Rayshard Brooks’ Killing Can’t be Justified

Republicans like Tim Scott and Ben Carson assert that the killing of Rayshard Brooks is “different” and so, they imply, at least in some respects justifiable.

The implication is clear: disobey or run from the police and they have the right to shoot and kill you — even if they know you are not bearing a lethal weapon.

It’s instructive to compare the killing of Brooks with the treatment of Joseph Parker, a white man who resisted arrest and assaulted a police officer in Massachusetts: “During a routine traffic stop in the early hours of Tuesday, Aug. 11, Joseph M. Parker of Wakefield, Massachusetts, allegedly jumped out of his car and punched a police officer in the face. ‘The officer hit his head on the ground, was knocked unconscious, and suffered a concussion…’

In the ensuing hours, Parker would assault a further six officers… He was reportedly hurling expletives all the while… Parker has been charged with assault and battery, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest…

The police managed to take him alive.”

There’s also the case of Eric Fein, an armed white man who actually killed a police officer, triggering a 48 hour manhunt. He, too, was successfully pacified and detained with non-lethal force.

The attached article dates from four years ago but offers some interesting (if maddening) data and anecdotes.

The police shooting of Brooks raises the same issues as the killing of George Floyd: 1) The police shouldn’t be able to kill you unless you are an immediate danger to the life of others; and 2) the police seem to kill unarmed suspects at much higher rates if they are black, reflecting widespread prejudice among armed officers and in our society about the value of black lives.

Let’s be clear about what we know of the killing of Rayshard Brooks: He “pointed a taser” at the police as he ran; he was not armed with a lethal weapon; and the videos in no way indicate that he was an immediate threat to anyone’s life. The police shot Brooks instead of pursuing him; and they did so out of vengeance and anger.

Scott and Carson are defending the murder of Rayshard Brooks. (The use of blacks as agents of racialist violence — a centuries-long tradition dating back to the era of slavery — is another interesting element here, one that will be widely leveraged among white Republicans, Fox News, etc.)

6/14/2020

Hassanaly Ladha is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Connecticut.

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