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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/25/14

Black Lives Do Matter

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Message Thelma Mueller

Black Lives do Matter

The lives of two young black men have been lost in almost similar circumstances and in both cases, the law enforcement officials who committed the crime have cried self-defense. In one case, the neighbourhood watch officer has claimed that he feared for his life when he discharged his weapon and killed the young black male whose only crime at the time was being out on a snack-run. His name was Trayvon Martin.

The shooting took place on February 26, 2012 and the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Travyon Martin on July 13, 2013. This is part of the statement given by George Zimmerman, "Tonight, I was on my way to the grocery store when I saw a male approximately 5'11" to 6'2" casually walking in the rain looking into homes. I pulled my vehicle over and called SPD non-emergency phone number. I told the dispatcher what I had witnessed, the dispatcher took note of my location and the suspect fled to a darkened area of the sidewalk." What ensued within minutes of that call was a black teenager being shot to death and the neighbourhood watch officer claiming self-defense and saying that he had been injured during the struggle with Martin although a video surfaces later showing Zimmerman free of bruises from the struggle but that didn't matter to the grand jury. Many screamed, "he was a thug!" and that may well have been the case. The question is, did he have to die on that night when he had not been committing any crime at the time? Or did he die because he was racially profiled and perhaps provoked into defending himself?

Now, let's fast forward to Michael Brown. He was 18 years old at the time of the shooting on August 9, 2014. He was unarmed at the time as was Travyon Martin. Teachers described him as "a student who loomed large and didn't cause trouble," and they went so far as to call him, "a gentle giant." He was 6'4" tall (1.93m ) and weighed 292lbx (132 kg) at the time he was shot. Shortly after the shooting, he was caught on a convenience store's security camera taking a $48 box of cigars. St. Louis County Police Chief, Jon Belmar issued this statement, "The genesis of this shooting incident was a physical confrontation" between the officer and Brown "who physically assaulted the police officer." The officer was said to have suffered a swelling on his face and cuts on his neck even though a video has surfaced showing the officer with no bruises of any kind on his face. Shades of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin all over again? The officer claimed that he decided to use deadly force because "he feared Brown was going to attack him." According to MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell, Wilson did not complete an incident report after being advised by a union lawyer not to do so. Later, it was changed to, Wilson did file a report but only ten days after the incident and the report contained no information other than his name and the date. Why? The St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office is claiming that the Ferguson Police Department has never generated an incident report on the shooting. Again why? Isn't it the norm to generate a report after an incident of this magnitude? Later, both departments did release incident reports, it gave the time when each police force arrived on the scene but contained no narrative description of what occurred." The incident was classified as a homicide. That was quick so why is it taking the grand jury months and months of deliberation to deliver a verdict?

According to Dorian Johnson, a friend of Mike Browns who was with him when the shooting took place claims that the police pulled up beside them and said, "Get the fu** on the sidewalk," because they were walking in the middle of the road. Normal police lingo or one used to provoke a belligerent response? After the so-called struggle that ensued moments later, Brown was shot six times. The victim was unarmed at the time and his height and size was used as a weapon by the police officer who claims he feared for his life. What were Brown's fears at the time when faced with a gun and a police officer saying, "I'll shoot you." Eye-witnesses have claimed that after being shot several times, Brown took one or two steps towards the officer, an act of desperation from a dying man who knew that his life was at an end and he stood no chance against a loaded gun and a belligerent officer? Wilson delivered the final shots killing Brown. Execution-style killing or just cold-blooded murder?

On August 20, a county grand jury began hearing evidence in the shooting death of the teenager. The officer-in-question has been put on a paid leave of absence AND Michael Brown's body has since been laid to rest. It is now November 24 th and the news media has been reporting that the grand jury is about to deliver its verdict on the case. Rumors are swirling that officer Wilson will not be indicted. "It is hard to indict a police officer." Why? Are they immune from any wrong-doing or does carrying a badge and a gun give them a free-pass to kill?

Let me be clear. Police officers have one of the toughest jobs in the world. Depending on where they do their policing, they put their lives on the line everyday and I am thankful for all that they do to keep the streets free from crime for the likes of you and me. That said, they also have an obligation to "police" without prejudice. The badge they wear is a badge of honor, it says, "I am here to serve and protect," not, "I am here to take justice into my own hands," or "I police selectively."

Was officer Wilson justified in shooting unarmed Michael Brown? Did he have cause to shoot him six or eight times? If he had feared for his life from an unarmed teenager, he should have stayed in his car until back-up appeared. Crying wolf one too many times is wearing thin on those of us who are watching. Blanket statements of, "He's a thug," "He was wearing a hoodie," "He was big," He's a suspect," and "I feared for my life" doesn't cut it anymore. Police officers should be trained to exercise caution when drawing their guns to shoot AND when to use it and when not to use it. Most of all, the community they police should be able to trust them to know that when they are stopped, they will not be persecuted for the color of their skin and have to fear for their lives.

Did police officer Darren Wilson have to discharge six bullets to keep his life safe? Perhaps that is what the grand jury should be looking at. What gives a police officer the license to kill? The occurrence of black men being shot to death is happening all too often and the reasons do not always fit the crime. This is wake-up call to stop the injustice and to right a wrong.

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Thelma Mueller is a writer residing in Germany but has lived in Asia and America for many years. She writes for an international online magazine daily and has published short stories, a children's book and is currently working on a novel. Her (more...)

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