Does Donald Trump go to the beauty-supply store to buy his Remy hair or does he send the Secret Service? Will Blue Ivy be the lead singer of Destiny’s Grandchildren, or will the BeyHov twins form their own rap group? When Republicans pass the Affordable Health Care Act, will you be able to purchase handguns and Bibles with your insurance card, but not birth control? If Issa could cheat on educated, handsome, faithful Lawrence for a SoundCloud rapper, does love really exist? When Vladimir Putin made Trump his puppet, how did Vlad fit his muscular forearms up Trump’s rectum?
There have been a lot of distractions in 2017. Despite the rise of the “alt-right,” Steve Harvey’s relentless Trump-fellating and the birth of alternative facts, at least police killings have slowed down this year. In 2016 it seemed as if cops killed a black man every few minutes, but maybe all the attention finally got them to realize the error of their ways. We hardly ever hear about police shootings anymore, and it is good to see that law-enforcement officers have figured out how to stem the alarming epidemic of police killing people of color.
Except they haven’t.
According to the Washington Post’s database that tracks police shootings, 237 people have been shot and killed by police this year. That is 14 more people than had been shot and killed by police at this point last year. If you count all the people who died during encounters with police, including Tasers, physical force and other methods (as the website Killed by Police does), the total jumps to 278 for the year, five more than last year at this time.
So why haven’t police killings been on the front pages of all the newspapers this year? The same reason the Soulja Boy-Bow Wow album didn’t go platinum. No one cares anymore. People have moved on. Black America has always been aware of and screamed about police brutality, but the larger popular culture only started caring about it when they happened upon the Eric Garner video on BuzzFeed or Reddit, or whatever the Caucasian equivalent of The Root may be. Police brutality only made front pages because it was trending on white Twitter, because black lives are like twerking, cornrows, rock ’n’ roll, full lips and everything else in the American zeitgeist: Black people can do it for years, but it never becomes popular until white people notice.
In case you missed it, here are some police killings this year that are just as deplorable as the ones that made headlines last year, but no one is talking about:
Alteria Woods, 21, Gifford, Fla.: March 9
Alteria Woods was asleep after a night at the movies and the county fair when a SWAT team showed up at her boyfriend’s house. The cops had been tipped that it was a drug house, and sheriff’s deputies say that Woods’ boyfriend, Andrew Coffee IV, used her as a human shield and fired at the police through a window. Police fired back and killed the unarmed pregnant woman.
Woods’ boyfriend is OK.
Desmond Phillips, 25, Sacramento, Calif.: March 17
When Desmond Phillips’ father called paramedics (as he had done before) to help his mentally ill son access his medicine, the fire department showed up instead. They reported that Phillips was acting erratic, and police were called to the scene. Two police officers forced their way inside the home and noticed that Desmond was holding a butter knife and a smaller knife used to chop vegetables. One policeman fired a Taser, and then a second cop fired his gun 10-12 times, according to witnesses. Phillips had a documented history of mental illness and no criminal record.
Rodney James Hess, 36, Alamo, Tenn.: March 16
Police allege that Rodney Hess made erratic statements and was acting wildly when he parked his car on a Tennessee highway. Hess filmed the encounter on Facebook Live and told authorities that he “would like the higher commands to come out.” When he allegedly used his car in an attempt to strike the officers, they opened fire, shooting through the windshield.
Hess was unarmed.
Chad Roberson, 25, Chicago: Feb. 8
The police said that they “shot a robbery suspect” and found “drugs and cash on him.
Chad Roberson was traveling by Megabus from a wedding in Memphis, Tenn., back to his home in Minnesota. When the bus stopped for a layover in Chicago, Roberson was told that he should wait in Union Station to stay warm because there was no bus station for Megabus. At Union Station, Roberson said, cops rudely approached him, and after they exchanged words, he walked away. Roberson, realizing that he left a bag behind, turned around, and when the police stopped him for a search, Roberson thought about the small amount of marijuana in his pocket and turned and ran. Police fired at Roberson and one of the bullets lodged in his spine, paralyzing him until his death four days later.
Chad Roberson was unarmed and had no criminal history.
Jerome Keith Allen, 22, Jacksonville, Fla.: Feb. 6
In a case of another casualty of the war on drugs, Jacksonville police went undercover and convinced Ronnie Brown to help them buy $40 worth of cocaine. They went to one purported drug spot but couldn’t find any drugs. When they arrived at the second spot, Brown got out of the car. Just before leaving, he told the undercover officers to look on the floor of the police car. When they looked down, the officers discovered that Brown, who had disappeared into the night, had left the cocaine the undercover cops wanted on the floorboard.
When the officer who had also been in the back seat raised his head, he saw Jerome Keith Allen standing at the window with “what looked like a dark gun.” The cop opened fire and shot Allen six or seven times, later saying that everything happened so fast. Allen’s gun turned out to be a toy, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. He had multiple drug convictions, none including guns or violence of any kind.
They eventually arrested Brown for selling $40 worth of cocaine.
Daundre Phillips, 24, Atlanta: Jan. 26
No one could understand how Daundre Phillips went to the police annex with a friend and ended up dead. The police said that they noticed a suspicious person outside and smelled marijuana. They said that when an officer approached Phillips, who was inside his car, the officer lunged inside the car and Phillips drove off with the officer halfway in the car, so the cop had to shoot him.
Then the video came out.
The video shows Phillips getting out of the car to talk when the policeman pushes him back into the car. What no one mentioned to the family is that the officer who shot Phillips did not have on a uniform, and pulled up beside Phillips in an unmarked, red sports car. Most damning, the video clearly shows that the officer was never dragged. When cops searched the car, they also discovered that the marijuana was not lit.
Armound Brown, 25, Kenner, La.: Jan. 23
When police showed up at the scene of a disturbance at a home, a man tried to attack them with dangerous weapons. To protect themselves, they had to shoot Armound Brown because he would not comply with their orders and posed a threat to their safety. It seemed like an open-and-shut case.
Except that local reporters say “at least five family members and several neighbors who said they witnessed the incident described a different scene.” They say that Brown had a history of mental illness, and the butter knives he was holding posed no threat to the officers. According to the Times-Picayune, witnesses said that “he was armed with nothing more than butter knives, was at least 15 feet away from police, and that he and the officers toward whom he was walking were separated by a brick wall, a wrought iron gate, a mattress officers propped up to use as a shield, and a parked car.”
Brown’s father said that police promised they wouldn’t use lethal force.
If these killings had happened before Donald Trump, during the height of the nation’s interest in Black Lives Matter, the streets of these towns would be filled with protesters, and these stories would be leading every newscast. Chad Roberson is no different from Eric Garner. Rodney Hess’ shooting is the same story as Terence Crutcher’s. But it’s the year of pussy hats and health care, so police brutality is out of style.
And they wonder why someone had to create the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”