The war on black men continues. It’s the crisis in America that gets swept under the rug even though the tally of black men who are shot by police is growing at an alarming rate. There are no congressional hearings; no national town hall meetings, and no prime-time special reports on cable television.
While co-hosting with Rev. Al Sharpton on his national radio show last week, we talked about the increasing number of Black men who are killed by police and whose shooting deaths are not always reported in national news.
Sadly, for some, these shootings have become routine. But for many in Savannah, Georgia’s black community, there is a sense of anger, outrage and sorrow over the death of Charles Smith, 29, who was shot and killed by Savannah Chatham Metro Police Officer David Jannot on September 18.
At the time of the shooting, after Smith was arrested due to outstanding warrants, he was handcuffed and in the back of a police cruiser. So why was Smith shot when he was already subdued? He was clearly not a threat to police, yet he was shot and killed anyway. Andre Debnum, who led local protests calling for justice, told reporters:
“It’s quite unbelievable that someone could do the things they’re accusing him of.” Like many police shootings, there are discrepancies, but in this case, there is some indisputable evidence. “There is a video that actually depicts the arrest and that has been handed over to the Police Chief,” Cyrus Purdiman, Assistant Special Agent for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told reporters.
According to media reports, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is hoping to have their investigation wrapped up and the file turned over to the District Attorney’s Office within the next two months.
“I am very glad that the video shows that they did a search on Mr. Dee (Charles Smith). They did frisk him,” said Alicia Blakely, the Savannah Chapter President for the National Action Network.
Smith wasn’t a model citizen. According to media reports, Smith was on parole at the time of the shooting for an aggravated assault conviction in which he had pleaded guilty to pistol whipping a man in 2009. In September, Smith was involved in two stolen car incidents and run-ins with police. He has 16 different arrests over almost a decade.
But regardless of Smith’s criminal past, he still didn’t deserve to be shot and killed while handcuffed. If police felt Smith was a threat, they suppressed that threat by handcuffing him. How could Smith have possibly harmed police if he couldn’t use his hands? Smith is part of a growing list of black men—all of them unarmed – who have been shot and killed by police during questionable circumstances. Consider these examples:
- Kimini Gray, 16, was unarmed when he was shot four times by New York police in 2013 –
- Kendrec McDade, 19, unarmed, shot and killed by police in Pasadena, California in 2012. His last words were: “Why did they shoot me?” –
- Timothy Russell, shot and killed in 2012 by Cleveland police who fired 137 rounds into his car. He was unarmed.
- Timothy Stansbury, 19, was shot in Brooklyn, New York in 2012. He was unarmed. The police officer said it was an accident and a grand jury agreed. –
- Trayvon Martin, 17, unarmed, shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. Zimmerman was acquitted. –
- Eric Garner, 43, strangled by police in New York in 2014 after cops used an illegal choke hold. Garner was unarmed. –
- Jordan Davis, 17, was shot in 2013 by Michael Dunn, who said he saw Davis with a gun. Police found no weapon and Dunn was convicted of murder in Jacksonville, Florida last month.
Hundreds of Savannah residents have gathered for peaceful protests in the Smith case. The Reverend Leonard Small of Litway Baptist Church told reporters that he’s concerned about police firing their weapons at Black men. “We don’t expect those who are to protect and serve us, to shoot us,” Small said. It’s unconscionable that so many shooting deaths of black men by police have become a predictable way of life. When will it end? What do you think?