Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

How Does a Cop Mistake a Miscellaneous Object for a Gun?

A wallet, a phone and even a sandwich could pose a threat.

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Image for article titled How Does a Cop Mistake a Miscellaneous Object for a Gun?
Screenshot: NY Daily News / Cleveland.com / CNN

New York City reached a $3 million settlement with the family of Khiel Coppin, a teen fatally shot by the NYPD in 2007, per the NY Daily News. Coppin was shot more than 20 times while surrendering. Just moments before, he had been holding a hair brush which the police mistook for a firearm.

The report says the police were called by Coppin’s mother because he had been experiencing a mental crisis. Authorities claim Coppin threatened the officers, saying he had a gun when, in reality, it was just a black hair brush.

More about his case from PIX 11:

“When officers responded to a mother’s call for help they were confronted by what they believed to be a lethal threat and had to make split-second decisions,” Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci said.

“Officers testified that Mr. Coppin lunged at them with a knife, yelled that he had a gun, and reached for that weapon in the bulge of his sweatshirt, despite repeated orders to raise his hands. While this incident ended tragically, a lower court agreed that the actions of these officers were justified under the circumstances. An appellate court, however, reinstated claims against the officers, saying a jury should weigh the evidence. We have carefully reviewed this tragic case and have determined that this agreement was in the best interest of all parties.”

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Coppin’s mother sued, claiming there was no rational excuse for shooting at Coppin when he was unarmed with his hands in the air.

Arguably, there was no rational excuse all the other times a Black man died over an officer’s inability to differentiate a miscellaneous object from a firearm. Amadou Diallo, 23, was shot and killed in a hail of 41 bullets by NYPD officers who mistook his wallet for a gun, the New York Times reported. Stephon Clark, 22, was shot to death by Sacramento police officers in 2018 because they thought he was pointing a gun at them, per CNN. It was a cellphone. Casey Goodson Jr., 23, was fatally shot in the back by sheriffs’ deputies while holding a Subway sandwich and his house keys, per VICE News.

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Regardless of the reasons why the officers approached them in the first place, the criminalization of Black men leads far too many cops to assume they’re armed and dangerous before they can even prove that they aren’t.