The killing of Black men in America by the police never ceases.
On the evening of October 20th, police in Waukegan, Illinois, shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager while he was in the car with his girlfriend. Reports of a “suspicious vehicle” — which almost certainly translates to “some nosy white person saw two Black people sitting in a car and called the cops on them” — led a police officer to shoot and kill Marcellis Stinnette, 19, who was in his car with the mother of his child, Tafarra Williams.
Williams was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to her stomach and hand.
The police officer says the car began to reverse as he exited his vehicle, leading him to “fear for his safety” and the immediate execution of the driver.
A witness tells a different story. “The police officer got out of the car. When he told them to stop, he told her to stop, she was scared. She put up hands, she started yelling, ‘Why you got a gun?’ She started screaming. He just started shooting,” said Darrell Mosier.
“When I got there, she said, “Mama, they just shot us for nothing,” said Clifftina Johnson, Williams’ mother, to ABC 7 News. “My daughter said she put her hand up, and if she didn’t put her hand up, she said, ‘Mama, I would be dead.'”
The two police officers involved have been placed on administrative leave. No weapons were discovered in the vehicle.
What is there that can be said that hasn’t already been said after the murder of George Floyd? After the murder of Breonna Taylor? After the shooting of Jacob Blade? After David McAtee? Eric Garner? Sean Bell? Tamir Rice? John Crawford III? Philando Castile? Akai Gurley? Michael Brown? The grim list of the names of the dead goes on and on.
Once again, a police officer complains that he, the one holding a weapon that can cause instant death, was afraid — and because of that fear, another young man is dead and a child has lost its father for what appears to be no good reason. We must demand that body camera footage be released immediately because we know that nothing the police say can ever be taken at face value. It is a simple fact of life in America that the police are routinely dishonest about everything and that lying is a fundamental part of police culture, as is the infuriating knowledge that these officers will likely be given a slap on the wrist and allowed to return to work and possibly kill again.
The killing of Marcellis Stinnette is yet another tragic, horrifying reminder of why the nation was rocked with protests for much of the year and why so much enmity is being leveled against police forces who claim to “protect and serve” their communities but murder Black citizens on a regular basis.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.