On the afternoon of Saturday, August 3rd, a young man in Colorado Springs called 911 and said that he had just been robbed at gun point. He said he knew the two teenagers who did it, that they walked up on him, knocked him down, pulled a gun on him, and took his wallet. According to his 911 call, after he was robbed, he walked into a random nursing home nearby to call the police.
Minutes later, police were dispatched to the location of the robbery. Driving all through the neighborhood, they found two young Black teenagers, De’Von Bailey, and his cousin Lawrence, and stopped them. De’Von and Lawrence put their hands up, answered some basic questions from the police, but within seconds, De’Von panicks and runs for it.
Now the day after the shooting, and for several straight days, police said something publicly that was damning. They said that when De’Von ran, that he reached for a gun, and that Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson fired 8 shots, striking De’Von repeatedly in the back, because they saw him reach for a gun.
I’ve found a dozen different articles where police said De’Von Bailey reached for a gun. I can say with absolute certainty that that never happened. In fact, after the police shot De’Von, you can hear them, over and over again, asking themselves if he had a gun. They didn’t know. But I can say, for sure that De’Von never touched a gun, never reached for a gun, never pulled one out. It never happened. When the police began searching De’Von, who was bleeding to death on the concrete, they literally had to cut his pants off, and they found one.
He had a gun. And what we know in this country is that being Black with a gun, in any type of confrontation with police, even if they’ve just pulled you over, as police did Philando Castile, if you even have a gun near you, and are Black, you are in grave danger when an American police officer confronts you.
Now, as we’ve seen in case after case, when a white supremacist shoots up a church, or a Wal-Mart, and slaughters dozens of people, and is heavily armed, sometimes with assault rifles, somehow, those white men always get taken in alive.
But De’Von Bailey is dead. Police shot to kill him. That’s how they’re trained.
De’Von Bailey should be alive right now. He did not deserve to die. And I have to fight back against this narrative of the perfect Black victim – where we only give sympathy or advocacy to people who check every box when the most horrible white men survive police encounters every day. All of that is true.
When police pull you over in a car, do not speed off. You will have committed a series of new crimes, you will not get away, and it could very well end in your death or the death of others.
When police confront you and you are out of a car, like they did in this case with De’Von, do not run. I don’t care how fast you are. I don’t care how well you know the community. I don’t care how afraid you are of the consequences of staying, do not run.
The police have played this scenario in their mind, not dozens, not even hundreds, but thousands of times. They’ve rehearsed it. They’ve trained for it. And if you run, armed or unarmed, having committed a crime, or not, it is highly likely that these officers will shoot and kill you.
Now this isn’t me saying De’Von Bailey deserved to be shot. Never that.
When the Supreme Court decision Tennessee v Garner was first decided, it was widely hailed as a victory for civil rights leaders, because it literally says that police are NOT allowed to shoot someone who runs from them, even if they are armed, even if they just committed a crime, it could be murder, the law says police cannot shoot someone just to apprehend them, but the law then says a word: EXCEPT when the officer fears for their safety or that of the community.
And what we see here is that police academies are teaching police to always be afraid, always assume someone is going to harm you, but in real life, how that works out is that police appear to always fear Black men but just don’t seem to have that corresponding fear with white men.
De’Von Bailey faced judge, jury, and executioner on August 3rd. He deserved a day in court, he deserved due process, he deserved a chance to make his case, but the way things are stacked up right now, those things apply to some people a helluva lot more than they do others.