With the national spotlight focused on police violence over the last few months, it’s clear that every town has a Michael Brown.
As more tragic stories unfold, a pattern seems to emerge of police demonizing their victims. Whether it’s Darren Wilson literally saying Mike Brown “looked like a Demon” or claiming that the victim reached for a gun, the story is eerily similar across the country. Ezell Ford, Marquise Jones, and Cameron Redus all have similar stories, according to police.
Two LAPD officers in South Los Angeles killed Ezell Ford two days after Darren Wilson killed Mike Brown. According to police, Ford was approached during an investigative stop (Why was he walking down the street?). At some point in his questioning, Ford tackled one officer and the other shot him, and the tackled officer used his back up firearm to shoot Ford because Ford made a grab for his gun.
Eyewitnesses tell a different story. According to eyewitnesses, Ford was rushed by police with guns drawn and told to lay on the ground. After complying, one officer yelled “Shoot Him” and Ford was shot in the back three times as he lay on the ground.
One community member recorded the shooting, including the ambulance response time, but his mobile phone was taken by police. Community members described Ford as slow, mentally handicapped, and a nice person. It is said that Ford’s mental handicap was well known in the community and everyone would help take care of him. His parents would give him money from time to time and he would walk to the store to buy snacks. But in a statement released to local media, police suggested Ford violently attacked police and might have unspecified gang ties. One eye witness account can be seen above.
Marquise Jones was killed in the parking lot of a popular 24 hours diner in San Antonio, Texas on February 28, 2014. An argument had broken out after a fender bender and a uniformed off-duty police officer working security started to investigate.
According to SAPD Police Chief William McManus, describing what the officer saw, “He sees the passenger in the vehicle fidgeting around reaching for something toward his waistband, orders him to stop,” he explained. “He gets out of the car and pulls a gun on the officer. The officer fires multiple times. The suspect runs.”
Police claim that Jones’ handgun was found “nearby.”
Jones’ sister, Whitney, who was in the car with him said she told him that everything would be okay, but he decided to take off, not wanting anything to do with the situation.
“He had no gun in his hand. No gun in his hand,” Whitney insisted. “He opened the car door with two hands. He closed it with two hands.”
Autopsy reports show that Jones was shot in the back and, according to the Jones family, the police report never mentions a gun. The Jones family insist that Marquise just wanted to get away from the situation after hearing how the officer spoke with the driver of the vehicle, and that he only lived a few blocks away and was trying to go home. The shooter, Officer Robert Encina, was previously suspended for forty-five day for trying to fight black customers while we worked security at another late night diner; he appeared to be drunk at the time.
Cameron Redus drove home drunk one night in December 2013. He was followed by University of Incarnate Word Campus Police Officer Chris Carter, and was pulled over in the parking lot of his apartment complex in San Antonio.
Redus, attempted to walk up to his apartment, and according to Officer Carter, he told Redus more than fifty times to comply with his orders. Redus then struggled with the officer for his baton and Redus struck the officer twice with his own baton saying “What are you gonna do? Shoot me?”
Witnesses confirm the verbal altercation, but not the baton struggle. According to autopsy reports Carter shot Redus at close range five times, firing six shots total, and the bullet that entered Redus left eye did so at an angle that would imply Carter was standing over Redus at the time. Some of the bullet entry sites had stippling or powder burns. Redus was shot in the left arm, left eye, right hip, and back.
Eric Garner and Michael Brown Ferguson protests in Seattle on 12/6/14. (scottlum / Flickr)
All of these cases are questionable at best, outright murder at worst. Witness accounts contradict the police, and police statements made to media sometimes contradict the police reports filed. In the worst of these scenarios, police statements to media have information in them that have no place in the investigation, like in Ezell Fords case when the police said it is unclear if Ford had any “gang affiliations,” and in Marquise Jones’ case when the Police Chief said he pulled a gun on Encina.
Or in the case of Akai Gurley who was accidentally shot by NYPD in the stairwell of his apartment building, media reports said, “he had a criminal record, NYPD accidentally shoots man.” Why would they say these things, if not to discredit the victim’s value? Police try to make it seem like the victim’s life was a waste and that society is better off without him.
For all the differences between these three cases — whether it be location, class, or race — one thing is the same: witnesses to the shootings say there was no violence on the victim’s part and the police say that they feared for their lives.
It seems that police have a game plan when they kill someone — a plan to paint the victim as violent, dangerous, and scary. The police use this plan to get away with murder. In all three of these cases, the investigations are still pending and the police officers are still employed, getting paid with the tax dollars of the families and communities from which they’ve taken so much.
We must ask our elected officials and police leaders if there is a playbook the police use to get away with murder? Community members in San Antonio claim the SAPD have a rapid response team that checks into the backgrounds of every shooting victim and the people around them. Their task is to justify each police shooting regardless of the situation. This may be backed up by the amount of police who respond to officer involved shootings before an ambulance even shows up.
Police are getting away with killing people every day, even when everything is caught on camera like in Eric Garner’s case.
We need to find new ways to hold police accountable for their actions. When we hold police to a higher standard, it does not include the right to kill with impunity.