Boston Mayor Michelle Wu on Wednesday rendered an apology to the families of Alan Swanson and Willie Bennett after the two Black men were wrongfully arrested over the 1989 murder of a woman.
Per CNN, Charles “Chuck” Stuart in 1989 contacted police to report that he and his pregnant wife Carol had sustained gunshot wounds during an attempted carjacking. Officers who responded to the scene found Carol with a gunshot wound to the head. Stuart also sustained a gunshot wound, the Boston Globe reported.
Carol later succumbed to her injuries in a hospital, but she underwent a cesarean section and her baby was delivered. The baby, however, died after 17 days.
During his recovery, Stuart informed the police that a Black man attacked him and his deceased wife. This triggered an intense police “stop and frisk” operation in the city’s Black neighborhoods. At the time, the racial tension in Boston was also high.
And though authorities arrested Swanson and Bennett in connection with Carol’s murder, a recent investigation by the Boston Globe stated that several officers at the time were aware Stuart lied about his initial description of the suspect.
“The most striking thing to me was that we discovered 33 people had known Charles Stuart committed the murder at the time he committed suicide. Nobody had an inkling the number of people who knew was anything like that,” Adrian Walker, an associate editor and columnist at the Boston Globe, told CNN.
Stuart’s brother also later confessed and told police Stuart hatched the murder plan, adding that it was linked to an insurance fraud scheme. He also said Stuart lied about the attacker being a Black man.
“I am so sorry for what you endured,” said Wu at a news conference. “As a result, our Black residents suffered, as a result Alan Swanson suffered, Willie Bennett suffered, and their families continue to suffer. What was done to you was unfair, unjust, racist and wrong.”
Wu on Tuesday also said officials holding different positions decided to believe a lie that caused a “systemic campaign targeting Black men.” Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox also issued an apology for “the poor investigation, overzealous behavior and more likely, unconstitutional behavior.”
An official apology letter was presented to the families during the press conference. Bennett’s nephew, Joey Bennett, accepted the apology on his behalf.
“This moment is not just a personal triumph to our family,” Joey Bennett said. “The world can be informed of what transpired 34 years ago and begin the process of healing our trauma.”