Chavis: A Familiar Tale of Police Misconduct

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


Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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.

Infamous cases include that of 23-year-old Sean Bell, shot four times in the neck and torso on the night before his wedding in 2006. Leaving a New York City nightclub after his bachelor party, Bell was driving away when undercover police, they claim, heard someone yell “gun” and began shooting — a total of 50 times — killing Bell and severely injuring two other men. No weapon was ever discovered in Bell’s car, and three of the five police involved in the shooting death were indicted and charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault. Yet all three officers were found not guilty, on all charges.

Kendrec McDade, an unarmed 19-year-old college student, was shot to death in Pasadena, Calif., this past March after two officers believed that he was involved in a robbery and mistakenly thought he had a weapon. McDade suffered seven bullet wounds — three of which sliced through arteries in his lower abdomen and upper right arm. The police have yet to be charged. A federal suit filed by McDade’s parents claim that their son was handcuffed as he lay dying and did not receive medical assistance for a prolonged period of time.

Student athlete Trayvon Martin turned 17 just three weeks before his shooting death at the hands of a self-appointed neighborhood-watch captain, George Zimmerman. Trayvon was holding Skittles and iced tea, but police believed his killer’s story: that he’d only acted in self-defense against the teenager. Zimmerman was initially released, with the murder weapon, and is currently free on bail awaiting trial.

And black females are not immune to the violence.