Police shootings of unarmed Black men a national problem
18th August 2014 · 0 Comments
The recent shootings of Michael Brown, Ezell Ford and Eric Garner underscore the danger Black men and boys face when they cross paths with law enforcement officers.
In an article dated last week, The North Star News & Analysis reported that police in numerous cities have conducted summary executions of unarmed Black men for minor incidents or for seeking help, which the cops ratchet up to capital crimes, deserving of a death sentence meted out by them.
The latest police shooting death of an unarmed, mentally ill Black man occurred Monday night in Los Angeles. Ezell Ford was lying face down as he had been ordered to do by LAPD officers, according to eyewitnesses who dispute the police department’s version of the story.
The police, however, shot Ford three times in the back, and he died later in a hospital from his wounds. Police tell a different story. They said they stopped Ford because he making “suspicious movements.”
What made the movements suspicious is not explained. He did not have a gun or the police would have mentioned it. Ford allegedly attempted to grab a gun from one of the cops. His partner fired his weapon, according to the LAPD. The other cop fired his backup gun.
The cops were not identified. When the murder of Ford occurred, the nation was still fixated on the police murder of Michael Brown, a college-bound 18-year-old who lived in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb of Ferguson.
USA Today reported last week that local police are involved in 400 killings each year, with many of those incidents involving white cops and Black victims.
The publication said that nearly two times a week in the U.S., a white police officer killed a Black person between 2005 and 2012, according to FBI reports. On average, there were 96 such incidents among at least 400 police killings each year that were reported to the FBI by local police.
The numbers suggest that the fatal shooting of Michael Brown was anything but an isolated incident. According to FBI statistics, 18 percent of the Blacks killed during those seven years were under age 21, compared to 8.7 percent of whites.
While the racial analysis is striking, the database it’s based on has been long considered flawed and largely incomplete, USA Today reported. “The killings are self-reported by law enforcement and not all police departments participate so the database undercounts the actual number of deaths,” the article said. “Plus, the numbers are not audited after they are submitted to the FBI and the statistics on ‘justifiable’ homicides have conflicted with independent measures of fatalities at the hands of police.”
University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, told USA Today that the FBI’s limited database underscores a gaping hole in the nation’s understanding of how often local police take a life on America’s streets — and under what circumstances.
“There is no national database for this type of information, and that is so crazy,” Alpert said. “We’ve been trying for years, but nobody wanted to fund it and the (police) departments didn’t want it. They were concerned with their image and liability. They don’t want to bother with it.”
Alpert said the database can confirm that a death has occurred but is good for little else. “We’ve looked at records in hundreds of departments,” Alpert said, “and it is very rare that you find someone saying, ‘Oh, gosh, we made a mistake.’”
Killed For Walking In the Street
Michael Brown was walking in the street, a crime that meets all the criteria for capital punishment in Ferguson. Ferguson police said a cop the department initially refused to identify ordered Brown to walk on the sidewalk. Jon Belmar, the department’s police chief, alleged that Brown assaulted the cop and one shot was fired inside the patrol car.
On Friday the cop was identified as Officer Darren Wilson.
Wilson shot Brown several more times and the dead body
was left lying in the street for four and a half hours.
Witnesses said, however, Brown had raised his arms in the air when he was shot to death on August 9.
President Barack Obama was so disturbed by Brown’s death that he sent the teenager’s family a message.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama called Brown’s death heartbreaking and the first couple sent their deepest condolences to Brown’s family and to the community.
The president also said that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the shooting death along with local authorities.
Murdered For Selling Loose Cigarettes
The police murder of an unarmed Brown comes on the heels of the murder of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old father and grandfather, at the hands of the New York City Police.Daniel Pantaleo, a member of the NYPD, murdered Garner, by using an illegal chokehold to kill Garner.
The New York Medical Examiner ruled that Garner’s death, which occurred in Staten Island on July 17, a homicide.Garner’s murder was video recorded and went viral over the Internet. Ramsey Orta, 22, recorded the video.
The cops, however, took their revenge, arresting Orta on weapons charges. They also arrested his wife in a separate incident. Orta claims police set him up. When police initially searched him they did not find a gun. “I would be stupid to walk around with a gun after being in the spotlight,” he said.
Killed In The Wal-Mart Toy Department
In another deadly police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Beavercreek, Ohio, police shot to death 22-year-old John Crawford in the toy department of a Wal-mart store. Crawford was holding a pellet gun.
A customer panicked and said Crawford was waving “what appeared to be an AR-15 at children and others.” Police officers Sean Williams and Sgt. David Darkow murdered Crawford by shooting him in the stomach. The Montgomery County’s coroner’s office in Dayton, Ohio, ruled that Crawford’s death was a homicide.
A resulting customer stampede caused by police gun fire also killed Angela Williams, 37, a shopper who was an innocent bystander. Williams suffered an unspecified medical emergency.
Shot To Death While Seeking Help
All the cases are tragic, but the police murder of Jonathan Ferrell, which occurred in September 2013, falls into its own category, The North Star News & Analysis reported. The 24-year-old Ferrell was involved in a one car accident in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. He went to the nearest home for help and knocked on the door. In response, the woman homeowner, like the man in the Beavercreek Wal-mart store, panicked. She called 911 and said Ferrell was breaking into her home.When Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers arrived, the unarmed Ferrell thought they were there to help. It turned out he was dead wrong.
Ferrell approached the cops with outstretched arms. Randall Kerrick, a cop, pulled his gun and shot Ferrell 10 times, killing him instantly.In most, if not all of the cases, in which police murder unarmed Black men, the police claim they feared for their lives, a police department mantra.
In most cases, the deadly shooting occurred as a result of struggle, but police know how to provoke struggles, which gives them a reason to fire their guns.
High Crime Means More Police Jobs
Ben Haith, a blogger, brings up another reason. Haith said that some police departments believe if there is less criminal activity in the Black community, they will lose their jobs.He gave as an example former members of Boston Fire Department. They set 216 fires that destroyed $22 million worth of property between 1982 and 1986 in the hope that the fire department would re-hire them after widespread layoffs in 1980s. Members of the arson ring, all ex-firefighters, were sentenced from five to 40 years in prison, according to several newspaper reports.
Police, however, are not as on guard when it comes to whites.
Last June, Jerad and Amanda Miller, members of the white supremacist Patriot movement, shot to death three people, including two Las Vegas cops. The couple then took the cops’ weapons.
The Millers had been supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven “I know the Negro” Bundy, a one-time Fox News favorite. Fox News has blasted New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the Garner murder.
On his Facebook page, Jerad Miller wrote about his tangles with law enforcement and the unfairness of the nation’s drug laws.
Murder in the Big Easy
New Orleans is no stranger to fatal police shootings. Nine years ago, less than a week after Hurricane Katrina, 17-year-old James Brissette and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, were fatally gunned down on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans as they struggled to survive in the wake of the devastating storm. All of the cops tried and convicted and sentenced for the murders have been granted new trials by the federal court because of an online posting scandal involving several top federal prosecutors. Another New Orleans man, Henry Glover, 31, was shot and killed by police also less than week after Katrina. His remains were burned in a car and left on the Mississippi River levee. His skull was later removed from the grisly murder scene and has not been returned to the family. The cop who shot him, David Warren, was acquitted this past December in a retrial and the cop who burned Glover’s remains was expected to be resentenced Friday, Aug. 15. More recently, Wendell Allen, 20, was gunned down by a cop while standing on the staircase of his Gentilly home unarmed and shirtless. The cop who shot him received a few years in jail.
The New Orleans Police Department is currently being reformed by a federally mandated consent-decree program designed to address 492 areas where improvements must be made in order for the department to become complaint with federal standards of constitutional policing.
The North Star News & Analysis said in its report that since vigils and marches have had little, if any, effect on the police murders of Black men, the African-American community needs to develop a much more aggressive strategy.
While that contention is valid, the protests in Ferguson have captured international attention and have led to the launch of several investigations into the incident by state and federal agencies. The Ferguson police chief who was in charge when tear gas, rubber bullets nod tanks were used by cops responding to protesters and the media, has been forced to take a back seat to Missouri’s state police commander, who is Black and grew up in Ferguson, Mo.
Additional reporting by Louisiana Weekly editor Edmund W. Lewis.
This article originally published in the August 18, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.