This week, two white former police officers, accused of murdering unarmed black men, had their day in court. The cases are similar … the same abominable tale of racism and abused power … but the outcomes were very different. The first, I first wrote about one year ago …
Recap: April 4th 2015, Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Walter Scott was stopped at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of an auto parts store, by Charleston police officer Michael Thomas Slager for a defective brake light. The video from Slager’s dashcam shows him approaching Scott’s car, speaking to Scott, and then returning to his patrol car. Scott exited his car and fled with Slager giving chase on foot. Allegedly, Officer Slager caught up with Mr. Scott, there ensued a scuffle, Mr. Scott managed to get away, Officer Slager shot him with his taser, Mr. Scott ran, and at that point Officer Slager fired eight shots. Five of the shots hit Scott, 3 in the back, one in the posterior, and one in the ear.
Later, Slager would claim that Mr. Scott took his taser. He would also claim that Scott was coming toward him when, in fact, he was running away from him, and he claimed he feared for his life. But both of these claims were disproven by a video recording made by a passerby, Feidin Santana, that showed Mr. Scott did not have the taser, and also showed Officer Slager dropping the taser next to Scott’s body after the shooting in an attempt to plant evidence. My original post, Another Case of Injustice – The Murder of Walter Scott, was one year ago, December 7th, 2016.
Update: On Thursday, the fourth day of Slager’s sentencing hearing, Judge David C. Norton said he had concluded that the killing should be considered murder for the purposes of determining Mr. Slager’s punishment. The shooting, he said, was “reckless, wanton and inappropriate.” The judge then sentenced Slager to twenty years in prison. Score one, at last, for justice. Even Jeff Sessions, surprisingly, was on board with this one …
“Officers who violate anyone’s rights also violate their oaths of honor, and they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work.”
It took more than two years, but finally a white officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man was brought to justice. Not so, the next story …
It happened in Maricopa County, Arizona, home of former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the law-breaking bigot about whom I have written many times in the past. January 2016, 26 year old Daniel Shaver, staying at the Mesa La Quinta Inn, invited two acquaintances up to his room for drinks and proceeded to show off his pellet gun, which he used in his job as a pest control worker. At that point, a couple in the hotel hot tub below reported to staff that they thought they’d seen the silhouette of a man with a rifle in a window. In response, the hotel staff promptly called police.
Joe Arpaio was still sheriff of Maricopa Country at that time, and six heavily-armed officers arrived at Mr. Shaver’s room. One of those officers was Philip Mitchell Brailsford. The officers proceed to Shaver’s room and order everyone out. As they exit the room, the officers scream for Shaver and one of his guests to get on the ground …
“Apparently we have a failure for you to comprehend simple instructions, I gotta go over some of them again. If you make another mistake there is a very severe possibility that you’re both going to get shot…. I’m not here to be tactful or diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey.”
The officers then proceed to give the two civilians a convoluted series of instructions, including interlocking their fingers on their head and crossing their left and right legs, before asking them to crawl toward the officers. They take the female acquaintance out of the way. Meanwhile, Mr. Shaver, is sobbing and saying, “please don’t shoot me.” Shaver then moves his right hand downward momentarily, prompting Brailsford to shoot him several times with his AR-15.
I have twice watched the body-cam footage. Brailsford was in full body gear and armed with a lethal assault weapon. Shaver was on the ground, hands over head, being ordered to crawl down the hallway toward Brailsford. When he took his hands off his head in an attempt to comply with the order, he was gunned down in cold blood. The video is more than four minutes long and during the entire time, Brailsford has his finger on the trigger, at the ready, while Shaver is flat on the ground. There can be no doubt that Brailsford fully intended to kill Shaver from the beginning. After the shooting, Brailsford had the dust cover of his AR-15 engraved with the words “You’re Fucked”.
On Thursday, Brailsford was cleared of all charges.
Two cases of unarmed black men murdered by white police officers who let their power go to their heads. Two dead young men, but two very different outcomes for the rogue cops. One will spend the next twenty years in prison, the other will be free to live his life in freedom, possibly even be reinstated to his former job.
A recent analysis in the New York Times tells of 15 hgh-profile cases of white officers murdering unarmed black men, and one … only one … faces prison time! This, friends, is intolerable. We are told to always respect the police. Then, they need to be held accountable so that we can respect them.