The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office in northern Florida proved me right. It’s not even safe for a black man to stand on his own property without being shot.
Last week, Roy Middleton, who was also unarmed, was shot by police in his own front yard while grabbing a cigarette from his mother’s car that was parked in the driveway.
“It was like a firing squad,” Middleton told reporters. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”
A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While Middleton was looking into the car, sheriff deputies showed up, assumed Middleton was a thief, and shouted: “Get your hands where I can see them.”
Middleton, 60, said he thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but then he saw the deputies looking deadly serious – and with their guns drawn.
And with his hands raised, silent, and not resisting arrest, the deputies opened fire, with one bullet tearing through Middleton’s leg.
Middleton is fortunate that he wasn’t killed. And since the shooting, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has remained silent.
“I’m just glad they didn’t hit me here or here,” Middleton said from his hospital bed, pointing toward his head and chest. “My mother’s car is full of bullet holes though. My wife had to go and get a rental.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting and the deputies, who have not been identified, have been placed on paid administrative leave.
But questions surrounding the shooting are endless. Why did the deputies open fire on Middleton without asking who he was? Why didn’t they run a check on the car in the driveway? Why didn’t they ask Middleton for ID? Why are these cops still being paid?
And why did they automatically assume Middleton was a criminal? Because Middleton is black.
A teenage girl who said she witnessed a portion of the incident said she never saw Middleton provoke the deputies.
“He wasn’t belligerent or anything,“ she said.
By acquitting Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, the all-female jury of five whites and one Hispanic set a dangerous precedent by giving neighborhood watch captains, would-be cops — and sheriff’s deputies — the legal authority to shoot black men first and ask questions later.
Middleton’s shooting underscores my point that overzealous police – and random gun owners – continue to use the Zimmerman verdict to justify shooting black men who they feel look suspicious even if the black men are standing in their own driveways.
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama told the nation that racial profiling still exists and he told his truth about experiencing racism as a black man in America.
“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” Obama said. “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.”
Clearly, the sheriff’s deputies of Escambia County Florida didn’t embrace Obama’s message. They weren’t trying to be compassionate or understanding. They saw a black man – and they opened fire.
Meanwhile, Middleton said he doesn’t understand why he was shot. He also said deputies never offered him an explanation or an apology.
“Even if they thought the car was stolen, all they had to do was run the license plate,” he said. “They would have seen that that car belonged there.”
But for these overzealous Florida cops, it was easier to shoot Middleton rather than logging his name into their on-board computer because he’s a black man and by definition, he’s suspicious.
How many more unarmed black men have to be shot before this racial madness ends?