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

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)

Police Killings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis trigger outrage

Two Police Shootings outrage many Americans

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.

Growing Outrage
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