Long History of Police Brutality in the US

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Abdul Haqq ibn Omar

Dhu al-Qa'dah 10, 1441 2020-07-01

Main Stories

by Abdul Haqq ibn Omar (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 5, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1441)

In the wake of the horrific death by strangulation of George Floyd under the knee of the white cop, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis (since charged with second degree murder), two opinions have emerged. Protesters denouncing police brutality have demanded defunding the force. Some have even called for disbanding the police altogether and establish a community-based force, while others say ‘reforms’ will solve the problem.

Can the police be reformed when top US officials deny systemic racism in the force despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Deniers include not only Donald Trump but also Attorney General William Barr, Homeland Security Chief Chad Wolf as well as his deputy. Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey also decried protesters’ demand for defunding the police. Nine out of 12 members of the city council, however, have supported the call for defunding even while the mayor and federal officials insist there are only a few “bad apples”.

Pat Buchanan, a one-time Republican presidential contender and former speech-writer for President Ronald Reagan also waded in with his racist cant. He claimed that “black male criminals… commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes.” It is such mindset of the predominantly white establishment that has prevented any meaningful change in the police forces.

The same mindset prevails among judges and juries that refuse to convict white cops for murdering innocent black men and indeed black women as well. Was it really necessary to strangle George Floyd to death, unemployed due to the pandemic, for using a counterfeit $20 bill? He was not resisting arrest but that did not save his life. Had he resisted it is almost certain he would have been shot dead. Videos of police shooting unarmed black men—and even some white men—are available on the Internet with blacks being killed disproportionately.

African American mothers live in absolute fear for their children’s safety. They constantly urge them, especially sons, to “obey” the police whatever they demand. That has not prevented African Americans from being murdered in large numbers.

Below is a list of some of the more egregious crimes the police have committed in recent years. The police continue to murder African Americans even in the aftermath of Floyd’s strangulation and the massive protests that have swept the US.

Rayshard Brooks, 27; killed June 12, 2020

Place: Wendy’s Parking lot, Atlanta, GA

He had fallen asleep in his car in Wendy’s drive-through. When the police arrived, an altercation ensued. He was shot while running away from the police. Of the two policemen involved,

Garrett Rolfe was fired from his job, while his partner, Devin Bronsan, was placed on ‘administrative leave’ pending an investigation. Police Chief Erika Shields resigned. Atlanta medical examiner declared Brooks’ death as “homicide”.

Michael “Blue” Thomas, 62; killed June 11, 2020

Place: Los Angeles. Thomas was involved in a domestic dispute and his fiancé called the police that shot and killed him.

Robert Fuller, 24; death June 10, 2020 by hanging

Place: Palmdale, California near City Hall.

Protesters have demanded a full investigation into his death, refusing to accept that he committed ‘suicide’.

George Floyd, 46; strangled to death on May 25, 2020

Place: Minneapolis, under the knee of ex-cop Derek Chauvin who has since been charged with second degree murder. The video of his murder sparked protests not only in the US but also globally

Breonna Taylor, 26; killed on March 13, 2020

Place: Her apartment in Louisville, KY. The police broke her apartment door and shot her eight times on a false report that there were drugs in her apartment. No drugs were found. She was a front-line health worker. No charges have been laid against the police. The detective who sought the search warrant has been assigned to ‘administrative duties’. The drug peddler had already been arrested in the morning!

Ahmaud Arbery, 25; killed on February 23, 2020

Shot and killed by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, in Brunswick, Georgia.

Arbery was out jogging when the pair shot him three times from close range in the street. He was unarmed and posed no threat to the assailants. There was no altercation before the shooting. William Bryan, who video-filmed the shooting from his car that came to light later, was charged together with Gregory and Travis McMichael (arrested on May 7) in Arbery’s murder. Until then, the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District attorney Jackie Johnson had refused to charge the white assailants. When it was discovered that Gregory McMichael had worked as investigator for the police department, Johnson recused herself.

Atatiana Jefferson, 28; killed on October 12, 2019

Place: Fort Worth, TX after a neighbor called the police saying her front door was open. When the police arrived, with guns drawn, she tried to shield her 8-year-old nephew fearing there was an intruder. Instead, police officer Aaron Dean shot and killed her by firing through the window. Two months later, Dean was indicted on murder charge and is awaiting trial.

Botham Jean, 22; killed on September 6, 2018

Shot by off-duty police officer Amber Guyger.

Place: Inside his own apartment in Dallas, TX, while eating ice cream sitting on a sofa.

The off-duty police officer entered his apartment thinking it was hers and that Jean was an intruder! Guyger was initially charged with manslaughter but later convicted of second- degree murder and sentenced to 10-year prison term in October 2019.

Stephon Clark, 22; killed on March 18, 2018

Place: Grandmother’s backyard in Meadowview, Sacramento, California.

Two officers, Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet of Sacramento police department, fired 20 times at Clark while he had a phone in his hand. The officers alleged he had pointed a gun at them. The shooting was filmed by police video cameras and by a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department helicopter which was involved in observing Clark. Contradicting the Sacramento County Coroner’s autopsy report that Clark had been hit with five bullets, the pathologist hired by the family stated that he was shot eight times, including six times in the back. On March 2, 2019, the Sacramento County district attorney announced that the Sacramento police officers who killed Clark would not be charged and that they had probable cause to stop him and were legally justified in the use of deadly force!

Philando Castile, 32; killed on July 6, 2016

Place: Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Stopped by the police, Castile informed the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, he had a gun (he was licensed to carry one). Castile’s girl-friend and his four-year-old son were also in the car. Yanez told him not to pull the gun and demanded to see his driver’s license. When Castile tried to pull it out, Yanez fired seven bullets, five of which hit him. Yanez was charged with second degree manslaughter but not convicted.

Alton Sterling, 37; killed July 5, 2016

Place: Baton Rouge, LA. He was selling CDs and had started to carry a gun recently because other CD vendors were being robbed. Two white police officers stopped him and shot him at close range. No charges were filed against the police.

Freddie Gray, 25; killed April 19, 2015

Place: Baltimore. Arrested on April 12 for possessing a knife, Gray was thrown into a police van with his hands and feet tied but had not seat belt around him. When the speeding van slammed on its brakes, Gray’s neck and spinal cord were broken. He died in hospital a week later. Baltimore District Attorney Carolyn Moseby, herself black, brought charges against the six police officers but the court set them free. She complained that when the police investigate themselves, there is little chance of getting a conviction.

Walter Scott, 50, killed on April 4, 2015

Place: North Charleston, South Carolina. Ex-policeman, Michael Slager sentenced to 20 years on federal charges in a plea bargain in 2017. Scott was unarmed and was stopped by Slager for a non-functioning back car light. He was shot five times in the back while Scott had stopped his car and was unarmed.

Tamir Rice, 12, killed by police on Nov 22, 2014

Place: Cleveland. Tamir was throwing snowballs and playing with a toy pellet gun in a Cleveland park when a police car rolled up. Within seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed the 12-year-old. Two and a half years later, the Cleveland police department fired Loehmann, not solely due to the shooting, but rather as a result of “providing false information” when he applied to the department several years ago. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty announced that there would be no criminal charges filed against the officers involved (McGinty was later ousted from his position.) The city of Cleveland announced it would pay the Rice family $6 million in a lawsuit settlement over the shooting.

Aura Rosser, 40; killed on November 9, 2014

Place: Inside her house in Ann Arbor, MI. Suffering from mental issues, she had an argument with her boyfriend who called the police. When the police arrived, they alleged she had a knife in her hand. The police then shot and killed her. No charges were laid against the police.

Michael Brown, 18; killed on August 9, 2014

Place: Ferguson, MO.

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson stopped Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson. Wilson alleged that Brown tried to snatch his gun from him when he fired two shots. Both Brown and Johnson fled but when Wilson gave chase and fired from the back, Brown turned around put his hands up. Wilson still fired 10 shots at him. Brown was hit six times and fell to the ground. Robert McCulloch, the St. Louis County prosecutor announced on November 24, 2014 that the grand jury had decided not to prosecute Wilson, who he claimed had acted in self-defence. The verdict led to huge protests and several nights of rioting.

Eric Garner, 27; killed July 17, 2014

Place: Staten Island, NY. The police put a chokehold on him and strangled him to death despite crying, “I can’t breathe”. He was accused of selling cigarettes when an argument followed with the police. Officer Daniel Pantaleo pounced on him with a chokehold while five others pinned him down. He was strangled to death. No one was convicted of the murder.

Trayvon Martin, 17, killed February 26, 2012

Place: Sanford, Florida. Trayvon Martin had no criminal record when he was shot and killed by self-styled vigilante George Zimmerman. The killing sparked a national debate over racial profiling and the role of armed neighborhood watch members in law enforcement. On July 13, 2013, a jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder. President Barack Obama said that if he had a son, it would be Trayvon. Zimmerman went on to sue the Martin family for $100 million for tarnishing his “reputation”!

Aiyana Mo'Nay Stanley-Jones, 7, killed on May 16, 2010

Place: Her house in Detroit’s East side.

Detroit police were looking for a murder suspect believed to be hiding in the neighborhood and they arrived at the wrong address shooting the seven-year-old dead. Officer Joseph Weekley was charged in connection with Jones’ death. His first trial on involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun ended in mistrial. At his retrial in September 2014, the judge dropped the involuntary manslaughter charge. While testifying, the little girl’s mother and grandmother became emotional and the judge accused them of being “disrespectful”, expelling them from court. On October 10, 2014, the second trial also ended in mistrial. On January 28, 2015, a prosecutor cleared Weekley of the last remaining charge against him, ensuring there would not be a third trial.

Dr Jamilah Arshad, 51, Neurologist, died on January 10, 2005

Place: Kenner, Louisiana, died in police cruiser while handcuffed and thrown in the backseat.

Dr Jamilah Arshad, a revert to Islam, was driving home from work on the night of January 10, 2015 when she saw a car hit a young child riding a bike. She immediately stopped to help the child. A white man saw her and asked what she was doing, Dr Arshad told him she was a doctor trying to save the child’s life. The man called the police. When they showed up, they first grabbed and pushed her away. When she tried to help the child, she was slammed to the ground, the policeman sat on her and handcuffed her. She was then dragged to the police car and thrown in the back seat locking the car door.

Inside the car, Dr Arshad had a seizure and suffered a heart attack. A passerby saw her frothing at the mouth and informed the police who claimed the car keys were with another officer. It took 10 minutes before the other officer opened back seat door only to discover Dr Arshad had died.

Since the district attorney refused to charge the police officer, the family took the matter to court—three courts, in fact—but each time the “honorable” judges were not moved. They dismissed the charges saying under the circumstances, the police officers acted “reasonably”!

Amadou Diallo, 23, killed on April 12, 1999

Place: Outside his apartment building in Bronx, New York. Four plain-clothed New York City police officers fired 41 shots hitting Diallo, a Guinean immigration, 19 times. The four officers—Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon, and Kenneth Boss—were charged with manslaughter in Albany, New York but acquitted. Diallo was unarmed and had no criminal record. The acquittal led to mass protests and once again focused light on police brutality.

The list of police killing of blacks goes on and on… Since there is little or no accountability, the police act with impunity. The mass anger of protesters in the US must be viewed against this backdrop.

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