I wrote this post last night but slept on it so I could reflect a bit. I still believe what I’ve written. I know some may not agree, but I felt I had to write about it.
I feel extremely heavy today. After work, I went to Target, and I found myself trying to look people in the eye to see if anyone else feels this heaviness. It didn’t really seem like they did. But I can’t shake it.
The decision of the grand jury in Staten Island to not indict the officer who killed Eric Garner followed a similar decision in Ferguson, Missouri that allowed the officer who killed Michael Brown to not be charged. And just today, I learned of another man, Rumain Brisbon, who was shot and killed by an officer after a struggle in Phoenix. Then there’s the recent story of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old, who was killed by an officer in Cleveland. I’m sure there are many others. Remember Amadou Diallo in New York in 1999?
You’ll notice I didn’t describe these incidents using words about what race each individual is or words about innocence or guilt.
My heart is heavy because in each of these cases, the police used extreme, excessive, and deadly force to deal with the situation. Eric Garner was placed in a chokehold and wrestled to the ground. When Garner was on the ground, the officer didn’t release the chokehold and, in fact, put his knee on Garner’s head. Garner’s repeated mutterings of, “I can’t breathe,” didn’t deter the police. The whole incident is on video. Michael Brown was shot at least 6 times. Rumain Brisbon, twice. Tamir Rice, twice. Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times (out of 41 shots).
In each of these cases, the police had cause to approach these individuals, but where things get troubling is how they handled each situation. All of these people were unarmed (the boy had an airsoft gun which looks terrifyingly like a real gun). Garner was down on the ground with what appeared to be about 6 officers surrounding him, but the officer kept Garner in a chokehold and he later died. Michael Brown and the officer had an altercation. Brown ran away, and the officer pursued him. At some point, Brown turned and faced the officer. Why did the officer feel he had to shoot him 6 times? Rumain Brisbon and the officer struggled. What possessed the officer to squeeze the trigger twice? Tamir Rice didn’t have a chance. The officer fired twice at the boy within 2 seconds of arriving on scene. Amadou Diallo reached for his wallet and the 4 plain clothes police thought it was a gun. 41 shots fired between the 4 officers, landing 19. Why? Why? WHY?
In a story about the Rumain Brisbon shooting, Ann Hart, chairwoman of the African American Police Advisory for South Phoenix, is quoted as saying, “We need to take a deeper dive into why police officers are feeling compelled to shoot and kill as opposed to apprehend and detain, arrest and jail.” Maybe if these officers had taken a moment before firing their weapon or to release the chokehold after the man was on the ground, there would be 5 people still alive. The police could have ‘gotten’ the ‘bad guys’ or maybe been able to sort out the situation after a few minutes.
There wouldn’t be this heaviness.