Police Officer fired for killing unarmed teenager in Dallas Suburb

Police Officer fired for killing unarmed teenager in Dallas Suburb

A terrible, unnecessary tragedy has struck Balch Springs, Texas (a suburb of Dallas). A police officer shot and killed Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old boy sitting in the front passenger seat of a car leaving the vicinity of a party. The four boys in the car were unarmed.

Most telling, the explanation that the cops gave at the scene didn’t match video footage shot at the scene. The police officers said that the teens were driving in reverse towards the officers, but the video evidence clearly showed the teens driving away from the police when Officer Roy Oliver discharged multiple rounds from a rifle into the car, hitting Edwards in the head, and killing him.

Edwards was never in trouble with the law, and reports indicate he was both a good student and a star athlete. The shooting appears to be completely unjustified, and joins a long list of police shootings of young black men and boys, many of whom were unarmed. Officer Oliver was fired from the Dallas police force, and department officials indicated that he violated multiple departmental policies.

Officer Oliver fired for killing unarmed Jordan Edwards (Huffington Post)


Photo: screen capture

Autistic runner assaulted by older man; accusations of racism

Autistic runner assaulted by older man; accusations of racism

Chase Coleman is an non verbal, autistic 15-year-old African American boy who was attacked during a cross country race in Rochester, New York, by 57-year-old Martin MacDonald of Pittsford—-a man twice his size. Apparently Coleman got confused or lost during the race, and stopped in the road. His mother went looking for him when he didn’t show up with the other runners.

Witnesses said they saw the much larger and older MacDonald get out of his car to confront Coleman, shouting at him for a long time and then pushing him to the ground, before driving off. Fortunately the boy wasn’t seriously hurt, physically speaking, but following the incident he quit his beloved cross country team (he’s been running for years) and his non verbal status makes his degree of emotional injury difficult to assess.

Witnesses took down a partial license plate number and the police tracked MacDonald down. He told police that he feared Coleman might try to steal his wife’s pocket book. But oddly enough, his wife was sitting with him safely in their car. The very car he had to deliberately unlock and get out of before he could walk over to the kid in order to start the confrontation. He also told police that black teenagers had vandalized his car recently. So was this some sort of a revenge scenario? Did seeing Coleman, a young black teenager behaving in an unexpected, though most would find non threatening, way trigger a fear and rage reaction in the older man?

According to MacDonald, Coleman was in the road, and didn’t respond to his request to get out of the road. That’s when he got out of his car and eventually pushed the kid, shouting “Get out of here!” Sadly, Coleman’s non verbal status is clearly why he didn’t respond, rather than any attempt at delinquency. In fact, witnesses report that Coleman made no moves towards MacDonald, and actually just stood there quietly, with empty hands clearly visible. He probably didn’t even understand what the man wanted. And it’s very likely he was terrified.

But if this isn’t bad enough, the criminal justice system did nothing. MacDonald wasn’t arrested, and a judge denied the warrant for an arrest on a minor assault charge. The incident had been logged in the police report as “an argument,” even though the kid is non verbal, and the media reported that the investigation was closed. The criminal justice system failed to intervene, despite Coleman’s mother’s best efforts. But the story has gone viral, and since then the police have reported that they’ve been investigating continuously, stressing that the earlier media reports were incorrect. So it’s possible Coleman and his very concerned mother still might receive some small measure of justice.

But the internet and the media are on fire with criticisms and accusations of racism. For example, many are asking what would have happened if a large African American man had exited his car to confront and push an autistic, non verbal and non threatening white kid down onto the road? Would that man have been free to go, or more likely quickly arrested by police as an obvious threat? Have the police, or other parts of the criminal justice system involved with this case failed to protect and serve the community, and the Coleman family?

Why is their investigation taking so long? After all, they have witnesses, Chase Coleman’s autistic status is documented, and MacDonald actually admitted to leaving his car (escalating the situation) in order to push Coleman (further escalating the situation, to the level of violence) down onto the pavement. Why isn’t that enough for the system to take action? Are they looking for a catch, because with a black kid there’s always a catch? That’s what many fear, and if so, it’s disheartening and troubling.

Learn more about Chase Coleman’s ordeal (Syracuse.com)



Photo: Syracuse.com

FBI director speaks about need for police violence statistics

FBI director speaks about need for police violence statistics

FBI Director James Comey, who recently cleared Hillary Clinton of serious wrong doing in her sticky e-mail scandal following a Department of Justice Investigation, is now addressing another highly controversial and divisive subject: the validity of concerns over the police shootings of African Americans, and the need for accurate statistics.

The FBI has started a pilot program to collect relevant data from police departments on police shooting reports, because currently there isn’t any national collection to analyze. Gathering and analyzing such statistics will help to determine whether or not there’s an epidemic of violence by police directed towards African American males, as many now believe. According to Comey, and contrary to public opinion in many circles, there currently isn’t evidence that such an epidemic of police violence exists.

Speaking to a group of police chiefs in San Diego, Directory Comey suggested that video recordings could give the impression that such an epidemic exists, when none actually does. In other words, we need hard data to either back up or refute these claims, and law enforcement must embrace the idea of collecting and distributing this data in order to make such determinations, helping to choose the right path in law and public policy.

The Black Lives Matter movement regularly protests the shootings and mistreatment of African American citizens, particularly black males, by law enforcement, throughout the United States. Over the last few years several high profile cases have come to the attention of the public, and some of them were recorded on mobile phones, dash cam videos, and other devices. Do these videos represent evidence for a deadly and growing trend, or do they capture our attention because they are novel and shocking, but don’t represent a negative trend inordinately affecting African American males? What ever your stand, the good data that Director Comey seeks to collect could help prove your case.

Learn about FBI Director Comey’s push for better police stats on shootings (CNN)



Photo: By Federal Bureau of Investigation [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Will PCP Finding Affect Terrence Crutcher Case?

Will PCP Finding Affect Terrence Crutcher Case?

Terrence Crutcher, who was shot to death by Tulsa Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby in September, had PCP in his system during the incident, according to a toxicology report released on Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner.

PCP (Phencyclidine,) also known as Angel Dust, is a powerful recreational drug, originally developed for medical purposes, with known dissociative and hallucinogenic side-effects. Some people on PCP may experience paranoia or violent outbursts, and physical strength is often amplified greatly, perhaps because the individual feels no pain. However, it’s important to note that the police video, and eye-witness accounts, didn’t record any violent or threatening behavior prior to the shooting.

Officer Shelby, who has been charged with manslaughter by the District Attorney, had stopped with other officers to investigate Crutcher’s SUV, which was stopped in the middle of the road, when she thought that Crutcher was speaking and acting strangely. She ordered him to comply with certain commands, and though he put his hands in the air, and never threatened the officer, he walked slowly back to his vehicle, ignoring her shouts to stop and get down. Officer Shelby claims that Crutcher appeared to start to reach into the truck, and fearing he was reaching for a weapon, she shot him in the chest. However, a close examination of the videotape shows the window was rolled up. No weapon was found in the victim’s truck, or at the scene.

The death of Terrence Crutcher shocked many across the nation, and the world, in September, and has been cited as an example of police over-reach and brutality by Black Lives Matter activists, and others concerned with excessive force and civil rights abuses by law enforcement. Supporters of officer Shelby will probably interpret the presence of PCP in his system as evidence that Crutcher was both mentally impaired, and a possible threat to Shelby, at the time of the shooting.

But Crutcher family lawyers point out that the mere presence of illicit recreational drug’s in a person’s system is not sufficient reason for the police to use deadly force. For that, the officer’s life must be in clear and present danger. And though she may have been frightened and confused, Officer Shelby’s life did not appear to be in danger, based on the video and eye witness testimony. They stress that Crutcher was a man in need of help and medical attention, and had done nothing to deserve this violent death.

Learn about the latest about the Terrence Crutcher Shooting (CNN)



Photo: Tulsa, Oklahoma Police Department / AOL.com

Riots in Charlotte following shooting of African American

Riots in Charlotte, NC after shooting by police of Keith Lamont Scott

The management of Face Activities extends our sympathies to the people of Charlotte, North Carolina, enduring a second night of riots following the tragic killing of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, an African American motorist, by police. Though the investigation is ongoing and accounts of the event differ, it’s clear that far too many black men are shot by police in the U.S.

We must pull together as one people, regardless of social class or ethnicity, to demand justice, and reform. The loss in human potential, and the trauma to the family members left behind and the communities damaged by these tragic deaths is far too great to tolerate any longer. The fact that the officer who shot Scott is also African American illustrates that this is a complex issue, and we must seek long-term, systemic solutions.

Scott’s family, the NAACP and Jennifer Roberts, Charlotte’s Mayor, have urged the protesters to keep their demonstrations peaceful. But sadly a person was shot during the rioting, by a civilian, and remains in on life support, in critical condition. The city’s African American community is in an uproar, after police officers, looking for another man with a warrant, came upon Scott, and shot him to death, after claiming he drew a gun and wouldn’t comply with their commands.

The family disputes the police account, and claims the deceased was merely reading a book in his car when he was approached by police, with fatal consequences. They insist he was unarmed, waiting for his son to return home from school, while police insist they found a gun on the scene, but no book. Some of the police were wearing body cams, but according to North Carolina law they won’t be released to the public.

Learn more about the riots in Charlotte, and Keith Lamont Scott (CNN.com)


Photo: nbcnews.com



Outcry as police pepper-spray an 84-year-old woman in her home

Outcry after police pepper-spray 84-year-old woman

An upsetting incident involving police has people angry, in Oklahoma and across the United States, as the video spreads virally. During a tense moment in the home of a suspect’s mother, police pepper-sprayed an 84-year-old woman. Many community members of Muskogee, Oklahoma are alarmed by these developments.

The woman’s son was chased back to his mother’s home, where he hid inside. The police burst in by breaking down the door, then tasered the woman’s son. But when the elderly woman refused to turn around as ordered by police, an officer pepper-sprayed her, and she fell to the floor.

The video is disturbing, and raises important questions. The mother and son are African-American, and police violence against members of the African-American community has been a major issue in the media, propelling the Black Lives Matter movement to a position of national visibility.

Would an 84-year-old white woman in similar circumstances have been treated differently? Many think so, and fear that this was an over-step of authority by the local police department, and an example of institutional racism. What if the woman had hurt herself seriously by falling to the floor? No effort was made to catch her fall, as revealed in the video tape. And elderly women are prone to osteoporosis, and a fall like that could have been debilitating and even fatal.

In addition, could a painful dose of pepper spray have serious health consequences for an elderly woman, who would be statistically more likely to suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular issues?  Though the police have to react quickly on the job, did this unarmed and frightened 84-year-old woman, in a room full of police officers, represent a threat significant enough  to warrant this extreme response?

The suspect was under control, and multiple officers were in the immediate presence of the small elderly woman. Frankly, it’s hard to see this incident as anything other than an over reaction by law-enforcement, at best, and a tragic example of racism at work in our communities, at worst. Fortunately this incident concluded without serious harm to the woman, or her son. It could have easily turned out differently.

Muskogee’s Chief of Police has released the tape showing the officers entering the dwelling, tasering the suspect, and ultimately pepper-spraying the old woman. The Police offers the video to the public as a sign of transparency, and seems to be willing to discuss the incident with reporters. The police are reviewing the incident. Will the police officer who pepper-sprayed the woman receive disciplinary action? Will the city make restitution to the woman for her suffering? Will the police department initiate new training procedures to minimize the chance that an incident like this won’t happen again? Time will tell, and the community of Muskogee is watching.

Watch video of police pepper-spraying elderly woman (Muskogee PD / CNN)


Photo: Muskogee PD / CNN (screen capture)

The historical roots of injustice for black people in America

black lives matter

The Black Lives Matter movement attempts to confront the injustices, both legal and extralegal, that black people face in the United States. Many high-profile incidents of police brutality, lethal force, and harassment have been recorded on video camera in recent years, including the killings of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Erica Garner, Tamir Rice, and many more.

There is a very real tradition of violence against African-American people, which seems shocking and incomprehensible at first glance, but a study of history reveals the source of the injustice. The brutal institution of slavery has shaped the experience of African-descended peoples in the Americas for centuries. Over hundreds of years people of African descent were kidnapped and sold into slavery, by both Christian and Muslim enterprises, transported under harsh and dangerous conditions to distant shores, and forced to labor to benefit their captors.

The laws and attitudes of the slaver nations, including the United States, adapted to accommodate the unholy institution, which became a new normal, and a new moral low, for societies throughout the New World. Reading and other forms of education were prohibited, draconian punishments and tortures became common place, and codified in the United States Constitution, one of the great political documents of history, African slaves counted as only three-fifths of a whole person. These outrages continued, codified by law, until the Civil War, which ended slavery. But even afterwards, black people continued to endure the legal and social costs of slavery. A system of oppressive laws termed Jim Crow kept black people under the thumb of society, and law enforcement, through the 1960s.

Though the 1964 Civil Rights Act and protests of the civil rights era have improved things for African-Americans, still serious problems and inequities remain. It’s clear, and many studies support this observation, that the police throughout the U.S. treat African-Americans differently. They are much more likely to stop and detain African-Americans for trivial things, and when arrested for serious crimes African-Americans receive harsher sentences. Sadly, at least some cops are much harsher and much quicker to use physical force when dealing with black people, even during relatively harmless situations, like routine traffic stops.

Though there are many good cops who try to do the right thing, the police are at the end of the day people, and like everyone else, they have been formed by society and have absorbed societies mores. Police officers are exposed to the same prejudices and stereotypes growing up, and have the same fears and misconceptions as anyone else. The site of a young black man may trigger feelings of fear that the site of a young white man simply does not. To many white people, including the police, a young white man may seem like a student, while a young black man may seem like possible criminal gang member. To be sure, sometimes young black men, and women, are gang members. But many are students and hold down legitimate jobs.

Unfortunately the fear generated by these stereotypes can lead to tragic consequences when the police feel the need, real or merely perceived, to take action. Many black people, even those who haven’t experienced serious abuse or the use of force, report uncomfortable, unfair encounters with the police, during which they felt disrespected, and devalued. These kinds of interactions are reported with much less frequently by white people dealing with the police. Sadly, the perception of many African-Americans is that the police, including black officers, are there to protect and serve society—-from them.

The tide of wrongful killings, and negative interactions with police must stop, of course. But how? Admitting their is a problem is the first step. Many white people, and conservative law-makers, don’t admit a problem exists, and we all must do so in order to bring about positive change. Next, changes in the way the police are trained, equipped, selected for service, and managed day to day can help.

Body and dash cams are an excellent idea that municipalities and law enforcement organizations should implement widely. These recording devices protect the police from false reports of abuse, and can corroborate the stories of honorable cops doing a good job, while catching questionable actions and incidents of genuine abuse. In addition, offending officers must face justice, to win back the trust and respect of the people they serve.

Do you want to help? Write to your congressman. Get involved in local as well as national political elections. Remain active in your community. Read widely and be aware of what’s happening around the nation and the world. Join organizations that promote social justice.


Photo: By Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another African American Man shot on Saturday in Texas

Police shoot Alva Braziel in Houston, Texas

After a tragic week, including shootings of two black men by police, and then the shooting of 12 police officers (five of whom died) by an armed vigilante at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas, another police-related death has occurred in Texas. On Saturday officers shot Alva Braziel, an African American man in Houston, near a gas station. The shooting was captured on gas station surveillance video, and may contradict the officers’ statements.

According to the officers responding to the scene, Braziel was in the street, turning around and waving a gun around, when he pointed it at them, precipitating the fatal shooting. However, preliminary viewing of surveillance footage suggests that Braziel did not have a gun, and had his hands up in the air, when the police shot him. A careful study of the footage, which shows the shooting in the background, needs to be undertaken.

Watch footage of Alva Braziel’s death by Police in Houston, Texas (ThinkProgress.com)

Photo: ThinkProgress.com (screen shot)

Coffey Anderson’s Police Traffic Stop Survival Video

Coffey Anderson Traffic Stop Video

Many men cringe at the idea of displaying undue deference or submission to anyone, including a police officer. However, in the wake of recent police shootings of civilians, perhaps there are a few safety rules to consider. According to Country Music musician Coffey Anderson, taking a few simple steps could save your life when stopped by a cop, and so he’s put out a brief instructional video on the method he recommends.

Anderson stresses that cops are concerned for their own safety, and the adrenaline is pumping when they approach your vehicle. By allaying their fears you stand a better chance of a positive interaction, and minimize the change that violence will erupt. For this reason it’s important to keep your hands in sight, and to keep your registration and driver’s license near at hand.

You don’t want to reach for your paperwork by taking your hand out of the officer’s line of sight, which can appear threatening to some cops, who fear you might be reaching for a gun. Anderson recommends turning the car’s engine and radio completely off, and placing your hands at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel, with your fingers extended (palms open) while looking straight ahead. When the cop asks for your identification, you inform him that you are reaching for it on your dashboard, which is in plain sight.

Watch Coffey Anderson’s Police Traffic Stop Survival Video (CNN)


Photo: CNN (screen capture)


Tragic Police Mass Murder in Dallas, Texas

Dallas Police Killings

The management team of Face Activities extends our sincerest and deepest condolences to the families of the civilians and police officers killed and wounded in Dallas, Texas, yesterday, at the hands of a crazed killer. No ideology, movement, social goal, or political strategy is worth such pain and loss of life. We commend peaceful protesters who seek to reach their goals through non violent means.

Tragedy has struck in Dallas, and throughout the country, following a of week tragic events and escalating tensions. Yesterday 14 people were shot, including 12 police offers (5 officers died from their wounds) in Dallas, Texas, during a Black Lives Matter protest. In addition, several smaller-scale shootings of police officers throughout the country have also occurred over the last 24 hours.

Hundreds of citizens had gathered in Dallas to peacefully protest the deaths of two African American men, Alton Sterling, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of police. Suddenly shots rang out. Micah Xavier Johnson, a lone gunman with military training from former service in the U.S. army, and an alleged history of sexual assault, had opened fire on the police, kicking off a protracted fire-fight, lasting hours.

At first police suspected that there was more than one gunman, having mistaken several protesters dressed in camouflaged clothing as suspects. Eventually the gunman was cornered, and after extensive negotiations failed, he was killed via a bomb delivered by a remote-controlled robot (a first in law-enforcement history.)

By all accounts, the police behaved honorably and bravely, shielding the crowd of civilian protesters, who had gathered to lawfully exercise their First Amendment Rights, and leading them to safety, while locating and ultimately neutralizing the assailant. Their actions brought home to many the notion that the vast majority of cops are decent, heroic people, tasked with a difficult and often dangerous job, in order to protect and serve their communities. Nonetheless, sadly, some social media users rejoiced in the deaths of these unfortunate law-enforcement officers, though they were often met with push-back and harsh criticism.

Many members of the Black Lives Matter movement, and other civil rights activists throughout the country, maintain that there’s absolutely no contradiction between protesting police over reach and supporting law-enforcement. They see the ultimate goal of the movement as better policing that saves lives, and that’s viewed as a win-win scenario that will ultimately benefit communities, and the law enforcement organizations charged with protecting them.

Photo: Dickelbers,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (image was resized)

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