Look at the facts in the Rayshard Brooks case. The George Floyd killing was different.
The footage reveals key decisions by the Atlanta police officers involved, and important context that may be presented in potential criminal or civil trials. USA TODAY
There is no shortage of police misconduct due to racism. But claiming it where it may not exist weakens the righteous cause of stamping it out.
It has been three weeks, and I still can’t clear the image of a blue knee squeezing the breath out of George Floyd.
I wish I could put what happened to Floyd in a box labeled “isolated incident.” But that’s not possible because Floyd’s death is a dot in an unbroken line of similar incidents.
We’ve reached the point where we need to set aside tortured explanations that seek to absolve police. We must acknowledge the obvious — some cops treat African Americans much worse than white people.
From the horrifying flashpoint of Floyd’s killing came weeks of cops punching, gassing and shooting peaceful protesters and journalists. Then, on Friday night, a white Atlanta police officer shot and killed a Black man in a Wendy’s parking lot after an altercation. It took less than 48 hours for the wildfire of racism allegations to spread, for Atlanta’s mayor to fire the officer,for the police chief to resign, and for an angry mob to seek vindication by burning the hamburger restaurant to the ground.
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Not all killings are racially motivated
I empathize with the frustration and fury accompanying every “breaking news” bulletin that includes a white law enforcement officer and a dead African American. Decades of unjustified police shootings trigger an expectation that today’s is just like yesterday’s — and both are going to be covered with the walls of institutional privilege that often work to bury police misconduct while ignoring the African American bodies that are literally buried in its service.
I genuinely get it.
But not every white officer who shoots an African American man is motivated by racism, and not every police shooting is a crime.
Facts matter. Here are the facts leading up to the shooting:
►On Friday night, a Wendy’s employee called 911 to say a man appeared drunk and asleep behind the wheel of his car at the Wendy’s drive-through.
►Atlanta police responded, knocked on the window of Rayshard Brooks’ car, and asked him whether he was all right.
►During a conversation with Brooks, he denied being in the Wendy’s drive-through though one of the officers talked to him there moments earlier. Brooks also didn’t know he was in Atlanta.
►Suspecting he was under the influence of alcohol, the officer performed field sobriety tests, including a breathalyzer. Brooks was drunk.
►The officer told Brooks he was too intoxicated to drive and asked him to put his hands behind his back so he could be taken into custody for driving under the influence.
►Brooks pulled away and started fighting the officers, managing to throw both of them off him.
► Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and ran. The other officer tried to stop Brooks with his Taser but a chase ensued.
► While running, Brooks turned and pointed the stolen Taser at the officer. He then shot the Taser at the officer.
► Seconds later, the officer shot Brooks.
That a man died is tragic. But the protests, celebrity outcry and general media capitulation that equates Brooks’ death with that of George Floyd, and countless other African Americans who were murdered at the hands of flagrant police misconduct, is wrong.
In a headline reminiscent of the National Enquirer, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial Tuesday titled: “Atlanta police killed a Black man for being drunk at Wendy’s.” No. Mr. Brooks was not killed for being drunk.
prohibit prosecutors from making pretrial statements that could influence public perception and prejudice an accused's ability to get a fair trial. Howard violated this rule by making a lengthy In Georgia, an officer is entitled to use deadly force when he reasonably believes his life is in danger or he’s at risk of receiving a serious physical injury. When this case goes to trial, the jurors will be instructed that they must consider the context of Brooks attacking the officer, grabbing the Taser and shooting the Taser at the officer. This analysis includes the possibility that if Brooks hit the officer with the stolen Taser, he could grab the officer’s gun and shoot him.
Brooks was shot immediately after attempting to tase the officer. Despite Wednesday's charges, a dispassionate analysis of the evidence raises serious questions about whether the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, in that split second of chaos and instinct, the officer did not fear for his safety.
And to every 真人百家家乐官网网站home detective, journalist and pundit with a Twitter account, please stop suggesting the officer is guilty of murder because he did not "call an Uber” for a drunken driver. Having consoled many families whose loved ones were killed by drunken drivers, I don’t want the police putting drunken drivers in an Uber and sending them on their way.
And I can’t help but think that the same people calling for the officer’s blood today would be the first to call for his firing tomorrow if he had let Brooks go and Brooks got into another car and killed a family on their way 真人百家家乐官网网站home from dinner.
Until we as a society enact laws that direct law enforcement officers to let people go when they resist arrest, cops are obliged to do their job and arrest people who commit crimes.
watch the video. Then they should make their own assessments as to whether the officer was motivated by racism, or whether he was just a cop who was terrified and who tried to protect himself after being shot at with a Taser that was stolen in an attack seconds earlier.
Should this officer have been charged with murder? Or is he being sacrificed for the sins of bad cops who should have been charged but were not, and to keep peace in a city already ravaged by weeks of rioting?
There is no shortage of police misconduct due to racism. Combing through the public videos of the past several weeks alone could keep prosecutors busy for the foreseeable future. But rushing to claim racism and misconduct where it may not exist does not support the mission; it weakens it. And eliminating racism in policing is too righteous a cause to march anywhere but forward.
Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelJStern1