When a Black woman gets held at gunpoint by police for being in her own house, we know there’s a problem.
Wells got locked outside of her house in the predominately White neighborhood of Santa Monica, Calif. The businesswoman, who explains she was rushing to her weekly soccer game, decided to deal with the fiasco when she got home.
When Wells arrived at her home after the game, she called a locksmith to open her door. But as she was getting settled, she heard a barking dog. She peered outside her window to see a gun pointed straight at her.
“Come outside with your hands up,” they demanded.
She explains, “This man has a gun and will kill me if I don’t come outside. At the same time, I thought: I’ve heard this line from policemen in movies. Although he didn’t identify himself, perhaps he’s an officer.”
She went outside with her hands raised, thoughts racing through her head.
“I had no idea what was happening, but I saw how it would end: I would be dead in the stairwell outside my apartment, because something about me — a 5-foot-7, 125-pound black woman — frightened this man with a gun. I sat down, trying to look even less threatening, trying to de-escalate. I again asked what was going on. I confirmed there were no pets or people inside.”
The cops invaded her home, put her hands behind her back, and took her outside with her neighbors watching. Sixteen police officers were surrounding her.
It wasn’t until later that she learned the Santa Monica Police Department dispatched 19 officers after a neighbor called 911 to report a possible burglary in her apartment.
A neighbor complained he had “never seen” the VP before. She boldly stepped to her unfriendly neighbor and introduced herself.
“[I] asked if he was aware of the gravity of his actions — the ocean of armed officers, my life in danger. He stuttered about never having seen me, before snippily asking if I knew my next-door neighbor. After confirming that I did and questioning him further, he angrily responded, ‘I’m an attorney, so you can go f— yourself,’ and walked away.”
Eventually, Wells filed a complaint. But she’s receiving no answers about the excessive show of cops.
I got no clear answers from the police that night and am still struggling to get them, despite multiple visits, calls and e-mails to the Santa Monica Police Department requesting the names of the officers, their badge numbers, the audio from my neighbor’s call to 911 and the police report. The sergeant didn’t e-mail me the officers’ names as he promised. I was told that the audio of the call requires a subpoena and that the small army of responders, guns drawn, hadn’t merited an official report. I eventually received a list from the SMPD of 17 officers who came to my apartment that night, but the list does not include the names of two officers who handed me their business cards on the scene. I’ve filed an official complaint with internal affairs.
Answers, while nice, will never change what happened. The emotional scars of being violated in front of your own home can never be erased, Wells suggested.
I’m heartbroken that his careless assessment of me, based on skin color, could endanger my life. I’m heartbroken by the sense of terror I got from people whose job is supposedly to protect me. I’m heartbroken by a system that evades accountability and justifies dangerous behavior. I’m heartbroken that the place I called home no longer feels safe. I’m heartbroken that no matter how many times a story like this is told, it will happen again.
What happened to Wells proves that no titles, degrees, or tax bracket can protect you from the criminalization of Black skin. It’s a reality that many are working to change every day. But, sadly, there are just as many who are working to keep that reality the same.
You can read Wells’ entire ordeal here.
SOURCE: The Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty