Who is Malice Green?
It would have been hard to imagine anyone asking that question two decades ago.
Two Detroit cops beat the 35-year-old to death on Nov. 5, 1992, a year after Rodney King’s videotaped beating by Los Angeles police. The brutal death prompted national headlines and increased calls for an end to police brutality.
But on the 25th anniversary of the beating Tuesday, Green was all but forgotten.
The most pronounced and poignant memorial of Green – an abandoned party store with a painted mural of him on West Warren – was demolished in July. His family has shown little interest in erecting a new one.
But there’s one man who refuses to forget. Artist Bennie White Jr. Ethiopia Israel, 75, painted the indelible mural of Green on a rainy day, which caused paint to run from Green’s eyes, as if he were crying. It was impossible to drive by without seeing the memorial, which featured a boldly painted, “Nov. 5.”
White also painted a rarely seen portrait of Green in 1993 that was hanging at the Richard Bennett Studio Gallery 470 in the Cass Corridor.
“It moved a whole city,” White, who displays his work every three or four years, said of the beating. “It got international attention, and that was good. But things move on. It was a long time ago.”
White told me he hasn’t heard from the Green family in a while and doesn’t know how to reach them. But he said he’s been considering working on a new memorial.
Green’s death came during a routine traffic stop at 23rd and West Warren, near the site of the demolished shrine. What prompted the beating is unclear, but an autopsy found that police struck Green in the head at least 14 times with a heavy flashlight.
The white police officers – Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn – were sentenced to prison for their role in the beating.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.