WASHINGTON, D.C.—The family, friends and lawyers representing Shanquella Robinson want justice for her murder. They recently took that message to the White House where they met with Stephen Benjamin, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. They demanded that U.S. leadership extradite a suspect to Mexico to be held responsible for Ms. Robinson’s death.
“I had hoped that we wouldn’t have to be here today, but we promised you that we would if we needed to,” said family co-counsel attorney Sue Ann Robinson (no relation) following the White House meeting during a press conference at the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women.
“When the FBI declined charges, I know it was hard for the community to understand what was happening and to understand why. We’re disappointed, but we’re not deterred,” Atty. Robinson said.
“The White House heard us and they’re hearing the family. They understand that this is a case that came from the people. It’s really the people’s movement. It’s Shanquella Robinson. It’s her family, their loss. But Shanquella is our sister.
The White House is starting to get the message that we’re not standing down, we’re not accepting no, we’re not accepting later, tomorrow, or 10 years from now. We’re not in that phase. We’re in the phase where we understand what we have to do to protect ourselves, understand that.”
What happened to Shanquella?
Last October, Ms. Robinson was found dead less than 24 hours after traveling on a birthday celebration with one friend and five acquaintances to the resort city of San José del Cabo, Mexico. The people with Ms. Robinson initially told her mother, Sallamondra Robinson, that her daughter died of alcohol poisoning.
“I found out through a phone call,” the mother said at the May 19 press conference. “I got a phone call saying that she was alcohol poisoned.” That story soon proved to be false when the family received an autopsy report from the Mexican Secretariat of Health.
The report revealed Ms. Robinson suffered a broken neck and a cracked spine. Her death certificate, obtained by the Queen City News of Charlotte, N.C., stated her death was attributed to a “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation,” meaning that her first vertebra was loosened or detached from the base of her skull. There was no mention of alcohol included in the report.
Weeks later, social media revealed a video of Ms. Robinson being attacked. Her mother recognized the others in the video as her daughter’s travel mates. She believes it was recorded during their trip to Cabo.
“Later on, after the video came out, they (Shanquella’s travel mates) called me lying. They even came to my house lying. They didn’t know that a video had been leaked out,” Ms. Robinson said.
Last November, Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero issued an arrest warrant for an American woman suspected in Shanquella’s death. Mexican prosecutor Daniel de la Rosa Anaya told ABC News, after the warrant, that Ms. Robinson’s death was being treated as femicide, the act of killing a woman based on her gender.
“This case is fully clarified, we even have a court order,” Mr. de la Rosa Anaya said. “It wasn’t a quarrel, but instead a direct aggression. … It’s about two Americans, the victim and the culprit.” Mexican authorities want the suspect extradited to Mexico to face charges.
Atty. Crump wrote in a March letter to the Biden Administration, “Shanquella traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on October 28, 2022 and was reported dead in a luxury Villa in Cabo on October 29, 2022. Her six travel mates returned to the United States the next day. Three of the six travel mates—Wenter Donovan, Khalil Cooke, and Daejahnae Jackson—would transport Shanquella’s luggage from Mexico to her mother’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina. They would give their condolences and inform Mrs. Robinson that Shanquella passed away from alcohol poisoning.”
The letter explained that in November 2022, one of the travel mates shared a cell phone video around the campus of Winston Salem University, the college that Shanquella Robinson attended. The video shows Shanquella being beaten in the villa while naked by one of the six travel mates, who a witness identified as Dejahanae Jackson.
“Shanquella Robinson was my daughter,” Ms. Sallamondra Robinson said at the press conference. “Unfortunately, no one has done anything about her death. No one helped her when she was there, they (people on the video) were telling her to fight back. Someone should of had sense enough to step up and help her, stop the fighting. But they didn’t. They continued to watch it, laugh and kill my child. I need justice for Shanquella,” she continued.
“Somebody needs to be arrested. We can’t sleep. We can’t eat. We can barely hold down a job because we are not getting justice for her. She needs justice. She can’t rest either. I need you to stand up for her.”
How has she been holding up with the stress of thinking her daughter’s killers are walking free?
“Prayer and God have helped me get through this,” she told The Final Call. “It’s really hard. It’s heartbreaking to even look at the video today. It’s heartbreaking. I have good days, bad days, but I’m getting through it. I would just love to get justice because she was a loving child. She didn’t deserve this. All of them were there and nobody stepped in to help. It’s just hard.”
Even after seeing the video, the FBI declined to bring any charges in the case. They told the Robinson family in April that after “careful deliberation,” they determined there was not enough evidence to seek charges in the 25-year-old young woman’s death.
“As in every case under consideration for federal prosecution, the government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a federal crime was committed,” federal prosecutors in North Carolina said, according to local news outlets.
This news motivated organizers like Mario Black, founder of the Million Youth March of Charlotte and Salisbury, to do more.
“We went to Washington about two months ago and did a press conference with Benjamin Crump, Tamika Mallory and members of the Robinson family. That press conference was to bring the issues to the president of the United States and vice president. We wanted national attention and to have the suspect extradited back to Mexico,” he told The Final Call.
“We set the date of May 19 to return if nothing was done. We were coming back to Washington for a rally with hopes that the higher-ups in the United States would push to do something.”
That date is significant because it is Malcolm X’s birthday, who once said: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
“We were hopeful that once the FBI got engaged, that they would respect this American citizen, this young Black woman who, based on the video, did absolutely nothing to warrant such a savage beating,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at the press conference.
“It reminds me that when it was Natalie Holloway (who died while on a senior trip in Aruba), or when it was Gabrielle Petito (allegedly killed by her boyfriend), you had the government, the media, everybody saying, we will get to the bottom of this. Yes, yes. But when it was Shanquella, nobody was trying to get to the bottom of it.”
Atty. Crump explained that to get to the bottom of it co-counsel Robinson traveled to Mexico to get answers.
“Mexico was a little hectic, a little crazy,” she told The Final Call. “I had to make it clear that I was on a fact-finding mission. I wasn’t there to investigate, get anybody in trouble. I just wanted to have solid concrete answers for the family,” she continued.
“I was able to speak directly to the attorney general in Mexico. They completed their investigation and sent everything to the United States so we would know where to go. Before that, we were getting ping-ponged, you need to go to Mexico. Mexico saying you need to go to the U.S.”
After a week in Mexico, the fact-finding mission was successful. “We got all the investigative documents from the Mexican authorities,” she said.
Black women’s lives matter
Tamika Mallory, a social justice activist, is known for many things. She helped organize the historic 2017 Women’s March; she received the 2018 Coretta Scott King Legacy Award from the Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom; and she’s one of the few people who rejected denouncing the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan in 2019 on “The View” television show after being grilled. She is also co-founder of Until Justice, an intersectional social justice organization rooted in the leadership of diverse people of color to address systemic and racial injustice.
After the Shanquella video surfaced last year, Ms. Mallory started getting texts and calls.
“Many people reached out to me,” she told The Final Call. “I was going to bed, it was about one o’clock in the morning, and I laid down to look at everything that had been sent to me throughout the day and it was overwhelming. I was trying to figure out, ‘what is this story’? I looked at my text messages and saw one from a woman who never writes me at all about anything other than, ‘love you, hope you’re well.’”
Ms. Mallory continued: “She was saying ‘I’m crying because of what happened to this young sister. Can you please look into it? I know you got a lot, but can you look into it?’ I chose to do so. That’s how I got here. I reached out to her family, spoke with her father, her mother, and her sister. That’s how I got involved.”
Calling the Robinson family may have been how Ms. Mallory started, but it’s not how her help ended. She contacted family co-counsel Sue Ann Robinson and told her, “I need you.”
“I said, okay, let’s go,” Atty. Robinson told The Final Call.
“All we want the State Department to do is what the protocol is,” she said at the press conference. “The protocol is if you know there’s a warrant out there, help orchestrate that person being sent to Mexico to face the evidence and the charges against them. There’s a plethora of evidence. You’ve got video, you’ve got an autopsy, and you got text messages.”
The lawyers and family are waiting to see what the Biden administration will do. No promises were made at the White House meeting other than to do the best they can to investigate, according to Atty. Crump.
Shanquella Robinson’s case has reached international acclaim. Bola, a journalist for The African Press, was at the press conference. He told The Final Call, “This is all about Black people, those in Africa and the Diaspora. We need to be able to disseminate what’s going on. I have years of experience in journalism. My idea was what can we do with this? How can we have authentic information to print? I decided to follow this case for our readers.”
Dr. Ben Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), an association of more than 250 Black-owned community newspapers and media companies from across the United States, told The Final Call that member newspapers and media companies in the NNPA would keep Shanquella’s story in the news.
“Unfortunately, there’s such a litany of abuse to Black people, we’ve become sometimes desensitized with one tragedy after another,” he said. “I’m especially calling on the men who took the pledge at the Million Man March. I think Black men need to stand up and be more forceful to protect our women,” said Dr. Chavis.
In 1995, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan called one million Black men to D.C. and two million men showed up. During the historic gathering, called the Million Man March, Minister Farrakhan led the men in a pledge that included a promise to protect and respect women, particularly Black women.
It stated in part: “I PLEDGE that from this day forward, I will never raise my hand with a knife or a gun to beat, cut, or shoot any member of my family or any human being except in self-defense. I pledge from this day forward I will never abuse my wife by striking her, disrespecting her, for she is the mother of my children and the producer of my future.”