”we find that in Sanford, FL, a self appointed “watchman” with no police powers and zero law enforcement training walks free after murdering a teenager. But, incidents of suspicious killings of Black males in America followed by no punishment is not new. The status of Black males in American society remains clear: Expendable. Did the nation pause in June 2010 after ten Black males were shot dead and 51 wounded in just 3 days in Chicago? Does anyone believe there would be no national outcry if the victims were from any other group? The famous incidents are met with justifications — even in cases where the victims were completely innocent.
In 1984, it was Bernie Goetz. Goetz shot four Black males on a New York City subway after one asked for five dollars. All were unarmed. There was no physical altercation. Goetz shot all four, paralyzing one, saying he feared he’d be mugged. Eighteen months before Goetz said, “the only way we’re going to clean up this street is to get rid of the spics and niggers.” Goetz and his defenders said the shootings were justified because of fear.
In 1999, it was Amadou Diallo, 23. Diallo had no criminal record and no weapon. New York Police mistook Diallo for a rape suspect. An officer at the scene yelled “gun” and 41 shots were fired by four plain clothes officers. Diallo had no gun, only his wallet. All were acquitted.
In 2000, it was Patrick Dorismond, 26. Dorismond, a security guard, was shot and killed by a NYPD plain clothes police officer after being approached by undercover officers who asked where they could buy marijuana. An argument ensued and Dorismond was shot and killed. No one was charged. A grand jury found the shooting was an accident.
In 2003, it was Ousmane Zongo, 24. Zongo was shot and killed by an undercover police officer dressed as a mailman during a raid for counterfeit goods. He was unarmed and had no criminal record. The officer was convicted of criminally negligent homicide but served no jail time.
In 2004, it was Tim Stansbury, 19. Stansbury was shot in a rooftop stairwell by a police officer who admitted he was startled and pulled the trigger accidentally. Stansbury had no gun and no criminal record. A grand jury found the shooting was accidental. “There appears to be no justification for the shooting,” Chief Ray Kelly said at the time.
In 2006, it was Sean Bell, 23. Once again, a cop at the scene yelled “gun” – but no gun was found. Plain clothes NY City Police fired 50 rounds at three males: Two Black, one Hispanic. Bell was shot four times and died on his wedding day. He had no criminal record. No one was found guilty.
In 2009, it was Oscar Grant, 23. Grant was shot in the back and killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle feared Grant was reaching for a weapon as he held him face down on a subway platform. Grant had no weapon. Grant had previously served time for drug possession. The Justice Department opened a case against Mehserle. He would serve less than a year in jail.
Last month, Ramarley Graham, 18, was shot to death in the bathroom of his mother’s house after NY police gave chase. A plain clothes narcotics officer believed Graham had a gun. No gun was found. Graham had been previously arrested for marijuana possession and burglary.
The combined jail time after seven incidents? Seven dead = 23 months. In every incident, the absence of involvement by the pursuer would have meant seven people would be alive today. What do all the cases have in common? The victims: All Black males. All unarmed. As the City of New York continues to pay out millions in wrongful death suits one wonders: Does our society care when innocent people who also happen to be Black are killed for doing nothing? Diallo, Bell, Dorismond, Stansbury, Zongo were not engaged in unlawful activity.
Add another the list: Trayvon Martin. This time by a pretend-cop with too much time on his hands.
Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr., like so many before him, defended the handling of the Martin case. “The hysteria, the media circus, it’s just crazy. It’s the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s sad. It’s sad for the city of Sanford, the police department, because I know in my heart we did a good job.”
It’s sad alright. The Justice Department should be in touch with Chief Lee soon. Rev. Al Sharpton is set to have another march regarding a case of an unarmed innocent Black male who is dead for no reason.
Let’s not forget these people either:
In 2003, it was Orlando Barlow, who was shot from 50 feet away with an assault rifle in front of four Las Vegas police officers by officer Brian Hartman while surrendering on his knees. Hartman argued that he feared Barlow was feigning surrender and about to grab a gun. Barlow was unarmed; jury ruled the fatal shooting was “excusable.” Hartman later resigned from the force a month before a federal probe uncovered that he and other officers printed T-Shirts labeled ”BDRT” which stood for “Baby’s Daddy Removal Team” and “Big Dogs Run Together.” The probe also found that Hartman and other officers had used excessive force during two separate investigations and lied about it. Their punishment: the possibility of losing their jobs, The Las Vegas Sun reports.
In 2005, it was Travares McGill, 16, who was killed by two white security guards. One of the guards had testified that Travares was coming at him in his car, but evidence showed the bullet that killed Travares hit him in the middle of the back and that the guard kept firing even after the car was no longer headed towards him. This happened in Sanford, Florida - the same community Trayvon Martin was killed in.
In 2005, it was the Danziger Bridge shootings, where New Orleans police officers shot six unarmed people, killing two. One of the men killed was 40-year-old Ronald Madison, a severely mentally disabled man who was shot in the back, his hands in plain view while he ran, held no weapon, posing no threat. After the shooting of Madison, “Sergeant A” (one of the officers involved) ran from the other side of the bridge. He proceeded to kick and stomp Madison as he lay bleeding to death from his fatal wound.
In 2009, it was Kiwane Carrington, 15, who was killed by officers responding to reports of a break-in. Kiwane and a friend were permitted guests in the back yard of some one they knew. The officer who killed Kiwane was suspended for 30 days without pay.
In 2009, it was Victor Steen, 17, who was killed when a police officer attempted to stop him for “looking suspicious”. Victor. who was unarmed, fled on his bike, and the officer chased him, attempting to hit him with his Taser while the chase was occurring. At some point, Victor fell. The police cruiser hit him, dragging him on the ground and killing him. A judge ruled the officer had committed no crime.
In 2010, it was Steven Eugene Washington, 27, who was killed when gang enforcement officers saw him “manipulating something in his waist area.” Steven was autistic, unarmed and had never had any run-ins with the police.
In 2011, it was Jimmell Cannon, 13, who was killed when police officers mistook him for a gunman they were searching for in response to a report of shots fired.
Just a week or two ago, it was Wendell Allen, 20, who was killed by officers executing a warrant on his house. He was unarmed at the time of the shooting. He had previously been arrested for possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. There were 5 children in the house at the time of the shooting, ranging in ages from 1 -14.
How many names did I miss? How many more names are we going to have to add to the list? What will it take for us to wake up? How much more blood will be spilled before we own up to the fact that racism is still alive and well in America, that being “colorblind” has not worked to stop the death and the pain?