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Richard Zobon Baxter takes a knee, in front of David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center on the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization.
Richard Zobon Baxter challenged Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado to a friendly boxing match. Regalado declined challenge and to all appearances blocked Baxter from interviewing clients as a Bail Disruptor for The Bail Project. Vic Regalado employed Betty Shelby, the officer who killed unarmed Black man Terence Crutcher, to teach a class on how to survive.
From the Editorial Board
In 2009 after spending two years in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center (Tulsa County Jail), at 26-years-old, Richard Zobon Baxter was sentence to 121 years in the Lawton Correctional Facility for trafficking illegal drugs.
“I remember entering prison and hearing the doors slam behind me. My first thought was that I would never see my family again and would never experience freedom,” he said.
While serving time, Baxter researched the complexities of his case in the prison’s law library and found a Supreme Court case similar to his. He was able to use the Court’s ruling to overturn his conviction in 2010.
Today, Baxter works in the criminal justice field as a Bail Disruptor for “The Bail Project”, a non-profit organization that, “combats mass incarceration at the front end by entering into the jail and paying bail for tens of thousands of low-income Americans at risk of pretrial detention.” His job entails going into David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, interviewing potential clients assessing their reliability and bailing them out of jail.
Prior to his employment at The Bail Project, Baxter enrolled in college and worked as a paralegal at the Tulsa Public Defender’s Office; in addition to that, he worked at two other law firms.
“Re-entering the jail was an emotional experience for me because it reminded me of the first time I walked in there, I was a convicted felon who had a 121 year prison sentence ahead of me,” Baxter explained.
He is an outspoken activist in the Tulsa community. In 2015, Baxter founded RacismStinks, a non-profit organization focused on healing the racial divides in the local community. On the second Saturday of every month, Baxter is an instructor for Home Safe, a class he also founded which seeks to train citizens on best practices when encountering law enforcement. The class’s objective is to minimize the fear and to create positive outcomes for both the citizen and law enforcement.
Photo by Black Wall Street Times
In August 2018, Vic Regalado, of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Department and head of David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, hired Betty Shelby — the Ex-Tulsa Police Officer who killed unarmed black man Terence Crutcher on video with his hands-up and was acquitted of the charges and had her arrest record expunged — to teach Tulsa deputies on how to “survive a critical incident”, agitating fresh wounds.
Tulsans became appalled and outraged by the clear declaration of disrespect, disregard and apathy. Concerned residents held a rally outside the Tulsa Courthouse. A sea of “Ban Betty” shirts and posters pervaded the diverse crowd. A Color of Change petition received nearly 30,000 signatures asking the city to Ban Betty from teaching a class because of its insensitivity to Black Tulsa citizens. In attendance, were elected officials, clergy, educators, community leaders and everyday citizens who were visibly distressed from the thought of Betty Shelby teaching a class after such a controversial national trial that further polarized race relations in Tulsa. Yet the cries of the people fell on deaf ears when it came to Sheriff Regalado, who decidedly proceeds with Betty Shelby teaching the class.
In efforts to better the police and community relations, Baxter challenged Sheriff Vic Regalado to a charity-exhibition boxing match, in good spirit. “Bad Dude v Cop,” intended to convey to law enforcement officers that cops shouldn’t fear Black men, but to view and treat them as human beings.
Baxter said, “the Ban Betty rally didn’t hit hard enough to get Regalado to hear us, and maybe someone has to hit him with something unexpected.” Baxter maintains that “Terence Crutcher was no threat to Betty Shelby as an unarmed Black man. He noted that, “Terence’s hands were in the air in the universal sign of surrender, and there is absolutely no reason for her to teach a class on ‘survival’,” Baxter noted.
“The time for talking has passed; training people on how to kill unarmed people and get away with it in the eyes of the law is an act of war. I don’t want any more lives lost senselessly. I know that I could have been Terence Crutcher with my hands up, shot, and then laying on the street waiting to meet my maker,” Baxter explained.
He is determined to prove to law enforcement that they don’t have to fear unarmed black men by challenging Sheriff Regalado to a boxing match.
Baxter says, “The match will be professionally regulated and sanctioned. I guarantee that I’ll be unarmed, and after the fight law enforcement will know that they don’t have to fear for their life against an unarmed black man.”
Baxter has made several attempts to contact Sheriff Regalado regarding the challenge. Sheriff Regalado has yet to respond. Baxter believes Sheriff Regalado took a boxing challenge as a threat, and in an attempts to silence Baxter and the BanBetty counter movement, has barred Baxter from entering into the jail to help clients as a bail disrupter for The Bail Project.
Baxter told us “I will not be silenced and that is a coward’s move on behalf of Regalado. He should address my challenge and not run from it. We hear the phrase ‘brave men and women in law enforcement’ all the time.”
Since Baxter has been banned from entering David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center to interview clients, The Bail Project will let him go at the end of October.
Baxter says it was the best job he’s had since being released from prison. He told us that he will continue to pressure Sheriff Regalado and won’t be silenced.