NC Police Shooting Update

[Content Note: Police brutality; guns; violence; racism.]

Background: Part One; Part Two.

Via Black Youth Project, police have released the recording of the 911 call from the woman who requested police when Jonathan Ferrell showed up at her door in the middle of the night seeking help following a serious car accident. Contrary to earlier reports, the caller explicitly requests police because she believes Ferrell is trying to get into her house, and expresses concern that he might hurt her sleeping baby, despite the fact that Ferrell "made no verbal threats to the woman."

So. Something made this woman fearful, other than what Ferrell said to her, and I don't know if it was straight-up racism, alarmism resulting from faulty narratives about stranger assaults, a panic response from surviving trauma, something else, some combination of things. I don't even know if it was legitimate fear, or if she calculated that saying a child was in danger would get the cops there faster.

I'm not inclined to defend her or search for explanations. What happened, for whatever reason, is that she communicated a fear to police, who clearly treated that as fact.

And that transaction is racist.

Over and over, I write about police failing utterly to take women at their word when they have been actually, really assaulted. Over and over, in comments here and in other spaces, women share their stories of being disbelieved by police, of being turned away from making a police report after being assaulted. Over and over, we all hear stories of women who have been killed by partners after police failed to take seriously multiple reports of domestic abuse.

But suddenly, when a woman makes a call about a black man who is at her door, her word is gold. Her fear of attack is translated immediately into an actual threat of attack.

And so the police arrived, or at least one police officer did, primed for a violent confrontation.

With a man who was seeking help.

Who made no threats.

Who was shaken after a serious car accident.

Who approached people in his community seeking their assistance.

And who is now being victim-blamed by lawyers for the police officer who shot him, because he "did not comply with officers' commands to get down before he was killed."
"(Ferrell) advanced toward the officers. His hands were not in the air," said George Laughrun, attorney for Officer Randall Kerrick, speaking to reporters about what he saw in footage from a police cruiser's dashboard camera.

"You see one of his hands partially behind his back, concealed as he … continued to advance. He was given three commands to 'Get on the ground. Get on the ground.' He did not. And Officer Kerrick backed up and then felt the need to deploy his service weapon."
Twelve times. Hitting Ferrell with ten bullets.

The attorney for Ferrell's family, who viewed the video, says it all happened so quickly, the shouts and the shots, that Ferrell didn't even have to respond.

And, even if he had, what response might have saved his life? Oscar Grant was lying on the ground with two police officers restraining him when he was killed by police.

The only response that could have saved Ferrell's life was a different police response. A response that arrives at any scene with a primary intention of establishing the actual facts of the situation, of prioritizing safety, of treating every person involved as a human being of equal worth.

Jonathan Ferrell was seeking help.

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