Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Bomber Gets Wounded, An Innocent Guy Is Shot & Killed

Rahami being taken into custody
Like millions of other people, I applaud officers Angel Padilla and Peter Hammer, the brave members of the Linden (NJ) Police Department who found Chelsea bombing suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami sleeping in the entranceway of a Linden bar, and managed to take him into custody yesterday after a shootout.

Given the circumstances it's remarkable that they captured him alive to be questioned.

By all accounts, both officers had every right to use deadly force on the 28-year-old Rahami, but they kept their composure and maintained their professionalism. 

As WABC reported Rahmi almost immediately opened fire on officer Padilla after he was awakened by the officer who recognized him as the bombing suspect.

Despite the fact that Rahami ran into the street firing shots, the officers managed to shoot and wound the suspect; ensuring the opportunity for members of law enforcement to interrogate the suspect for critical information on the bombings in Chelsea and Seaside Park.

That's a pretty significant contrast to the way that members of the Tulsa Police Department treated 40-year-old African-American motorist Terrence Crutcher last Friday night when they came upon his vehicle stalled in the middle of a road and shot him dead. 

Terrence Crutcher walks away with his hands raised
Credit should obviously go to the leadership of the Tulsa PD for releasing the video to the public as quickly as they did to demonstrate a willingness to conduct an open investigation into the shooting.

Unlike the Chicago PD who waited over a year to release the video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot multiple times as he was walking away from officers.

From what we know, the case of Terrence Crutcher is very different, it's still light out as you can clearly see from the video still above.

Now if you haven't already seen the video you should take a look at it for yourself, I've watched the dash cam footage from one of the Tulsa PD vehicles that approaches the scene after the first officer is already in contact with Crutcher. 

But I think people need to watch the overhead police helicopter footage and listen to one of the officers as he casually remarks that Crutcher "looks like a bad dude, he's probably on something".

It's clear that three different officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder are within about twenty feet of Crutcher as he's walking away from them slowly with his arms clearly in the air.

Officer Betty Shelby
He doesn't rush them, he makes no attempt to flee or any sudden movements that suggest he's reaching for a weapon; but one of the officers tasers Crutcher, and then another officers fires a shot from a hand gun.

According to an NBC News article, the lawyer representing officer Betty Shelby, the white Tulsa police officer who fired the shot that struck and killed Crutcher, Shelby claims Crutcher wasn't responding to police commands and then walked to the side of his vehicle - again, slowly with his hands up.

But as Crutcher family attorney Benjamin Crump observed,  images taken from the helicopter video footage clearly show the driver's side window was rolled up, so clearly Crutcher wasn't reaching inside the vehicle as was initially reported.

From what I read about officer Shelby, she doesn't seem like a bad cop.

I do think find it interesting that her Tulsa PD officer husband was inside the helicopter that took the clearest video of the scene; though the Tulsa PD claim he wasn't the officer heard on the radio saying that Crutcher "looks like a bad dude."

There's still so little known about what prompted that deadly shot, and obviously an investigation will reveal more information, but I do think it says a lot about how race, ethnicity and unconscious (or conscious) bias affects how some members of law enforcement in this country view African-Americans as "threats".

Like that officer in the helicopter, he's hundreds of feet in the air over the scene, yet he makes the determination that Crutcher (a church-going father who'd supposedly just come from a night class at Tulsa Community College) is a "bad dude".

What was he basing that on?

In the same year (2015) that Dylan Roof, the white gunman who walked into a South Carolina church and shot and killed nine African-Americans at a Bible study in cold blood (and who was beaten up in jail back in August), was taken into custody by police without incident - Walter Scott, the unarmed black motorist who was shot in the back by former officer Michael Slager after being stopped for a faulty brake light and trying to flee, was killed on the spot for a minor civil infraction.

The list of unarmed black Americans killed by police is disturbingly long, and Terrence Crutcher's death in Tulsa makes it longer.

Seems to me that if officers in Linden, NJ can take a suspected terrorist responsible for detonating explosive devices designed to kill large numbers of people into custody without killing him, four officers in Tulsa should be able to detain an unarmed man with his hands raised walking slowly around a stalled vehicle parked in the middle of a road.
But this is America, and for some police officers, perhaps perception is more important than logic.

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