Chavis: A Familiar Tale of Police Misconduct

We seem to live in a bizarre universe where violence against unarmed black men is OK.

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(The Root) -- Welcome to the Twilight Zone, where a bag of Skittles counts as a deadly weapon, and men are capable of shooting themselves in the head while handcuffed -- with double locks -- behind their own backs.

In 21st-century America, there is apparently no distinction between a boy holding rainbow-colored candy and a man carrying a dime bag of marijuana: All black males -- criminal or otherwise -- are met with violent, deadly force.

The death of Chavis Carter, a 21-year-old African-American male from Mississippi, looks like the latest in a never-ending tale of inexcusable brutality unleashed onto unarmed African-American youths.

Carter was shot dead in Jonesboro, Ark., on July 28. He had been riding with two white male passengers when they were stopped for a routine traffic violation. The driver, a 17-year-old whose identity has been withheld, and a 19-year-old, Timothy Teal, were both released.

Carter was detained after an initial frisk produced a bag of marijuana worth $10. Apparently, police conducted a name search and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in Mississippi. (The warrant was issued in 2011 after Carter pleaded guilty to one count of selling marijuana.)

The officers claim that they searched Carter a second time before placing his hands in double-locked handcuffs -- behind his back -- but moments later he was found with a bullet in his head, in the rear of the officer's vehicle. Police concluded that Carter had committed suicide using a concealed weapon that they'd missed during two body searches.

Yes, you read that correctly. They claim to have found a small bag of marijuana, but missed a handgun. Twice.

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The Jonesboro police chief, Michael Yates, defended the officers -- who have been placed on paid administrative leave -- but acknowledged that the circumstances were "bizarre" and the incident "defies logic."

For too many African-American sons, this kind of bizarre logic is commonplace in encounters with law enforcement -- from the dark woods of Jonesboro, Ark., and the manicured lawns of Sanford, Fla., to the hot pavements of Chicago and New York City.

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