Illustration for article titled It Took 7 Months for a St. Louis County Officer to Be Charged in the Death of the 12-Year-Old Black Girl He Hit With His Car
Screenshot: KMOV4

On Oct. 14, 2019, 12-year-old Akeelah Jackson was hit by a police car as she stepped into the street on her way home in St. Louis County, Mo. Jackson died of her injuries one month later on Nov. 12. Now, the officer involved is charged in her death.

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KMOV4 reports that Officer Preston Marquart was charged with second-degree involuntary manslaughter for Jackson’s death after “an exhaustive and detailed investigation,” according to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

Marquart was reportedly pursuing a traffic stop and, in an effort to get closer to the vehicle he was looking to pull over, struck Akeelah with his patrol SUV. The 25-year-old officer reached speeds of 59 miles per hour on a 30-mile-per-hour street and failed to turn on his lights and siren. A witness told KMOV4 that Akeelah looked up at the vehicle but had no time to get out of the way before she was hit.

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According to the Associated Press, the St. Louis County Police Association originally found no basis to charge Marquart with Akeelah’s death. They, along with Marquart’s attorney Joseph Hogan, are accusing Gardner of being politically motivated in her decision to bring charges against the officer.

“Today is a sad day,” Hogan said in a statement. “Our client is devastated by the tragedy that took the life of Akeelah Jackson and continues to pray for her family daily. The SLMPD conducted an extensive investigation in this case and determined no criminal charges were warranted against my client.”

“The Circuit Attorney, conducting her own investigation, has now charged our client. It is unfortunate that Ms. Gardner continues to make charging decisions based on scoring political points, despite the effect this decision will have not only on our client, but on the entire Jackson family. We are confident that when all the facts come to light of this tragedy that took place in 30 seconds, our client will be completely exonerated of all charges.”

It’s funny how fast the pursuit of justice for black victims becomes a political issue—especially when a police officer is involved. Anyone whose reckless behavior ends in someone’s death should be held accountable. Officers of the law should not be exempt from that standard.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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