When I heard the suspicious story that the Hoover Police Department in Alabama had changed its narrative regarding the identity and the actions of the man who an officer wrongly killed in a shopping mall on Thanksgiving, my gut feeling was that he was Black.
Emantic Bradford Jr., it turns out, was not the shooter, which is how the police characterized him for at least a day. It turns out he had no involvement whatsoever in the shooting that left two others wounded.
When I heard that a “tragic mistake” had been made in the suburbs of Chicago resulting in the shooting death by police of a security guard who had subdued a would-be night club shooter and saved many lives — a young father of a son who had quite a reputation as church organist — I felt for certain that the man police said they thought was a threat when officers arrived on the scene outside Manny’s Luxury Lounge in Robbins, Ill., was Black.
“Everybody was screaming out, ‘He was a security guard,’ and they basically saw a Black man with a gun and killed him,” witness Adam Harris told WGN after an officer from nearby Midlothian fired the fatal shot.
If there is a bright side, at least Jemel Roberson’s family, unlike Bradford’s, didn’t have to endure 24 hours of hearing how the police had saved people with their heroic actions, which is how Hoover police characterized Bradford’s take down until the read story came out.
Days later, the real suspect was arrested near Atlanta. All Bradford’s family got from police was an empty apology, and a narrative that is no more believable than “the dog ate my homework.” Bradford has been reduced to nothing more than collateral damage. “Sorry for your loss” is all his family has gotten over his wrongful death.
And finally, when the U.S. Department of Justice announced indictments of four St. Louis police officers last week in connection with the assault of Luther Hall, a 22-year fellow cop who was working undercover during a 2017 protest — ironically in connection with the exoneration of white officer Jason Stokely in the shooting death of African American Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011 — I knew what was coming.
The indictment accuses three of the four of throwing their fellow officer to the ground, kicking him and striking him with a baton. One officer is accused of destroying his colleague’s cellphone. All are charged with attempting to a cover-up of their actions.
They claimed their undercover colleague was resisting arrest. Who knows? What I will do is venture a guess that a veteran of nearly 25 years of policing probably knows some catchwords to throw out to colleagues that would make him identifiable as a fellow officer, especially if he’s about to be bludgeoned.
One cop facing indictment, Dustin Boone, was so amped up that he allegedly sent out a text message to his buddies in advance of the protest.
“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” He texted on Sept. 15, 2017, the day of the verdict that acquitted Stokely in the 2011 shooting death of a Black man follow a high-speed car chase. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s—heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart.”
Oh, I almost forgot. Quite naturally, the 22-year police veteran who absorbed the beating was Black. Not surprisingly, the cop doling out the beat down are all white. One of the dutiful civil servants is a lady.
At this point, I could attempt to go scholarly here with an explanation. After all, this is what journalists are trained to do: find some study and treat it as if it’s the unimpeachable truth. For that, there’s the March 2017 study published by the American Psychological Association that found that people see Black men as more threatening than same-sized white men.
But what good is a study of something so pernicious and pervasive — particularly when it’s simply states an obvious fact for many of us — if there is never a solution or a resolution for behavior that continues to repeat itself and to which the racial demographics of those involved never seem to vary?
Two of the three Black men mentioned — one a law enforcement officer and one perfectly fitting National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s description of “a good guy with a gun” — experienced things that I simply don’t believe happen to their white counterparts.
Yes, there are mistakes. But fully identifiable white male security guards don’t get shot by arriving police officers. White plainclothes officers working a riot aren’t beaten senseless by four Black cops.
What kind of trouble would that Black cop be in if he sent out a text message about his eagerness to ‘beat the hell’ out of protesters?
LaPierre might have to revamp his thinking. Being a good guy with a gun, a badge or a uniform doesn’t work so well for that good guy when he’s Black.