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Michelle Wu, Alan Swanson, Willie Bennett, Charles Stuart, Carol Stuart, apology, Boston

Source: Scott Eisen / Getty

On Dec. 20, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu issued a public apology to Alan Swanson and Willie Bennett, two Black men who were wrongfully arrested in connection to the murder of a pregnant white woman in 1989. The incident exacerbated existing divides in a city already fractured along racial lines and reignited distrust and frustration between the Black community and the Boston Police Department.

“We are here today to acknowledge the tremendous pain that the city of Boston inflicted on Black residents throughout our neighborhoods 34 years ago,” Wu — Boston’s first Asian American Mayor — said during a press conference at City Hall Wednesday, according to a video reposted by the Boston Globe.

“The mayor’s office, city officials and the Boston Police Department took actions that directly harmed these families and continue to impact the larger community, reopening a wound that has gone untended for decades. On behalf of the Boston Police Department, the mayor’s office and the entire city of Boston. I want to say to Mr. Swanson and Mr. Bennett, the entire Bennett family, and Boston’s entire black community —  I am so sorry for what you endured.”

In 1989, life for Swanson and Bennett changed when they were accused of shooting Carol Stuart. Authorities later discovered that Stuart’s husband, Charles Stuart, was responsible for her murder.

On Oct. 23, 1989, Charles called 911 to report an attempted carjacking after leaving a childbirth class at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He claimed that he and his pregnant wife had been shot multiple times by a Black gunman in a tracksuit and forced to drive to the Mission Hill area – a neighborhood that is home to a large African American and Hispanic population, the Boston Globe noted.  Police set out on a mission to find the imaginary killer, stopping and frisking Black men along the way.

Swanson was the first suspect tied to Carol Stuart’s murder. He was arrested five days after the shooting, when law enforcement discovered him and his girlfriend occupying an apartment in Mission Hill, with a black tracksuit soaking in the sink. Initially charged with trespassing, Swanson spent three weeks in jail while authorities attempted, unsuccessfully, to uncover further evidence linking him to the Stuart shooting. Eventually, he was released.

As the case against Swanson weakened, the focus shifted to Bennett, who had a lengthy criminal record. He became the new, more probable suspect in the eyes of the police. Authorities were close to indicting the Boston resident, before Charles’ brother, Matthew Stuart, revealed that he assisted his brother with Carol’s murder. Charles committed suicide shortly after his murderous act came to light. 

During the press conference Wednesday, Wu called out the Boston Police Department for their “unjust” and “racist” investigation. 

“There is no world in which a piece of paper undoes the harm of this part of our history,” Wu told the families of Bennett and Swanson. “But it is my hope and the hope of our entire administration, that you might accept this letter of apology as a small step toward accountability for the damage done by our city. And I want to be very clear that this is just the beginning of a much longer journey of accountability and action.”

 

Joey Bennett — the nephew of Willie Bennett — accepted Wu’s apology on behalf of his uncle and the Swanson family. 

“We are truly humbled to finally be receiving this apology,” he said. “Most importantly, we would like to acknowledge our family patriarch, Willie Bennett, who has shown resilience and strength throughout his entire life no matter what anyone said.”

Joey added, “This moment is not just a personal triumph for our family, but a testament to the incredible support we received from the Mission Hill community and friends alike.”

The Bennett family took legal action against the city in both federal and state courts after the case was dropped. Years later, they were granted a settlement of $12,500, according to The Boston Globe.

Mayor Wu’s apology comes a few days after she was slammed for throwing a POC holiday party for six minority members of the City Council.

SEE ALSO:

‘Whites Only’: Boston Mayor Defends ‘Electeds Of Color Holiday Party’ In City With Racist Reputation

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