The controversy has been heavy. Riots. Communities burning. There was the Ahmaud Arbery shooting in Brunswick, Georgia, the death of a young black man in the street at the hands of one of two white men who were pursuing him. There was the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an African-American man whose heart stopped while prone with police kneeling on top of him, which triggered the spate of protests that often turned into violent riots. And, most recently, the shooting death of African-American Rayshard Brooks at the hands of a white Atlanta police officer.
If you’re a regular here, you know my personal rule on this sort of thing is:
‘til you’ve heard each side.
I was interviewed three weeks ago on the Arbery shooting, here: I said there that we the public shouldn’t pre-judge because there’s so much we don’t know yet. Since that interview, we’ve been told that the shooter stood over Arberry’s body and said, “F—in’ (N-word).” Expect still more to come out.
I don’t know of anyone in the law enforcement sector who defends kneeling on a handcuffed man and holding him prone when he states he is in respiratory distress and is not actively resisting arrest. At the same time, there are some of us who feel the cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck area, and particularly some of the officers present, may have been over-charged to placate public demand. See this assessment by another writer. For one thing, I want to see the bodycam recordings from the officers’ cameras, which have not been released at this writing.
In Atlanta, we’ve seen a rush to judgment. We have to remember as we watch the video of Brooks running from the officer, we were all told that he had a TASER in his hand before we saw it. The cop who pulled the trigger reportedly said in his initial statements that he saw a flash and heard a report as Brooks pointed something gun-like at him, causing him to draw and fire. We’ve seen some video, but I’ve not yet seen his bodycam video. The officer now faces a murder charge carrying the death penalty, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation – in charge of investigating the case – has not yet completed that investigation. That smacks of not only a rush to judgment, but a grotesque overcharge. There is still more we need to know. An African-American sheriff has this to say.
When we speak of overcharges, and charging without complete investigation, we speak of not only injustice in and of itself but also of a case most unlikely to result in a guilty-as-charged verdict.
Let us not forget that the Rodney King riots that tore Los Angeles apart happened when the accused officers were acquitted. It’s an unintended consequence, but one that should be considered before announcing charges.