Howard Beach Incident of 1986: Proof Racists and Brutal Crimes Existed in The North

Written by Jae Jones

Racist and brutal crimes against  people have been going on for decades, and far too long. There are far too many stories about how Black people have died at the hands of police officers, or been beat down by white mobs. There were several racially motivated situations that occurred during the early 1980s, some people might remember and some they may not. However, the one that may have stayed with people the longest is the Howard Beach (1986) incident.


 was when a white mob attacked 3 stranded African-Americans in Howard Beach, a narrow-minded white community in the borough of Queens. The three men who were, Michael Griffith, 23, Timothy Grimes, 20, and Cedric Sandiford, 36, were traveling to pick up Griffith’s paycheck. The car they were driving stalled and they set out on foot to find a pay phone. The group ended up in the uninviting neighborhood of Howard Beach at midnight and were immediately confronted by a group of White pedestrians who shouted racial obscenities, and told the young men to leave their White neighborhood.


The three Black men stopped and got something to eat at a nearby restaurant, and upon leaving they were attacked by a mob of 12 White young men, who were waiting for them with tire irons, baseball bats and tree limbs. Grimes, drew a knife on the mob and ran away with minor injuries. Sandiford was beat and knocked out. Griffith was beat severely and managed to get away through a hole in a fence, and made it onto a six-lane expressway, where he was hit and killed instantly. The driver was a court officer, and the son of a New York police officer. Instead of the driver owning up right and taking his part in the “accident,” officers some how tried to pin the death on Sandiford. Sandiford was considered a suspect right away in the death of Griffin. He was questioned for hours about what happened. Officers also refused to get him medical attention for the beating he had sustained by the white mob.


The incident however did not go unnoticed by the Civil Rights Activist Reverend Al Sharpton. He organized several protest in Howard Beach, as well as the Carnarsie and Bath Bay sections of Brooklyn. The jury found 3 of the 4 principal defendants guilty of second degree manslaughter and first degree assault, but innocent on attempted murder and riot charges. The leader of the mob was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison. Other mob participants received anywhere from 5 to 18 years in prison. Those who were charged with lesser offenses received community services and very light sentences.



Howard Beach Incident: 25 years later, a community struggles to heal

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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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