A Man Is Dead; Everyone Is Less Safe

[Content Note: Racism; guns; police brutality.]

Earlier this week, John Crawford, a 22-year-old black man in Ohio was killed by police after another customer called 911 to report a man waving an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle at Walmart, though it was actually a BB/pellet rifle which is sold at the store.
"He said he was at the video games playing videos, and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were," said LeeCee Johnson [who has two children with Crawford and another on the way]. "The next thing I know, he said, 'It's not real,' and the police start shooting, and they said 'Get on the ground,' but he was already on the ground because they had shot him."

"I could hear him just crying and screaming," Johnson said. "I feel like they shot him down like he was not even human."

Ohio's attorney general, who was asked by Beavercreek police to investigate the case, confirmed Crawford was holding a MK-177 (.177 caliber) BB/Pellet Rifle when he was shot to death.

The former Marine who called police said Crawford looked to be attempting to load the black air rifle and ignored police commands to drop the weapon.

"He looked like he was going to go violently," said Ronald Ritchie. "If he would have dropped the weapon, he could have came out with his life, but unfortunately, he didn't."

The department's chief, Dennis Evers, said officers Sean Williams and David Darkow acted appropriately.

"The officers gave verbal commands to the subject to drop the weapon," Evers said in a statement. "The subject … was shot after failing to comply with the officers' commands. The quick response of officers was instrumental in containing this situation and minimizing the risk to customers."
Well, that last quote is certainly interesting, isn't it? It only makes sense if John Crawford was actually a man carrying a weapon the express intent of using it to harm other customers, but doesn't make a whole lot of sense if John Crawford was himself just a customer holding an air rifle sold at the store. In the latter case, "the quick response of officers" failed utterly to minimize the risk to customer John Crawford.

And, frankly, they increased the risk to other customers by opening fire on a man who had zero intent to harm them.

Tasha Thomas, who drove Crawford to the store and was in another aisle when the shooting occurred, says he was not armed when he entered the store. And Walmart's website shows that they carry the MK-177 air rifle Crawford was holding.

Again, as in previous cases we've discussed of people of color being killed or harmed by police after failing to respond quickly in a moment of panic, like Jonathan Ferrell and Jessica Klyzek, it's easy (and shitty, and victim-blaming) to say, "If only he'd complied, he'd still be alive," instead of imagining how many people might say, "It's not real"—how many people might attempt a reasonable appeal to the police before immediately hitting the ground, might assume that it's important to establish that the rifle is not the killing machine they presume it to be.

I would probably do that. I think it's a perfectly understandable instinct, during a chaotic moment. The thing is, no one would call the police on me for holding an air rifle at a Walmart, and the police probably wouldn't shoot me if I failed to fall to the ground wordlessly in a single instant.

We can't keep peddling this lie that it's even possible for every person to have the composure to defer to police orders while they're frightened, no less someone who has every reason to expect the police are primed to approach someone like him in bad faith.

A "quick response of officers" doesn't work out great for innocent people.

And this kind of response doesn't work out great for communities, either. Especially if those communities have among their residents people who don't want to get someone about whose behavior they're suspicious killed by police if they're wrong about what they're seeing.

I don't want police to take my word for something; I want them to investigate. I want them to use caution in assessing whether there's any real danger before they take action. I don't want anyone killed because I made a mistake.

And I understand, totally, why police officers say that they don't have time for caution when someone has a gun. (A real gun.) Which is, you know, why we need fewer guns. Some cops are aggressive, dangerous, impetuous shitlords who are just looking for an excuse to pull the trigger, but some cops make honest fucking mistakes because of the proliferation of guns and regret it the rest of their lives. I don't want that, either.

This situation is untenable. None of us are safer. And gun proponents continue to bray that the solution is more guns.

They are dead wrong.

My profound condolences to John Crawford's family and friends.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus