St. Louis Cop Shooting: "I Feared A Black Man" Defense

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The usual suspects. Photo. Zeevveez-Flickr.

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Last week’s so-called “friendly fire” shooting of a Black cop by a White cop, in St Louis, gives us yet another example of the entrenched institutional racism in America’s police and the dangerous consequences it has for those who live in Black skin.
Luckily, this officer was not killed, unlike other Black men who’ve been killed by police—including several other Black police officers.
Yet, in spite of the obvious need for action to change this deadly situation, politicians, including those who give us glowing rhetoric about the “sanctity of life” and the “rule of law” continue to remain silent while lives are lost and families are ruined.
We must do whatever it takes to force change.
Reportedly, last Wednesday, a still unnamed Black police officer was shot near his home as he attempted to assist in the apprehension of three individuals who had allegedly stolen a car. The officer is said to have heard the commotion from the crashing of the stolen car near his home. Because he was at home, and off-duty, he was not wearing his uniform when he grabbed his gun and ran to help his so-called “brothers in Blue.”
According to police, two on-duty officers ordered the Black cop to the ground. He complied with their commands. However, right after this they apparently recognized the Black officer and told him to stand up and walk toward them. As the Black officer was walking toward them, a third White police officer, who was just arriving on the scene, shot the Black officer, “apparently not recognizing him,” police said.
The officer was shot in the arm and was treated and released after going to the hospital. In a tactic that is becoming a regular routine with police departments after one of their officers shoots a Black person, the names of the officers are being concealed.
We’ve been told the Black officer is 38-years-old, and has been on the force for 11 years. Reportedly, the White officer is a 36-year-old, and has been on the force eight years.
Once again, the excuse this White officer used to justify his shooting is one we’ve heard over and over. Reportedly he said he was “fearing for his safety.”
Rufus Tate Jr., an attorney for the Black officer, who is also a representative for the Ethical Society of Police, challenged the White officer’s explanation for firing his gun. “In the police report you have so far, there is no description of a threat he received,” Tate said. “So we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years.
There is a perception that a Black man is automatically a threat.” Tate also said the shooting was an instance of “a Black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary guy on the street. This is a real problem.”
State Senator Jamilah Nasheed also challenged the reasoning the White officer gave in the police report and characterized it as regular excuse police use to “get out scot-free.”
"What is really disheartening, especially for the African-American community, it that we are still trying to recover from the police-involved shootings,” Nasheed said. “And now to see the police officers shooting their own men in blue by way of what they call ‘friendly fire’? It is telling that White men in Blue suits are afraid of Black men.”
This case underscores that any Black man can be shot, at any time, because of his Black skin—even a Black cop working with his White cop “brothers.” Imagine, what we have here is: a Black cop who was shot by one of his colleagues. Someone who works in the same police department he works in. But this Black officer wasn’t wearing blue. So, his Black skin was all this White officer saw.
Now, this officer said he fired his weapon because he was “fearing for his safety.” This is the everyday excuse police use whenever the shoot a Black person without justification. And let’s be clear here: it isn’t the presence, or possible possession, of a gun that makes these White officers supposedly always fearful for their lives. It is our Black skins that they fear.
Why was this officer so fearful for his life when the other two officers who were communicating with the Black officer saw no such danger? Since he was the last one on the scene, what made him assess peril the others didn’t see? We need to know how quickly this officer fired his gun after arriving on the scene.
This White officer’s itchy trigger-finger should remind us of the two seconds it took Timothy Loehmann to shot and murdered a child, Tamir Rice in Cleveland. Cleveland Police and the Independence Police still have a lot to answer for in Tamir’s case.
How could Loehmann have been hired by Cleveland Police after his former employer, the Independence Police, characterized him as suffering from a “lack of maturity” and showing an “inability to perform basic functions as instructed?”
This shooting is also reminiscent of the killing of Laquan McDonald, who was murdered by Officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Other officers were on the scene before Van Dyke arrived. He shot McDonald within 30 seconds of his arrival. This murderer, who has been free on bail all this time, was in court this week and three of his “brothers in blue” have been charged with conspiracy for covering up for him.
This Black officer isn’t the first officer to be shot by a White cop in so-called “friendly fire.” Indeed, this officer is alive—unlike other Black cops who were killed by White officers. In some of these cases, the shootings were deadly “friendly fire” killings.
For example, on March 13, 2016 Prince George’s County Detective Jacai Colson, 28, was killed by Officer Taylor Krauss, after Colson arrived at a Maryland police station—which reported that shots were being fired into the building. Detective Colson arrived on the scene, in plain clothes, and apparently fired upon the suspects, three brothers: Michael Ford, 23, Malik Ford, 21, and Elijah Ford, 18. But, Officer Krauss, no doubt, saw Detective Colson as just another threatening Black man with a gun.
After killing Detective Colson a grand jury did what they usually do in these cases: they didn’t indict Krauss.
Another case is that of 25-year-old NYPD Officer Omar Edwards. On May 28, 2009, Officer Edwards was shot and killed in Harlem, New York by Officer Andrew Dunton. Edwards, who was off-duty, was chasing a suspect who had broken into his car. Dunton was never indicted—and was promoted, to sergeant, in 2012.
There are other disturbing cases of Black officers being shot by other officers: like that of White Plains Officer Ridley who was killed on January 25, 2008. Or that of New York City Transit Officer Desmond Robinson who was shot by Officer Peter Del-Debbio on August 22, 1994.
Desmond, unlike Ridley survived.
In the end, all this means is that Black skin is seen as criminal in nature by police—especially, by White police.
The shooting of this still unnamed officer reminds us that: Black lives don’t matter much to America’s police—even if the life is that of a Black police officer.

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