The Trial of Patrolman Thomas Shea recounts the true story behind Audre Lorde’s 1975 poem “Power”—a masterly, gripping and true account of the tragedy of the early-morning shooting of a child and the trial of a policeman for murder that followed. Thomas Hauser explores the question: Was it a case of mistaken identity or race hatred—or both?
It happened on the morning of Saturday, April 28, 1973, in Queens, New York, at around 5:00 a.m. In the pre-dawn dark, ten-year-old Clifford Glover was walking with his stepfather, Add Armstead, toward the auto salvage yard where Armstead worked, as they did most Saturdays. Patrolman Thomas Shea and his partner, Walter Scott, drove by in an unmarked car. The cops were on the lookout for a pair of armed robbers dressed similarly to Clifford Glover and Add Armstead, and stopped to give chase. The child and his stepfather, who was carrying his wages from the day before, ran, afraid they were going to be robbed. Shots were fired. Armstead flagged down a passing patrol car, not realizing that Clifford was lying on the ground, mortally wounded, the gun that killed him still in the hand of Patrolman Shea, who would become the first New York City cop in fifty years to be charged with committing murder while on duty.