“Model America”: Family of Phillip Pannell, Killed by NJ Cop in ’90, Still Struggles for Justice

A new series examines how protests that erupted over a police killing three decades ago offer important lessons for the Black Lives Matter movement today. We speak to the family of Phillip Pannell, a 16-year-old Black boy who was fatally shot in the back in 1990 by a white police officer later acquitted for the killing. Pannell is the subject of “Model America,” a new four-part series by MSNBC that looks at the racial divide in the U.S. through the lens of the small town of Teaneck, New Jersey, where the shooting took place. “Here we are 32 years later, and it’s still happening,” says his sister, Natacha Pannell. His mother Thelma Pannell-Dantzler says the police officer, Gary Spath, lied on the stand about the shooting and “should be prosecuted” for perjury. We also speak with the series’s co-director, Dani Goffstein, who was raised in Teaneck and says he became interested in the story after noticing parallels with the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

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