Hashtag memorials are becoming too common. The latest: #WalterScott.
By now most of us have seen the incriminating video of Scott being gunned down as he ran from a police officer in South Carolina. Here we are, the week of Billie Holiday’s 100th birthday, and “Strange Fruit” still haunts us. Black people may not be hanging from the trees, but they are bleeding in the streets at the hands of the police.
Some say, well, they were breaking the law and disrespecting officers. Should that mean a death sentence?
Dzhokhar “Jahar” Tsarnaev blew up the Boston Marathon two years ago, killing three people and maiming hundreds. He ran from and fired on police. James Holmes shot up a Colorado theater in 2012, killing a dozen people and injuring 58. And in 2011, Jared Lee Loughner killed six people in Arizona and wounded 14, including a congresswoman. All of these violent men lived to have their day in court.
Justice works. For some people.
Headlines ring like body counts in stories of cops and men of color involved in aggressive encounters, and often death. Investigations are ongoing, and details are still coming out. I know not every story is a case of a white cop brutalizing a black man.
But it’s hard not to read these stories and see a scarring truth between the lines: Cops fear people of color. This country fears people of color.
Angela Davis once said, “We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.” How many more bodies until we can liberate America’s humanity?
Just in the last two months, news sources across the country have been reporting on:
▪ Walter Scott, 50. North Charleston, S.C. April 4. Officer Michael Slager pulled over Scott on a traffic stop and shot him in the back as he ran away.
▪ Justus Howell, 17. Zion, Ill. April 4. Howell was fatally shot twice in the back by a Zion police officer while fleeing.
▪ Eric Courtney Harris, 44. Tulsa, Okla. April 2. Oklahoma reserve deputy Robert Charles Bates accidentally killed Harris when he pulled his gun instead of his Taser during an arrest.
▪ Phillip White, 32. Vineland, N.J. March 31. Details are still unfolding, but video appears to show a police dog attacking White while he lay on the ground. He died in police custody.
▪ Nicholas Thomas, 25. Smyrna, Ga. March 24. Police say Thomas was driving toward them when they opened fire and killed him as he tried to escape arrest. Witness accounts differ.
▪ Anthony Hill, 27. Atlanta, Ga. March 9. Hill was naked and unarmed when an officer shot him dead.
▪ Tony Robinson, 19. Madison, Wis. March 6. Robinson was shot during a scuffle with Wisconsin police.
▪ Naeschylus Vinzant, 37. Aurora, Colo. March 6. Vinzant was unarmed when he was shot in the chest by an officer during an arrest.
▪ “Africa,” Los Angeles. March 1. While lying on the ground struggling with four officers, this homeless man was shot to death.
▪ Ruben Garcia Villalpando, 31. North Richland Hills, Texas. Feb. 20. Police from the city of Grapevine say Villalpando got out of his vehicle with his hands up and continued to walk toward an officer after being told to stop. He was shot twice in the chest.
▪ Lavall Hall, 25. Miami Gardens, Fla. Feb. 15. Mentally ill, cold and half-naked, Hall was swinging a broomstick toward police. Officers shot him.
▪ Rumain Brisbon, 34. Phoenix. Dec. 2. Brisbon reached for a pill bottle during a drug bust and struggled with police. An officer thought it was a gun and shot him.
▪ Tamir Rice, 12. Cleveland. Nov. 22. Within two seconds of approaching Tamir, an officer killed him. He was playing with a toy gun.
▪ Jason Harrison, 38. Dallas. June 14. His mother called police for help with her mentally ill son. She wanted to take him to the hospital. He was shot as he held a screwdriver.
▪ Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30. Cleveland. Nov. 29, 2012. Thirteen Cleveland officers fired 137 rounds into the unarmed suspects’ car. They mistook the backfiring car as gunshots, leading to a 22-minute car chase and two people dead.
Not killed but injured or harassed:
▪ Martese Johnson, 20. Charlottesville, Va. March 18. Video shows Johnson handcuffed by one officer and getting his head smashed into the pavement by another.
▪ Hamza Jeylani, 17, and friends. Minneapolis. March 18. Footage shows a Minneapolis police officer threatening to break a teenager’s leg during a traffic stop.
▪ Jamar Nicholson, 15. Los Angeles. Feb. 10. Jamar and his friends were standing together when police approached them. His friend was holding a fake gun (complete with orange tip indicator). Jamar was shot in the back.