Last time I felt this way Jeronimo Yanez had just been acquitted of all charges in the traffic-stop killing of Philando Castile. Philando Castile is black and Jeronimo Yanez is not. Black Lives Matter. The verdict made me wonder.
More recently, another cop in our city wounded two pet dogs while both the cop and the dogs were on the north Minneapolis property of the dogs’ owner. The dogs were not charging the cop, hardly walking towards him. I saw the video from a surveillance camera – and I just cannot believe a cop, holding a service revolver, presumably trained to be in tense situations, could feel threatened for his life, even by a pit bull possibly looking menacingly at him. He had jumped the fence into the territory of the dog, after all. “Just shoot,” seems to be the mantra.
A couple days ago, a white woman, Justine, believing a sexual assault was occurring in her alley around 11:30 PM, called 911 for help, approached the squad car with the two cops who responded, and was shot and killed by one of the responding cops. Let that sink in: as she approached the car of the two cops who responded to her call, one of them, from inside the car, shot her dead.
The good news is it’s not another white cop killing a black civilian for no obvious reason. The really bad news is it’s a cop killing a civilian for no apparent reason whatever. There is no video evidence. The body cameras cops are required to wear and these cops apparently should have had on, were not on until after the shooting.
“What is happening to our society?”
Several days later, I continued to be heartbroken, heartsick, and at least somewhat fearful because of this shooting. Philando Castile’s mother said, after the not-guilty verdict ( paraphrasing ), “They’ll come after you, and you,” angrily pointing, “and then your mixed-race children. Every one of them.”
I admit to not taking that very seriously, though her pain was obvious, palpable and pressing in on me. Now, with that as a back-drop, my head is doing some awful things. Like thinking the cops believe they can kill just anyone with impunity; like noticing the cop in this case is black, a Somali, and wondering if he was part of a terror cell; like wondering if a job as a cop is so stressful that anything that moves while they’re on patrol is likely to be experienced as threatening ( and therefore shot ).
The thing is, this woman did nothing wrong and no one is even claiming she did. The cop, his lawyer, his partner, his partner’s lawyer, the Police Chief and the Police Union have all said the same thing about how this incident happened, which is NOTHING. ( The Chief did say it’s a tragedy and the Department has immediately asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension ( BCA ) for an independent investigation of the incident. She is as eager as we are for answers, she said. ) The shooter opted, as is his right, not to talk to the investigators; his partner did speak to them.
The BCA’s preliminary report provides an account according to the shooter’s partner, who was driving the squad. Near the end of the alley a loud noise occurred, startling him. Justine then approached the car and the driver’s partner pulled his weapon, reached across the driver, and shot her through the driver’s window. She died from a gunshot to the abdomen.
For the two most recent shootings here, of a black man shot by a white cop, I can conjure up the possibility that the cop feared for his life. I can do that even for the cop that shot the pet dogs. It takes some doing, but my imagination is alive and I can imagine it. But, sure as shooting
( pardon the expression ), I cannot find Justine threatening no matter what I do with my imagination.
I say … “This kind of thing doesn’t happen here” ( and I whisper, or maybe only think, “in White America, to White Americans” ). I now know, in a way I did not know last week, that the Black Community has lived with this sort of possibility for a very long time. Something has come what seems like full circle, and I don’t think I like it.
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