ARIZONA CITY, Ariz. (FinalCall.com) – The mother of 9-year-old Malik Thomas is still trying to sort out why her son is dead, after he was allegedly doused with gasoline and set on fire by a group of White youths. Two weeks after the incident, no one has been charged for the brutal death.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Department has released very little information on the heinous crime to the family or media. Phoenix Vice Mayor Mike Johnson and Arizona NAACP Chairman Reverend Oscar Tillman were told that the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department was investigating the death as a homicide.
However, Pinal County Sheriff Spokesman Mike Minter told the Associated Press that no homicide investigation was being conducted.
“At this time, it is a death investigation. We have not labeled it a homicide or an accident,” he was reported as saying May 27. “But if it is a homicide we will definitely press for charges.”
Malik died May 22 after being treated for severe burns to the upper body at the Maricopa County Burn Unit in Phoenix. “We want justice for Malik,” declared his grieving mother, Pamela Bishop. “They can’t give me back my baby, but I want justice.”
Malik’s grandfather, Robert Banks, was the first family member to reach the child at the scene. He described the terror of seeing Malik, sitting on the curb as paramedics and police officers waited for the Air EVAC Helicopter. A motorist and other bystanders had smothered the flames before fire officials arrived to administer first aid. An unidentified Mexican child claimed that he was also targeted for attack, but was able to run before gasoline could be thrown on him.
However, sheriff spokesman Mr. Minter said Malik and two White boys his age, including one of his closest friends, were at a construction site playing when they found a milk jug filled with liquid. The surviving boys told investigators they all began kicking the jug around a room, then tossed matches at it.
“The fumes had built up in the room and an explosion occurred,” Mr. Minter maintains. “The Black boy was standing in front of the other boys and the explosion engulfed him.”
The sheriff’s office told the family that the clothing Malik was wearing had been lost. Later, Rev. Tillman was told that the clothing was found in a locker at the Fire Department. Mr. Minter stated that doctors at the hospital said there is no sign that the clothing was saturated with a flammable liquid, but the sheriff’s office will conduct further testing.
Vice Mayor Johnson has requested the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms assist in the investigation and the NAACP wants the FBI to become involved as well.