A Black man who had suffered a stroke was shot with a Taser and pepper spray because he was unable to get out of his car as a Virginia cop ordered. A Cleveland cop was found not guilty in the 137 bullets trial. From coast to coast police are too quick to pull the trigger. Here's my Chicago Defender column on the situation.
Lethal or nonlethal, same shoot, different day
By Monroe Anderson
When it comes to white cops shooting unarmed Blacks, the hits just keep on coming. So do the misses.
A viral video-surfaced last week that featured David Washington’s turn at taking the hit. The 34-year-old Black man was shot by a Taser then hit by a stream of pepper spray for failing to get out of his car on demand.
Washington was both lucky and unlucky. Lucky because Fredericksburg Police Officer Shaun Jergens shot him with the Taser and pepper sprayed him, leaving him short of breath and with his eyelids swollen closed, instead of aiming a couple of lead slugs at his head. Not that he didn’t threaten to.
“Get out the car,” Jergens yelled after assaulting Washington,“ or I’m going to f--king smoke you.”
Washington was unlucky because he had just suffered a stroke and was in need of medical care not an instant application of tough policing for sitting in a car while Black.
As for the miss, this time it was in Cleveland. In the hometown of Tamir Rice, who would have turned 13 years old next month if he hadn’t been shot to death by Officer Timothy Loehmann while playing cops and robbers in a city playground, justice was on the lam.
Apparently, like Agent 007, America’s police have a license to kill. Michael Brelo, a Cleveland cop, was acquitted Saturday of charges of voluntary manslaughter in the “137 bullets” case for the shooting deaths Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30.
Why is it that cops tasked with serving and protecting routinely see Blacks as the usual suspects before rendering us the usual victims? Why are some police so prone to shoot first, before coming up with answers later? Is innocent until proven guilty a whites only right?
Both Officers Brelo and Jergens suffered from that epidemic that has stricken too many men in blue across the nation: Trigger Finger-itis.
Jergens shot Washington with his Taser as the incapacitated driver sat in his car facing the wrong way on the street because he assumed the Black man was the perpetrator in a hit-and-run accident. The sick man mattered so little to Cleveland police that after he was assaulted by Jergens, he was thrown, handcuffed on the hot pavement while they allowed a police car to roll over one of his feet.
Of course, white cops abusing Black men is nothing new. But the Taser has become Officer-Not-So-Friendly’s high-tech billy club. Back in the day, many a cop’s knee-jerk reaction was to beat a Black man bloody before taking him to the station. In this modern age, rather than crack open their heads, the practice is to hit them with a 50,000 volts of electricity instead.
In 2012, an American Heart Association report linked stun gun use to heart attacks and deaths. There are real-life tragedies to underscore those findings. Last year, 60 Americans died from Tasers. Since they’ve become the “nonlethal” weapon of choice for police worldwide more than 600 people have died from them in the past 14 years.
While Tasers may or may not amount to deadly force, bullets certainly do.
Both unarmed, Russell and Williams were killed on November 29, 2012 after officers mistook the sound of his 1979 Chevy Malibu backfiring as gunshots. Since dead men or women tell no tales, we will never know what led to the 62- police vehicle high speed chase across Cleveland. It is known that 137 bullets struck the Malibu that the two occupants were in. Forty-nine of those shots came from Officer Brelo’s Glock 17. He squeezed off 15 of the rounds as he stood on the car, both it and its passengers motionless, as if he was making his day in a sequel to Dirty Harry.
Ohio Judge John O'Donnell ruled Saturday that Officer Brelo acted within his constitutional rights. In his ruling, the judge explained that since 12 other Cleveland police--eleven white, one Hispanic--had fired shots as well, there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that any of the 23 bullets in Russell’s body was the one fired by Brelo that took the Black man’s life.
So Officer Brelo will not see a day behind bars for the deaths of an unarmed Black man and woman although he remains on leave without pay. No charges have been filed against Jergens for his abuse. But he was forced to resign from the force.
Who knows? Someday, maybe we’ll read about some cop actually doing the time for doing the crime.