Saturday, May 30, 2020

As Rome Burns

Another Black man killed by Police, following another Black man killed by White Vigilante men who were doing what they do, kill black me or whatever as one was a former law enforcement officer so it is clear where he learned that skill. Ahmaud Arbery did not realize that was to be the last run of his life.  When does anyone think that?

It always begins with a 911 call where an aggrieved person/victim has been robbed and of course seen, suspected or believed that a large black man is behind the action that has prompted the call. With George Floyd it was no different and it ended no differently with Mr. Floyd dead.

I can't breathe is a phrase we here in this area have heard before, Eric Garner was selling singles cigarettes outside a bodega so they called 911.Bystanders filmed the arrest on their cellphones, recording Mr. Garner as he gasped “I can’t breathe,” and his death was one of several fatal The federal civil rights investigation dragged on for five years amid internal disputes in the Justice Department, under both President Barack Obama and President Trump.

In the end, Mr. Barr made the call not to seek a civil rights indictment against Officer Pantaleo, just before a deadline for filing some charges expired. (the same Bill Barr, yes that one)

His intervention settled the disagreement between prosecutors in the civil rights division, which has pushed for an indictment, and Brooklyn prosecutors, who never believed the department could win such a case. between black people and the police that catalyzed the national Black Lives Matter movement.

 Then came the incident in Ferguson, Missouri that began when Michael Brown allegedly stole some Cigarellos he was shot and killed on Aug. 9, 2014, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. The shooting prompted protests that roiled the area for weeks. On Nov. 24, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Mr. Wilson. The announcement set off another wave of protests. In March, the Justice Department called on Ferguson to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in constitutional violation

 On April 12th, 2015, a 25-year-old black man from the west side of Baltimore  was arrested for possession of a “switchblade,” put inside a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) transport van, and then, 45 minutes later, was found unconscious and not breathing, his spinal cord nearly severed.  His name Freddie Gray.  Following a seven-day coma, Gray died on April 19th; his untimely death and citizen video of his arrest, which showed Gray screaming in pain, prompted both the peaceful protests and headline-grabbing riots. The subsequent two-week police investigation ultimately concluded that Gray’s injury happened sometime during the van’s route – over six stops, with two prisoner checks, and another passenger pick-up.   On May 1st, 2015, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stood on the steps of Baltimore’s City Hall to announce criminal charges against six police officers, an unheard of demand for police accountability. But over the next two years, four trials would end in defeat for the prosecution, the remaining charges would be dropped, and many leaders in Baltimore would retire, quit, or be fired.

January 2015, the day began with a swap: one boy’s cellphone for another’s replica of a Colt pistol.
One of the boys went to play in a nearby park, striking poses with the lifelike, airsoft-style gun, which fired plastic pellets. He threw a snowball, settled down at a picnic table and flopped his head onto his arms in a perfect assertion of preteen ennui, a grainy security video shows. Because of multiple layers in Cleveland’s 911 system, crucial information from the initial call about “a guy in here with a pistol” was never relayed to the responding police officers, including the caller’s caveats that the gun was “probably fake” and that the wielder was “probably a juvenile.”

Seconds later, the boy lay dying from a police officer’s bullet. “Shots fired, male down,” one of the officers in the car called across his radio. “Black male, maybe 20, black revolver, black handgun by him. Send E.M.S. this way, and a roadblock.”

But the boy, Tamir Rice, was only 12. Now, with the county sheriff’s office reviewing the shooting, interviews and recently released video and police records show how a series of miscommunications, tactical errors and institutional failures by the Cleveland police cascaded into one irreversible mistake

July 2016, it took just 40 seconds for an ordinary traffic stop to turn deadly -- from a police officer saying, "Hello, sir," to him firing seven shots at a seated motorist.

But the police dashboard camera video released Tuesday adds a visceral element to what police witnesses had described -- unnerving even in the context of other police shootings and after a video taken by Philando Castile's passenger went viral.

It was July 6 when Officer Jeronimo Yanez killed Castile in Minnesota. It was shown in court during Yanez's trial. and hew  was acquitted  of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety.

A scant two weeks later July 15 in another city in another state a woman was arrested after a traffic stop.  Her name was Sandra Bland.  She  died three days after her arrest at the Waller county jail. It was ruled a suicide after she was found hanging in her cell.  But Bland’s family have long remained suspicious of the circumstances, and the newly released camera footage prompted calls for a new investigation.

I recall my first realization that there was a problem in 2008, with Oscar Grant at Fruitvale Station. His story was made into a major motion picture but even 10 years later more questions few answers and little change. 

There was a valid attempt to count the number of deaths at the hands of police officers and that was 1,000 a year.  The data is here in the Washington Post nor the first riot in the streets but this time will be any different? Well that depends. 

In  2017,  and unlike the stories above, and the many I have not listed, this ending was different. Mohamed Noor, who is black, Somali and Muslim, became the first Minnesota police officer convicted of murder in an on-duty killing, when a jury found him guilty in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who was white.

Legal action against police officers involved in fatal shootings is exceedingly rare. 

But there have been others in the Minneapolis area and we the same results as Mr. Castillo:  In 2016, ,Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County prosecutor, chose not to charge officers in the shooting death of Jamar Clark, who was black, saying Mr. Clark had grabbed one officer’s holstered gun.  The year prior he did not charge the officers who pursued and shot at Thurman Blevins, killing him; Mr. Freeman said Mr. Blevins, who was also black, had a gun and did not follow the officers’ commands. In the killing of Travis Jordan this January, the prosecutor said the police officers had faced a deadly threat because Mr. Jordan, who was Hawaiian, had a knife and was coming toward them.

Since 2005, 101 nonfederal officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter in shootings while they were on duty, according to Philip Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. About 36 percent of those officers have been convicted, but only four of them on murder charges; the others were for lesser offenses.

Yes race matters, depending on who is holding the gun.  I end this comment with this:

Mustafa Diriye, a community organizer working in Minneapolis, said he had advocated vigorously for justice for Ms. Ruszczyk, just as he had for black victims of police shootings. He was pleased with the verdict, he said. 
Yet he could not help but be bothered that the system had worked so well for a white woman when it had failed so many black people, he said. 
“‘I fear for my life’ — that’s what all white cops get away with,” said Mr. Diriye, who is originally from Somalia. “That only works for white officers. They can fear for their life. But if you are black, no, no you cannot be fearful.” 
Mr. Diriye said he felt that if white people would demand justice for black police-shooting victims the way they did for Ms. Ruszczyk, things could be different. 
“The hypocrisy is there,” he said. “That is my frustration.”

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