Father: 'I want justice'
Two years later, Michael Hickenbottom Sr. still wants justice.
Hickenbottom said he learned from the media that U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan decided this month not to pursue charges against the two state police officers involved in the Dec. 24, 2002, shooting death of his 12-year-old son, Michael Ellerbe.
Joined by about 30 supporters on a frigid Friday afternoon, Hickenbottom and demonstrators from People Against Police Violence held a vigil outside the Fayette County Courthouse in Uniontown.
"I want justice," Hickenbottom said outside the building, which was closed for the holiday. "That's why we're in front of the courthouse. We want justice. That's all."
Michael was shot in the back at 2:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve 2002 as he ran through a Uniontown alley after fleeing from a vehicle that was reported stolen. Troopers Samuel Nassan and Juan Curry had said Michael ignored their commands to stop and take his hands out of his pockets.
Curry told a Fayette County coroner's jury that his gun accidentally discharged as he climbed a fence and fell. Hearing the shot and seeing Curry fall, Nassan testified that he believed Michael had shot his partner. Nassan then shot the boy, according to testimony.
Michael was unarmed.
No charges were recommended by the coroner's jury at the January 2003 inquest, and Fayette County District Attorney Nancy Vernon did not charge either officer. Buchanan announced on Dec. 13 that no federal charges would be filed, either.
A civil lawsuit against Curry and Nassan is pending in U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania. No trial date has been set.
"There's not enough money to bring Michael back," said Renee Wilson, director of the Pittsburgh chapter of People Against Police Violence. "We want to make sure this never happens again."
PAPV, which organized the vigil, works with families "to advocate for justice for the victims of police violence" and "demand that guilty cops serve maximum prison sentences," according to its Web site.