A cop approaches you. It doesn’t matter if you’re setting on a porch, driving a car, walking down the sidewalk or riding a bicycle.
Your reaction and first thoughts depend on if you’re white or black.
America has always had a racial divide. Sometimes the gap has been narrow, and other times, like now, the gap is a chasm to rival the Grand Canyon.
Statistics steadily prove that law enforcement officers are more apt to shoot to kill if a ‘suspect’ is black than if he were white. What is not heard often enough is the story behind the shootings.
Other than relatively rare cases like that of Trayvon Martin, most incidents make the local news for a day then fade into life’s noise for everyone except friends and family of the victim.
Here are some stories the nation needs to remember.
February 4, 1999, began like any other day in New York City. Before the sun went down though, 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot and killed by NYPD after he was mistaken for a rape suspect — from a year earlier. A total of 40 rounds were fired. Fourteen hit Diallo in the Soundview section of The Bronks. Diallo was unarmed, and the shooting triggered outreach.
Issues of police brutality, racial profiling and ‘contagious shooting’ were wrapped up in the subsequent controversy.
The four fops were members of the Street Crimes Unit. It was disbanded after the shooting.
Sean Bell, 23, was murdered in Queens by a squad of plainclothes and undercover NYPD cops. Bell, shot fifty times, was killed the day before his wedding. Two friends, Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman were wounded in the incident which drew intense blame for the cops. Three of the five cops involved went to trial, charged with first and second-degree manslaughter.
The jury found them not guilty,
Bell’s toxicology report indicated Bell was legally drunk when he was shot. But no one has determined when being intoxicated warrants the death penalty.
Oscar Grant, 22, was shot and killed early on New Year’s Day, 2009, by Rapid Transit Police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland. Mehserle forced restrained Grant and forced him to lie face down. Mehserle pulled his weapon and shot Grant, who was unarmed, in the back. Grant died the next morning.
The murder was captured on numerous video cameras and cell cameras. The creators of the footage made it available to media outlets. The disturbing video was watched millions of times online, and protests broke out over the following days.
Mehserle told investigators he thought he was using his Taser. He went to trial in January 2010 and found not guilty.
Aaron Campbell wasn’t a threat. Even Portland, Oregon’s Police Chief, Mike Reese said so.
“We didn’t have a right to shoot him. He never displayed a weapon,” Reese said.
In January 2010, Campbell’s brother died, and Campbell was upset and suicidal. Aaron walked out of a Portland apartment with his hands behind his head. Officer Ryan Lewton shot him six times with beanbag rounds, and Campbell ran to a parked car. Another gun-happy cop, Ronald Frashour shot Campbell in the back, killing him.
The FBI got involved and spent over a year investigating the fatal shooting of Orlando Barlow in February 2003. Following a domestic disturbance call, Barlow was surrendering to Las Vegas Metro PD when he was shot by Officer Brian Hartman.
In addition to civil rights violations, the FBI inquiry into Barlow’s death also looked at multiple allegations of excessive force by LVPD.
Barlow was one of five people killed by Las Vegas police in 2003. Seven people died at the hands of law enforcement in the desert city in 2002.
Steven Washington was shot and killed in March 2010 in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Washington died from a gunshot wound to the head when he reached into his waistband.
No weapon was found and hours after the killing, Washington’s relatives said the dead man suffered from learning disabilities and was not violent.
A subsequent investigation cleared the veteran officers who had been reassigned following the shooting
Derrick Johnson was charged with killing Erwin Jones as Jones sat on a porch at the Rickwood Apartments in Birmingham. According to a police spokesman, three men were gathered on a porch when they were confronted by two others about stolen items. The spokesman said police believed the suspects and the victim were in dispute over a weapon and drugs. According to news reports, law enforcement had responded to calls at the location before and had confiscated guns, drugs, and other items.
Kendrec McDade, an unarmed black teen from Pasadena, was cited by civil rights activists as the sort of police wrongdoing toward young black men which resulted in the death of Michael Brown.
Following statements about the night of the shooting, the city agreed to a $1 million settlement with the parents.
In testimony by the officers involved claimed to have chased McDade in a police car after a reported armed robbery. One cop left the patrol car and chased McDade through northwest Pasadena. The other officer stayed in the vehicle and fired at McDade when he saw the teenager running toward him in the street.
“I saw him run directly at the driver’s side door and heard a shot. I heart two shots. I saw a muzzle flash,” Officer Jeffrey Newlen said.
Both officers admitted they did not see a weapon in McDade’s hands.
Two plainclothes police officers killed a teenage boy in New York on a Brooklyn street. A spokesman for NYPD in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, said the officers happened upon Kimani Gray standing with a group of men. According to the spokesperson, Gray “adjusted his waistband in a suspicious manner.”
According to NYPD, the two officers got out of the car and Gray tuned and pointed a .38-caliber revolver at them. Two cops fired and hit the teenager who died in a few hours at Kings County Hospital.
Gray never fired the handgun. The weapon, found at the scene, was loaded with four live rounds. The cops fired 11 times and struck Gray “several times.”
According to witnesses, Gray told officers, “Please don’t let me die.” A cop replied, “Stay down, or we’ll shoot you again.”
Wendell Allen was killed by a cop during a marijuana raid at the twenty-year-old’s home in 2012. The cop, Joshua Colclough, was sentenced to four-years in prison for manslaughter.
A report by the New Orleans PD indicated body cam footage of the raid showed officers failing to announce themselves before kicking in the door where Allen was staying with his grandmother.
The report also said the Homicide detective leading the shooting investigation mischaracterized witness statements modifying their deposition to indicate the cops had given warning of their impending entrance.
A police watchdog group who reviewed the video said no warning was heard in the bodycam video.
Ronald Madison was killed on the Danziger Bridge in New Orleans — but there’s no definitive count of the number of shots. NOPD claims Madison was shot once. Two separate autopsies she Madison was hit seven times.
New Orleans’ law enforcement tried to frame Lance Madison, Ronald’s brother, for the murder. Three federal civil-rights lawsuits came out of the incident following Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuits focus on what happened on the bridge which saw other incidents occur. Two people were killed, including an intellectually challenged man shot in the back and two others were maimed in police shootings.
A nearly eleven-year legal battle was brought to a close in 2016 when the New Orleans Police Department saw five former officers plea bargain to murders which occurred in the days following Hurricane Katrina.
James Brisette, then 17, was one of the people killed in the wanton shootings which raised awareness of police accountability.
The plea agreement was supported by Brisette’s family and the families of the other murdered men. “Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” said Sherrel Johnson, Brisettes mother. “Someone confessed. That did my heart good.”
The officers’ defense attorneys claimed the cops were rushing onto the Danziger bridge believing that a cop had been shot. Prosecution witnesses — including other officers at the scene — said cops had fired without warning and began to construct an elaborate cover-up.
The shootings on the Danziger bridge was one of the several prosecutions of cops for killings committed in the aftermath of the hurricane. A total of eighteen current and former cops faced charges at one point, and most ended in acquittals.
Under the words of the plea bargain, the officers were given sentences from seven to twelve years.
When seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford in 2012, it wasn’t the first time an unarmed black teen was killed by armed men who overreacted. Sixteen-year-old Travares McGill was killed similarly.
McGill was in a parked car with friends in an apartment complex’s parking lot. Two security guards shone a light into the car’s interior, and the kids panicked. McGill, the driver, backed up and tried to speed off. The security guards had been on routine patrol but failed to identify themselves to the teens. As McGill drove away, he was shot in the back. The guards claimed they fired as they thought they were in “imminent danger.”
The particulars of the McGill and Martin cases differ, but the parallels are obvious.
Victor Steen, 17, was chased by a Pensacola cop in a cruiser. Riding his bicycle, the kid refused to stop, and the cop aimed his Taser through the driver’s window and fired. The teenager fell off the bike, the cruiser ran over Steen and killed him.
Steen was the 4th individual to die in Florida in 2009 where a Taser was used and the 57th in the state since 2001. At the time Florida was first in the nation with the most fatalities related to Tasers.
Steen, who lived with his mother Cassandra in West Pensacola, had never had problems with his law. His immediate plans were to finish high school, join the Army and then head to college.
The night Steen died, he had gone to a homecoming football game at his high school and then went to a friend’s house to plan a birthday party.
About 12:45 am, Steen left on a borrowed bicycle and an hour later police officer Jerald Art saw Victor.
Art told investigators he tried to stop Steen because the teen didn’t have a light on his bicycle.
One minute and eight seconds into the chase Steen tied.