Two recent police killings of African American men have thrown the nation into a state confusion, and outrage. People are heading into the streets to protest. In the aftermath of the violence, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from Warsaw, where he’s attending a NATO summit, to express his concerns, and emphasize the importance of extending justice to all Americans. The President stressed that the data from research studies indicates that African Americans suffer more violence at the hands of law enforcement officers than other Americans, and stressed that the status quo is wrong and must stop.
The police shooting in Minneapolis
The immediate aftermath of Philando Castile’s death during a police shooting was live-streamed by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, in Falcon Heights, near Minneapolis, following a routine traffic stop for a broken tail light. Castile was driving with Reynold’s and her young daughter, when a police officer pulled them over. According to Reynolds, the officer told them to put their hands up, then asked for Castile’s license and registration.
Castile, a fully-compliant legal gun-owner with no criminal record, informed the officer that he was carrying a gun, as he’s required to do by law. According to Reynold’s, when Castile reached for his license in his back pocket, to comply with the officer’s command, he was shot four times. The video is chilling, and conveys the terror and tragedy of this death for Reynold’s. Castile is seen in his last moments of life, his shirt bloodied from four gunshot wounds delivered at point black range. Police eventually remove Reynold’s from the car (they had removed the young daughter prior to the start of the video) but they do not render first aid to Castile.
The police shooting in Baton Rouge
Castile’s death was preceded by the police shooting of Alton Sterling, an African American man selling CDs outside a food mart, in Baton Rouge Louisiana, that has outraged many citizens across the country. The confrontation, including the actual shooting, was recorded on video by a witness, and is disturbing to view.
Following the report by a homeless man that sterling was brandishing a weapon, police arrived on the scene and ordered Sterling to comply with their commands. Sterling did not have a gun in his hand, though later one was found in his pocket, following his death. Early in the confrontation they attempted to stun him with a TASER, and wrestled him to the ground.
He was pinned down by officers, with his back to the pavement, when an officer shouted that he had a gun. Several shots were fired, and Sterling died soon after. A police officer is scene on video reaching into Sterling’s pocket to retrieve a hand gun. Though the cops were wearing body cams, they did not record the incident. According to police the devices fell off during the scuffle with Sterling. Police do not render first aid to Sterling on the video.
There have been a string of murders of African American men and boys by police officers over the last few years, contributing to a growing sense of outrage, both within African American communities, and among a diverse range of concerned citizens throughout the country. People are demanding justice, including the judicial prosecution of cops involved in unjust shootings, the adoption of body cams for cops, better training, and end to racial profiling practices. President Obama touched on some of these ideas during his speech, insisting that workable solutions are currently available to turn the tide of violence, and save lives, if we are willing to act.
Photo: internet screen capture