William Eric Freeman

The real story of William Eric Freeman, police officer gunned down during a routine traffic stop in Huntsville on December 15, 2007 – is anything but routine. When I first started to write this story, in my minds eye prior to putting it in on paper, it made me whence just a little bit. It would be a distasteful story, a bit hard and not fun to write. Because, it exemplifies so much about what it wrong in the system today, and because justice has not been served to Eric Freeman, or to Kenneth Shipp, the man who killed him – or to myself.

The story begins in 1973, at the grade school where I attended, then called Madison Pike Elementary. For whatever reason, I was deemed a special kid, and during my fourth and fifth grade years got to participate in a program called “SRA modules.” The modules were mostly about reading, comprehension, and vocabulary with some social studies, science and mathematics mixed in. What set the program apart from the regular classroom, is that the individual modules, usually from four to six pages in length, were designed to be individually completed without other student participation, or even teacher instruction. You had to, or got to – depending on your level of independence – read and follow the instructions, and then complete some basic testing to finish.

One day in the fourth grade there was a knock on the classroom door. A man in a green army uniform greeted the teacher, and asked for me by name. When the teacher called me over, at first I thought it was my dad, and that would be really bad because he simply didn’t show up at school for any reason. When I got to the door, I was asked to step outside into the hallway. The door into the classroom was shut as the teacher went back inside – leaving me alone for consultation with the army man. I can’t say I remember everything that the man said, but he was wearing a green military uniform, and I seem to recall that he said he was with the National Guard. In his hands were one of those fabled manilla envelopes so revered by grade-school students everywhere because they are typically seen only in the hands of administrators doing official business.

The man then handed me the unopened envelope and said I was to go back into the class room, open the envelope right away, follow the instructions, return the materials to the envelope, seal it and that he would be back to pick it up in awhile. He told me that the contents were secret, not to be shared with any other student, not even to be seen by or shared with the teacher. He said I should never speak of the contents, because if I did there would be a consequence. All this was a bit disconcerting for me, first because it was so unusual, and second because this unexpected army man was usurping the sacred authority of the teacher. It concerned me that she might insist on seeing the material, and then what would I do?

The door to the classroom was then opened and I was ushered back into the classroom, not to participate in the activities already in progress, but to sit down at a special desk set aside to avoid interruption while working on the SRA modules. I was uneasy about not returning to the regular classroom activity and the disruption of the usual schedule. The teacher nodded her go ahead even before I could ask her or discuss the army man’s expectations.

I sat down at the desk, opened the envelope, and inside I found what looked like a typical SRA module. At the top of the first page I read the heading “William Eric Freeman.” The modules were usually anywhere from 1000 to 1500 words, as best as I remember now, and so there must have been a lot of details that I don’t remember at this time. There were some things that stood out and that I am sure of. The heading “William Eric Freeman” is one thing because it was unusual, and it turned the module into a personal dossier. The other thing I remember is that it was about a cop, who would be killed in the line of duty. William Eric Freeman, born on January 31, 1971, would have been only two or three years old at this time. I was about ten.

Some of the things I am less certain about is the timing of the foreboded event, and details about the personal life of the subject. I don’t recall reading the name of “Kenneth Shipp” but it seems likely to have been part of the dossier. It also occurs to me that another student, at another time, might have gotten a dossier on Kenneth Shipp. I do remember thinking that the “consequence” for revealing “classified” information seemed a little distant and out of context. There certainly wasn’t anything I could do, I didn’t know the person, didn’t know if the dossier was just a joke done in poor taste, or a metaphor for something I didn’t yet understand, or whether it could be taken seriously at all. And, since I was the only one in the classroom who saw the material, there was no temptation to discuss the contents with the teacher who showed she wanted none of it, or the other students, which probably would have deemed my assertions unbelievable anyway, thereby making me a fool in the eyes of my fourth grade peers.

When I finished the assignment. I placed the materials back in the official manilla envelope, sealed it up, and looked up at the teacher. Again, before I could tell her that even she wasn’t allowed to look inside, she waved me to front of the class room, and explained that the envelope would remain on the front of her desk, in my plain view, until the army man came back to pick it up. And, that’s exactly what happened. The material sat there, she never looked at it, and the army man showed up a few minutes later, retrieved the envelope, and left. After that, I didn’t think about it, and never did discuss the peculiar module with the teacher or other students. It was quickly forgotten, and became deeply buried in the sub-conscience grain of my memory.

My experience with abuse at Madison Pike Elementary is much more extensive than this single incident. Never-the-less, suffice it to say, on that day, I became a victim of a domestic terrorism conspiracy.

© 2015 – Jim Casey
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