Another One Dead--Marcus-David Peters: Why Is It That Only Unarmed Black Folk Get Shot by Police?

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Marcus-David Peters. Photo: WTRTV

[Speaking Truth To Empower]

Last Tuesday, 24-year-old Marcus-David Peters, a science teacher, was shot to death on I-95 by Richmond Virginia Police Officer Michael Nyantakyi—after a naked Peters allegedly charged the office.

Richmond Police says it will release body-cam video of the shooting soon. Does that mean they’ll release the video after they’ve had time to alter it? Or, after the officer has been given sufficient time to concoct a good enough cover-story to justify a killing as police departments around the country generally do?

In other cases, where police kill unarmed Blacks, their refusal to release --or long delay-- available police videos has made Black America wary and distrustful of police.

Richmond Police claim Peters was killed during a confrontation he had with Officer Nyantakyi, after the officer pulled him over for driving erratically, and hitting several cars.

Police spokesman Gene Lepley recounted the police version of this killing.

Lepley claims after hitting two cars, Peters got out of the car—running naked—before being encountered by Officer Nyantakyi. Lepley claims that Peters “charged” the officer, who, supposedly, initially, fired his stun gun, but was forced to fire live rounds after the stun-gun “proved ineffective.”

"Our officer attempted to use a taser on the person and it failed," Lepley said. "The attack continued, and the officer drew his service weapon and discharged it striking that man."

It will be interesting to see what this "attack" entailed. 

“Peters emerged from his disabled vehicle and ran into the northbound lanes of I-95,” Lepley also said. “He was not wearing any clothes… [we’re trying to figure out] why he didn’t have any clothes.”

What is hard to figure out is why was it necessary to shoot an unarmed, naked, man dead?

Another question: how many minutes transpired between the firing of the Taser and this officer’s service weapon? Will the police video show us this? This firing of the Taser before firing the firing of live ammunition story seems very suspicious.

But here’s the more obvious question: if Peters was naked, and unarmed, what weapon was Officer Nyantakyi fearful of? What weapon could he have used to commit deadly harm?

Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham apparently realized the killing of an unarmed naked Black man was problematic. Police personnel continually cover-up for other police—especially, when they’re out killing and brutalizing Black people.

"We are all deeply affected by what happened here - by the loss of life," said Police Chief Durham. "Our officers do not take the use of deadly force lightly. I think it’s important to remember that being naked does not remove a threat. So far, the eyewitness accounts we’ve heard have been consistent: our officer tried using verbal commands, then used non-lethal force first by deploying his Taser before using his service weapon."

Chief Durham says, “being naked does not remove the threat.” But, we should remind him that Peters was not only naked—he was unarmed too. What threat did this unarmed, naked, man pose that gave this officer the right to shoot him dead?

Are America’s police so cowardly or untrained that an officer can’t subdue an unarmed naked man without pulling out his gun and shooting him dead? Is this really how police are being trained? Or, is it that trigger-happy police will use any opportunity that presents itself which allows them to kill and murder Blacks knowing there are never serious consequences from such actions?

This case is reminiscent of two other cases where unarmed, naked, Blacks were killed by police. One is that of 17-year-old Haitian-American David Joseph. The other is that of 27-year-old Anthony Hill—a United States Air Force veteran.

Many of us remember Donald Trump’s racist attacks on NFL players, who responded to Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests against police brutality, with protests of their own. Trump, and his contemptible White House, gave grandstanding hypocritical speeches claiming the NFL protests were an attack on veterans.

But why have they not addressed the racist police attacks on Black veterans, like Anthony Hill?

On March 9, 2015, Hill, who served in Afghanistan, was shot dead while walking—and apparently running—around naked in his apartment complex, in Chamblee, Georgia. Hill suffered from PTSD and had been medically discharged from the Air Force. Friends believe medication Hill was taking led to his erratic behavior.

Dekalb Police Officer Robert Olsen, who answered a neighbor’s 911 call, claimed Hill charged him, not long after he arrived on the scene. But Hill was unarmed and naked, so how can this shooting be justified? In October 2015, a civil grand jury decided the shooting should be investigated further. That legal case continues.

On February 8, 2015, 17-year-old David Joseph was killed by Officer Geoffrey Freeman, in Austin, Texas. Freeman was responding to a call about a naked man running around the neighborhood. Some police apologists were quick to point out that marijuana was found in Joseph’s system. It is far more likely that the drug Xanax—which was also found in the autopsy report—was the real cause of Joseph’s changed behavior.

Still, how is it justifiable for a supposedly highly-trained officer, to shoot an unarmed naked 17-year-old? Are police really being trained to shoot unarmed naked people? Or, is the exception when that person is also Black.

It is important to note, in this case, that Officer Freeman knew additional officers were on the way to the scene—even before he encountered Joseph. If these officers are always so scared of Black people, why are so many of them confronting Blacks without waiting for backup?

Doesn’t police protocol advise police to wait for backup when they believe the danger is greatest? If police are so afraid of Blacks—because we’re supposedly so much more violent than White men—then shouldn’t it be routine to wait for backup? Of course, it’s a very convenient excuse for cops to kill Blacks, and then claim they were in fear for their lives; Officer Freeman was fired from the force—but was never charged for this killing.

Now, the establishment, when it suits them, likes to give Blacks lectures about being responsible.

But when it comes to the brutalization of Black America, by violent, racist, out-of-control police, White Americans, suddenly become deaf, dumb and blind—and will excuse any police crime. Somehow, police who murder innocent Blacks are never held responsible. Invariably, we’re always told about how difficult the job of policing is.

In doing so, the establishment shows us how they feel about Black lives. The death of animals creates far more problems than the killings of innocent Black people. Imagine, we have television advertisements decrying the brutality to animals, by groups like PETA and the ASPCA. Where are the ads protesting police violence against Black America?

Ever since the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, America’s police have been repeatedly exposed, for their racist practices—because of the ubiquity of cellphone technology. This is the major reason why police, across the country, are fighting against the full implementation of police body-cams. Police have also been exposed as suppressing, or, tampering with video evidence—as we saw in the Laquan McDonald; and Alton Sterling cases.

Politicians, particularly Democrats, seeking Black America’s vote in the upcoming elections—and, in 2020—must be forced to address the deep institutional racism in America’s police.

Come election time Black Americans must declare war on self-righteous politicians who give us phony political speeches about the “rule of law,” while they bless the continued bloodletting of Black America, by their guilty silence. Time to vote for more progressive candidates or to simply ignore those who make false promises. 

Now, because Officer Nyantakyi is Black, some will say the killing of Mr. Peters has nothing to do with America’s racist policing. This fallacy must be debunked, since some Blacks have always sold out Black America for the own personal advancement, including some Black police officers.


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