Her fiancé was found dead in a dumpster. Police claim he hid there and was crushed, but she alleges a coverup
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I traveled to Minnesota to connect with community members across the Twin Cities who shared how the region has changed.
MAPLEWOOD, MN — Since losing her fiancé in 2009, Toshira Garraway Allen has dedicated her entire life to helping those affected by police violence. Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Allen has focused on amplifying the stories of those who can no longer speak for themselves.
“I believe in my heart that it's time for all of the stories of all of the people who have been killed by racially motivated murders to stand up and come forward,” Allen told Yahoo News in a sitdown interview in her home. “That's why I fight.”
As the founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, Allen helps families who have lost loved ones to police violence heal their “mind, body and soul,” according to their website. Personally, Allen is no stranger to death. Her fiancé, Justin Teigen, was found dead in a dumpster on August 19, 2009 after being chased by police following a traffic stop. Allen contends a coverup, while police say there was no foul play involved.
According to Allen, police chased and caught Teigen, beat him up, had canine dogs viciously bite Teigen and then left his body to be crushed in the dumpster.
“When we walked into the mortuary, that's where we saw that it was a clear beating that took place,” Allen said. “Justin had dog bites all over his body. His skull was cracked in half. His wrists were detached from his arms. And you could see where you had the handcuff marks.”
“It was literally a 2009 Emmitt Till,” she added.
But St. Paul Police refute these allegations altogether. Instead, they claim they did everything in their power to “keep the community safe.”
“Unfortunately, the combination of acute alcohol intoxication, a head injury sustained after crashing a vehicle while fleeing police, and asphyxia due to mechanical compression in a recycling truck proved tragic,” St. Paul police spokesperson Steve Linders told Yahoo News in an email. “We wish he hadn’t hid from officers and that we could have located him so that we could have gotten him the help he needed.”
The differences between the police report and the marks on Teigen’s body don’t add up for Allen. She draws particular connection with what happened to George Floyd on video versus what police said in their initial report, which noted that Floyd died from a "medical incident during police interaction". Allen believes the same kind of coverup is at play with her fiancé.
“I've prayed for 11 years for the truth to come out,” she said. “Once they murdered Justin, I got out as a young girl, I was only 23 years old. I was being followed. I was being harassed. I was being stalked by the police because I wanted answers and I was seeking those answers like anybody would do that loves somebody. I did it for my son.”
“When I saw them kill George Floyd in broad daylight … I felt that the truth would one day come out and it finally did -- the truth of what they have been doing to Black men,” she added. “They couldn't cover it up because he did it in broad daylight.”
What is it like being a black man living in a white man's world? I just finished reading one man's attempt at answering this question in the book "Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America," written by Nathan McCall. It's a book that initially after reading the first few pages I almost put down and said it wasn't for me. Something told me to keep reading, keep pushing and I am happy that I did. Personally, I've always known I lived in a world and a country that didn't quite belong to me as most people believe. I grew up in a town of predominantly white people in Oakland, New Jersey. I attended a private university of mostly white people in Syracuse University in upstate New York. Then upon moving to Harlem, New York I went to work in corporate America, dominated by white people. What is it like being an ambitious black man in America that won't settle for anything, but the best? It's simple, it's a daily challenge.
There are few things that the author and I share in common with our lives and even more differences. He grew up in a predominantly black town in Virginia. He went on to attend Norfolk State College in Virginia, a predominantly black college. Then, after serving some time in jail for armed robbery he finished school and went on to lead a productive life in the newspaper business. Stark differences from my own life, and yet as I turned the pages and he matured I felt a strong connection in our on our view of the world. McCall was fortunate to make something of himself after prison and work hard to live in his future and not let his past define him. Yet, he learned time and time again there were a lot of folks who did not want him to succeed. There were coworkers that said he only had his job because of affirmative action. There were old childhood friends that wanted to pull him back to doing illegal things. There were even women who did not have his best interest at heart, but saw what he represented and gravitated towards that. These are some of the things that plague a lot of people every day, but in particular, something that black men think about every second of every day. Am I good enough? Did I work hard enough? Did I earn this?
This book told the life of McCall through the highs and the lows. It was a transparent view of one man's experiences and a personal diary of what a lot of black men go through, but rarely express. I gained so much from reading each page. From shared awkward experiences in the workplace articulated through the text to personal feelings of self-doubt to understanding when it's time to let some friends grow, it's all real and it's actually okay to experience and grow from.
It's not easy living each day to the fullest, but no one said being great was supposed to be easy. Understanding who you are and where you come from and the sacrifices made before you help shape your own future. It's important for individuals to take accountability for their own lives, but it's even more important for each and every person to understand nationalities and backgrounds that they don't live every day. We are taught white America our entire lives growing up. There is small amounts of time spent on people of color, but is our history any less significant? Were we invisible or were we working just as hard to pull ourselves up? I never thought about this until reading this book, but there is such a heavy burden on others to learn about the things not taught in school. Be better and challenge yourself to get to know others who are not like you. Get to know their experiences good and bad. Get to know things that they struggle with on a daily basis, and there is no doubt there are shared experiences between all of us.
It's not easy being a black man in a white mans world, but I kind of like it that way. Each day I have something to prove to no one else but myself. I am worthy, I am great and I am going to live the life I've always dreamed about.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.