Originally published on August 20, 2014, at NationofChange.org
In less than a month, cops have been responsible for killing at least five unarmed black men. Police officials have confirmed Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, and Michael Brown were not carrying lethal weapons when authorities executed them. As racial tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, militarized law enforcement agencies show no signs of ending the violence.
On July 17, NYPD Officer Justin Damico accused Eric Garner, 43, of selling untaxed cigarettes. A witness recorded video footage of Garner arguing with Damico when Officer Daniel Pantaleo crept up behind Garner and placed him in a chokehold. Officers piled on top of Garner as he weakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”
After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo placed his knee on the back of Garner’s head pressing his face into the pavement. Garner died of cardiac arrest induced by Pantaleo’s chokehold. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds in 1994 after an officer placed Anthony Baez in a chokehold resulting in his death.
On August 5, witnesses reported seeing John Crawford, 22, walking around inside a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, carrying what appeared to be a rifle. Unbeknownst to police and the witnesses, Crawford had been holding a .177 caliber BB gun he had found in the store. Two police officers arrived ordering Crawford to drop the rifle. Instead of releasing the toy gun, Crawford was struck in the chest as the cops opened fire. They immediately handcuffed Crawford who died at the hospital as a result of his wounds.
On the evening of August 11, two LAPD officers confronted Ezell Ford, 25, as he was walking on the sidewalk. According to an LAPD press release, Ford attacked one of the officers attempting to grab his holstered gun. As the fight fell to the ground, the officer shot Ford with his backup piece while his partner open fire on Ford. They handcuffed Ford and transported him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.
According to eyewitnesses, the mentally ill Ford had surrendered to the police and had been lying on his stomach when they repeatedly shot him in the back. The LAPD has delayed the release of his autopsy report in light of recent protests.
On August 12, a sheriff’s deputy confronted Dante Parker, 36, on suspicion of breaking into a residence in Victorville, California. The deputy claims Parker became uncooperative and had to be stunned with a taser multiple times. While handcuffed and detained on the backseat of the patrol car, Parker reportedly began sweating profusely and developed difficulty breathing. Parker later died in the hospital, and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department has opened an investigation into his death.
On August 9, Officer Darren Wilson gunned down Michael Brown, 18, on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Multiple autopsies confirm Brown had been shot at least 4 times in the arm and twice in the head. Witnesses state Brown was unarmed and surrendering when Wilson shot him.
In a case of mistaken identity, Ferguson police arrested Henry Davis on September 20, 2009. Because he shared the same name of a man with an outstanding warrant, Davis was thrown in jail and severely beaten by his guards. Officers John Beaird and Christopher Pillarick allegedly had Davis handcuffed on the floor when they started hitting him. Officer Michael White has been accused of kicking Davis in the head causing a concussion and a large wound. The officers charged Davis with destruction of property for bleeding on their uniforms.
Heavily criticized for mishandling the civil unrest in Ferguson, government officials have refused to concede to the protestors’ demands to charge Officer Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown. In a devious public relations stunt, law enforcement officials released Wilson’s identity along with a video of Brown allegedly shoplifting. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon instituted police curfews and called in the National Guard. Instead of charging Wilson with a crime, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch passed the buck to a grand jury that is now responsible for handling the investigation.
Amnesty International has sent a delegation into Ferguson to monitor police tactics used during the protests as at least eight journalists have been arrested. On August 18, Ryan Devereaux of The Intercept and Lukas Hermsmeier, a German reporter for Bild, were shot with rubber bullets and arbitrarily detained. Photographer Scott Olson from Getty Images, Kerry Picket from Breitbart News, and two German reporters for Die Welt, Ansgar Graw and Frank Hermann, have been arrested and released without charges. The first journalists arrested were Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post and Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post last week inside a McDonald’s.
Unless government officials address racial tensions, de-escalate the militarization of its police force, and charge Officer Wilson with a crime, Ferguson residents assert that the violence will only continue.