In Memory Of: Black Males Who’ve Died Unjustly
Most of us are still seething mad about the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial. Our black boys and men are in constant danger of being killed with absolutely no consequences for the perpetrators, despite working hard to dispel the unfair stereotypes they have to endure on a daily basis. These boys and men may not be seen as sons, brothers, husbands, or friends to all of society, but that is exactly who they are to their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, and us. In the wake of the unfortunate Trayvon Martin verdict, this list is a cold reminder of black males who’ve died unjustly over the years and whose deaths sparked national uproar and protests.
On August 9, 2014, 18-year-old Mike Brown was shot dead by a 29-year-old white police office named Darren Wilson. Wilson approached Brown and a friend in the street and ordered them to move to the sidewalk when a struggle ensued and Wilson’s gun shot six bullets into Brown who was left dead in the street for four-and-a-half hours. Massive rioting occurred in Ferguson in the days following the shooting as residents and national leaders called for justice in the case of police brutality. One hundred days later on November 24, a grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson on charges of murder, once again sparking national protests and rioting.
Forty-three-year-old Staten Island resident Eric Garner died of a heart attack while police officers were arresting him for the suspected sale of untaxed cigarettes on July 17, 2014. Eric Garner was reportedly approached by plainclothes police officer Justin Damico and was subsequently put in a chokehold from behind by officer Daniel Pantaleo. Despite repeatedly stating he was unable to breathe, the officers continued to subdue Garner, with video showing officer Pantaleo using his hands to push Garner’s face into the sidewalk. Garner died a few minutes later and on August 1 medical examiners identified the chokehold and chest compression as the primary causes of Garner’s death. Four EMTs and paramedics who responded to Garner’s death were suspended without pay on July 21, 2014, and officers Justin Damico and Daniel Pantaleo were placed on desk duty, with the latter also being stripped of his service gun and badge.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high school student, was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin was on his way back to his father’s fiancée’s home after stopping at a convenience store for a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona Ice Tea. Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood. Even after being instructed not to get out of his car and give chase, Zimmerman followed and confronted Martin. Zimmerman claimed self defense, and was acquitted of the crime in July 2013.
Oscar Grant III was fatally shot by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was lying face down and allegedly resisting arrest.Officer Mehserle stood and, according to witnesses, said: “Get back, I’m gonna taser him.”Then Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back; Mehserle reportedly appeared stunned, put his hands to his head and exclaimed, “Oh, my God!” During his court testimony, Mehserle said that Grant then exclaimed, “You shot me!” Grant turned out to be unarmed; he was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland. The current film “Fruitvale Station” is based off of the event leading up to Grant’s death.
In 2006, Sean Bell was attending his bachelor party at a club Jamaica, Queens with several his friends, including Joseph Guzman. A group of seven undercover police officers were in attendance as well, dressed in plain clothes. At some point Guzman got into an argument with someone outside of the club. One of the officers claimed to have heard someone mention a gun, prompting him to notify the other officers. They met up with Bell and his entourage as they attempted to get in the car and leave. While Bell and his friends were preparing to leave, an unknown male approached the car with a gun. One of the detectives, Gescard Isnora claimed to have identified himself as a police officer and ordered Bell to stop. Bell, however, did not stop and accelerated, only to be hit by an unmarked, police vehicle. At this point, Isnora thought he saw Guzman reach for a gun and yelled out “Gun!” to his fellow officers. They all opened fire at the vehicle resulting in 50 shots. Bell was killed from shots to the neck and torso. Guzman survived and claimed the officers never identified themselves at any point, including as they approached the car with a gun.
While standing near his apartment, Amadou Diallo was spotted by a group of officers dressed in plain clothing. They believed he fit the description of an at large serial rapist. The officers yelled for Diallo to put his hands up and identified themselves as NYPD. A confused Diallo ran and belted up the stairs toward his apartment. Breaking the cardinal rule, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dark object. One of the officers, Sean Carroll yelled out to his other officers that Diallo had a gun. The other police, believing themselves to be in immediate danger, opened fire on Diallo. To make matters worse, Carroll fell backwards off of the stairs leading the other agents to believe he was shot. A grand total of 41 shots were fired, 19 hitting Diallo. He died on the scene. Turns out the dark object was his wallet and the actual serial rapist was later apprehended.
Yusef was a 16-year-old African American who was shot to death on August 23, 1989 in Bensonhurst, a predominantly white working-class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Hawkins and three friends were attacked by a crowd of 10 to 30 white youths, with at least seven of them wielding baseball bats. One, armed with a handgun, shot Hawkins twice in the chest, killing him. Hawkins was tagging along with friends to inquire about a 1982 Pontiac automobile that was for sale, when the white boys ambushed Hawkins and his friends in attempt to defend the honor of a neighborhood girl rumored to be dating a black or Hispanic guy.
Emmett Till was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. Till was from Chicago, Illinois, visiting his relatives in Money, Mississippi, in the Mississippi Delta region, when he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store there. Several nights later, Bryant’s husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam arrived at Till’s great-uncle’s house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes, before shooting him through the head and disposing of his body in the Tallahatchie River, weighting it with a 70-pound (32 kg) cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was discovered and retrieved from the river three days later.
Aaron Campbell was shot dead by police in January of 2010. The Oregonian reports that police say Campbell ignored their orders to put his hands up. At which point one officer fired six bean bag shots at his back. Witnesses say they saw Campbell reach his arm around his back, where the beanbag struck him. Officer Ronald Frashour says he saw Campbell reach both hands around his waistband to get a gun, and so he shot Campbell in the back with an assault rifle. “We feel that his death resulted from flawed police policies, incomplete or inappropriate training, incomplete communication and other issues with the police effort,” a jury wrote after nneglecting to charge the police officer any criminal wrongdoing.
Victor Steen was tazed and killed by a Pensacola police officer in October of 2009. Steen was struck and killed by the cruiser of Pensacola Police Officer Jerald Ard while riding his bicycle in the Brownsville neighborhood of Pensacola. Officer Ard claims to have spotted Steen at an empty construction site around 1:50 AM and attempted to stop him for questioning. According to Ard, Steen fled the area. Ard pursued Steen in his police cruiser and attempted to fire a Taser weapon from the window of the moving cruiser. The chase ended when Steen was struck by the cruiser and dragged until the cruiser came to a stop at a median in an empty parking lot at the corner of Cervantes and R Streets. Steen was pronounced dead at the scene.
Steven Eugene Washington
Los Angeles police shot and killed 27-year-old Steven Eugene Washington, who was said by his family to be autistic, in March of 2010. Steven was shot by gang enforcement officers Allan Corrales and George Diego near Los Angeles’ Koreatown shortly after midnight on a Saturday night after he approached them and appeared to remove something from his waistband, police said. No weapon was recovered. Corrales and Diego reportedly heard a loud noise while driving in their patrol car and turned around to see Steven.The officers said the 27-year-old was looking around suspiciously and manipulating something in his waist area. When the officers tried to stop him to investigate, he quickly approached them and seemed to pull something from his waistband, Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger told reporters at a news conference Saturday afternoon. Each officer fired once and Washington was hit in the head, police said.
In August of 2011, Mark Duggan of Tottenham, North England. was shot dead after a reported shootout. Police had been following Duggan in what was supposed to be a pre-planned arrest. Duggan was in a minicab and eventually shots rang out and he was dead. Initially, reports stated Duggan fired first, mainly because of a bullet lodged in one of the officer’s radio. However after an independent investigation into the matter, there was no evidence found to suggest that Duggan fired a gun.
The lead investigator admitted his mistake and said initial reports that Duggan shot first were inaccurate. There were even members of the investigation committee who quit because of foul play during the process. Duggan’s death led to a riot that required officers from at least four different towns in London to provide extra patrolling.