and legal circus. It soon became apparent from a plethora of media profiles that Fulton had strong connections to the community.
So far, this is all just coincidence. Miami's full of criminals, and Vereen is a criminal defense attorney. But how did a juvenile who's already got a long rap sheet end up with a high-profile lawyer connected to the Trayvon Martin firestorm?
Seventy-one-year-old Pilotos was shot at point-blank range at 4:20 in the afternoon, according to the Top Value Supermarket surveillance tapes. Police records confirmed that the alleged perpetrator had a long criminal record.
Jamal Jackson had been arrested for burglary in Miami Gardens in May and aggravated battery in Opa-Locka the same month. In 2011, he was arrested for possessing cocaine and by the School Board Police for battery on a law enforcement officer.
On Friday, September 13, the day after his arrest, a court hearing at the Juvenile Justice Center announced that it was taking the case to the Grand Jury. Jackson's mother, sister, and lawyer Vereen were in the courtroom. His family offered no comment to the court or the press; however, a photo of Rod Vereen comforting Mother and Jackson's sibling did surface on Twitter.
Though some reporters, like NBC News, wrote that "robbery appears to be the motive behind the shooting," county investigators refuted that claim.
From CBS local:
Police say nothing was taken from him even though they say Jackson had cased the parking lot looking for a victim.
Police say the gunman rode up to Pilotos's car on a bicycle and pulled out his weapon and shot him. It happened in the parking lot of the supermarket at Northwest 137th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue.
Only after Miguel's wife of 25 years pleaded for the public's help on September 5 did an anonymous tipster contact Miami-Dade Crimestoppers. The information led to the arrest of Jackson.
It should be noted the same media that fueled the Trayvon Martin controversy did little to help a heartbroken widow of color.
The Miami Herald's editors and reporters, who had devoted over 450 articles to the February 2012 Trayvon Martin shooting, marked Mr. Pilotos's chilling, cold-blooded murder on August 21 with a sparse 70 words.
The Herald headline on August 22 actually read: "Two men killed in 24-hour period in Opa-locka shootings." The same paper that had cried out for Justice for Trayvon less than two weeks after his death treated Mr. Pilotos's murder like a non-event.
The fact that the killer was black and Pilotos Hispanic, that he was still on the loose after 17 days, and that Pilotos was gunned down in a grocery store parking lot, for no reason, didn't move the paper to call for direct action by civil rights activists from La Raza.
Lance Dixon of the Herald even went so far as to call the hit-like slaying "the second incident" of the day occurring "about 4:30PM." Dixon then described the alleged shooter as riding a bicycle and "wearing a black shirt and gray camouflage shorts," with no mention of race or approximate age.
But what makes Pilotos's murder more than just another possible hate crime the mainstream media loves to ignore is the fact that Rod Vereen is representing the killer. Vereen happens to be best friends with Tyrone Williams, who, in turn, was instrumental in getting Benjamin Crump to represent Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin's father.
Vereen's run for Congress in 2010 and state attorney for Miami-Dade County in 2012, as well as the Trayvon Martin case, has endeared him to friends like Jesse Jackson. The bloggers at Conservative Treehouse have included a photo of Vereen and Jackson on their website in an extensive bio of Jamal Jackson's attorney.
Vereen also has a connection to Miami attorney Patricia Jones. Tracy Martin contacted Jones in March 2012. Tracy referred to her as his sister-in-law. Tracy and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin's mother, wanted Zimmerman arrested for the death of their son, and Jones, like Williams, rang up Crump.
Coincidentally, Patricia, the sister-in-law, was married in 1989 to Rod Vereen's brother, Harris Vereen. The two divorced later on.
In 2000, Harris Vereen was also in trouble in Miami-Dade County. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Harris Vereen was one of two suspects shot by police following an alleged robbery.
From The Sun Sentinel:
... the suspects shot by [Officer] White were identified as Harris V. Vereen, 34, of 3961 NW 191st St., and Rudolph Silas, of 18410 NW 43rd Court.
It gets more interesting. Vereen says he's a friend of the killer's mother, Andrea M. Jones of Opa-Locka, Florida.
Vereen said he was taking the case because he was a friend of Jackson's family and mother, who was identified in court records as Andrea M. Jones. She declined to say anything about the charges against her son.
In the same report, Vereen offers a defense of his client suggesting that the killer is "mentally ill" and that "there was nothing in Jackson's past to lead him to believe that he would commit such a crime." Vereen also claimed that Jamal told him that police officers "beat him up while in custody."
So Vereen happens to be "friends" with Jackson's family. Is this Miami-Dade or Mayberry? Among Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin, Patricia Jones, Andrea M. Jones, Benjamin Crump, Tyrone Williams, and Jamal Jackson, this is one very strange group.
Some questions for Vereen: how do you know the Jamal Jackson family? Has Andrea M. Jones ever been arrested? Is that how you know her? Why did you take such an obvious open-and-shut case? Why did it take three weeks to bring the killer to justice? Was someone in his family harboring the alleged killer? If he had only a bike for transportation, he had to have someone covering for him; who was keeping him under wraps?
Meanwhile, amidst these bizarre associations, the love of Mrs. Pilotos's life is dead at the hands of another violent, soulless teenager, who I might add has had the nearly impossible good fortune of retaining a lawyer with friends in very high places. After all, the Trayvon Martin case, which catapulted Vereen's client, Rachel Jeantel, into short-lived fame, went all the way to the FBI, the DoJ, and the White House. It doesn't get higher than that.