A sobering new study finds that at least one black person dies nearly every day at the hands of law enforcement, a security guard or some other level of “self-appointed vigilante” here in the U.S. The use and concept of deadly force against blacks is now such standard practice among many of those otherwise designated as their protectors, it’s almost become as rudimentary as a reflex action.
Produced by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the No More Trayvon Martins campaign and entitled the “Extrajudicial Killings of Black People,” researchers toiled around the clock in uncovering that every 40 hours, just over a day and half, at least one victim fell prey to such torment and since the start of this year well over a hundred more sufferers (110 as of June 30) have succumbed to the same dubious distinction, thereby increasing the rate of the epidemic over the least six months to an even more alarming one victim every 36 hours.
“Any of these people killed could have been my son or your husband or daughter,” said study co-author and Malcolm X Solidarity Committee board member Arlene Eisen. Added fellow board member Rosa Clemente, “nowhere is a black woman or man safe from racial profiling, constant surveillance and overriding suspicion. All black people, regardless of education, class, occupation, behavior or dress are subject to the whims of the police in this epidemic of state initiated or condoned violence.”
Beyond the highly publicized slaying of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death as he returned to his Sanford, Fla. home from a nearby convenience store by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, researchers specifically sought to bring light to countless other similar killings which have largely gone underreported.
In a release, MXGM officials stressed: “The corporate media has given little attention to these extrajudicial killings… we call them “extrajudicial” because they happen without trial or any due process, against all international law and human rights convention. Those few mainstream media outlets that mention the epidemic of killings have been unwilling to acknowledge the killings are systemic… on the contrary nearly all of the mainstream media join in the chorus that sings the praises of the police and read from the same script that denounces the alleged “thuggery” of the deceased.”
According to researchers, based on claims by witnesses and other gleamed sources of evidence, many of the official police reports filed by officers detailing what they contend to lead to many of the deadly encounters now stand in stark debate.
“What’s clear is the climate is such that it seems open season when it comes to the way far too many of us are treated by those who are empowered to be our protectors,” said Clemente. “We’re being slaughtered on our own streets.”
Indeed of this year’s 110 victims, 47 were found to have no weapon at the time of their deaths and though another 40 were described as having a weapon, many of those reports have long been in dispute based on eyewitness accounts and the questionable ways in which some officers some have taken the liberty of listing such innocuous objects as a cane and BB gun as deadly devices in their reports.
Many of the episodes were found to have been initiated during controversial stop and frisk encounters or other instances the researchers deemed as acts of racial profiling. Investigators found that 43 percent of all victims killed on the street were originally stopped due to “suspicious behavior or appearance” or during simple traffic related stops. Further breakdown shows that another 10 percent were proven not to be involved in any criminal behavior at all at the times of their deaths and only 33 percent of all other encounters derived from any form of actual investigation.
As sinister as all those findings might be, researchers were apt to point out an equally alarming pattern of practice they likewise found to be at work. Of all this year’s 110 victims, 12 percent (13) were under the age of 18, 30 percent were under the age of 21 (33) and 71 percent (78) were under the age of 31.
Of all the grisly details outlined in the report, the plight of Dayton, Ohio victim Dante Price stands out. Two security guards fired at least 17 shots into the 25-year-old father of two’s vehicle last March, hitting him three times, as he attempted to drive away from them.
Justin Wissinger, 24, and Christopher Tarbert, 32, have since been indicted on murder and abduction charges and the state prosecutor has admitted they grossly overstepped their authority in using such unprovoked force.
In yet another heartbreaking instance, former Marine and father of two Manuel Loggins was shot to death in front of both his daughters last February by Orange County Sheriff Deputy Darren Sandberg, who at first told authorities he feared for his safety in opening fire, before later revising his story to say he only did so after becoming fearful for the girls’ safety.
The unarmed Loggins was hit multiple times as he returned to his parked vehicle outside his kid’s school parking lot. Despite the differing in versions of events, Sandberg has since been allowed to return to active duty. Meanwhile, Loggins’ family has filed federal suit against the Orange County Department.
And then there’s the story of 22-year-old Chicago native Reika Boyd, shot to death by a stray bullet recklessly fired by an off-duty officer near her home last spring when he unsuspectingly opened fire on another unarmed victim.
“I want people to know I didn’t have no gun… she didn’t have no gun,” said intended target Antonio Cross. I want people to know that girl was killed for nothing.”
Words Clemente, MXGM officials and other concerned parties insist they’ve come to hear for too often.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.