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Hullabaloo


Thursday, September 22, 2016

 

Unless, of course ....

by Tom Sullivan

Another night of unrest in Charlotte in response to the police shooting of Keith Scott. One man went to the hospital with a gunshot wound and was reported critically injured. (No shots fired by police, spokesmen say.) Tear gas. Flash-bangs. Riot gear. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for the city. The Guardian's Ijeoma Oluo wrote about the events of the night (you need to click through to see the photo described below):

A line of police officers stand in the dark on a Charlotte, North Carolina, highway. They look like an occupying force with their helmets and face shields and various weaponry strapped all over their armored clothing. A large bus illuminates them with its headlights. The front of the bus declares in bright lights: “NOT IN SERVICE”.

It’s as if these police responding to protests of Tuesday’s shooting death of Keith Scott are carrying with them a lighted banner that declares what black Americans already know: they are not in service. Not for us.

It’s the message that police have always been sending black Americans. Blacks make up about 13% of the US population, and yet accounted for 27% of the approximately 1,146 people killed by police in 2015. “Not in service” is the message we got when Tamir Rice was killed, when Freddie Gray was killed, when Eric Garner was killed. This was the message we got when Terence Crutcher was killed this week while asking for service. We understand that if our police force really does exist to protect and serve, it does not exist to protect and serve us.
One has to wonder what sort of mindset is being trained into police cadets these days. Officer Betty Shelby's attorney and the Tulsa police department gave this account of the shooting of Terence Crutcher:
When Shelby approached the car, the doors were closed, and the windows were open, Wood said. She looked into the passenger's side to make sure no one was on the floor of the car, and as she was getting ready to move to the driver's side, she turned around and saw Crutcher walking toward her, Wood said.

Wood said that Shelby then said to Crutcher, "Hey, is this your car?"

Crutcher didn't respond, simply dropping his head while continuing to look at Shelby, "kind of under his brow," Wood said. Crutcher then began to put his hand into his left pocket, Wood said, adding that Shelby told Crutcher, "Hey, please keep your hands out of your pocket while you're talking to me. Let's deal with his car."

Crutcher did not respond, Wood said, so Shelby ordered him again to get his hand out of his pocket. He then pulled his hand away and put his hands up in the air, even though he was not instructed to do so, which Shelby found strange, Wood said.

Shelby tried to get Crutcher to talk to her, but he simply mumbled something unintelligible and stared at her, Wood said. He then turned and walked to the edge of the roadway and turned to look at her, his hands still in the air, Wood said. He put his hands down and started to reach into his pocket again, Wood said, and she ordered him again to get his hands out of his pocket.

At this point, Shelby, a drug recognition expert, believed Crutcher was "on something," Wood said, possibly PCP.

Shelby then radioed in that she had a subject "who is not following commands."

"You can kind of hear a degree of stress in her voice when she says that," Wood said.

Shelby then pulled out her gun and had Crutcher at gunpoint as she commanded him to get on his knees, Wood said. She pulled out a gun instead of a Taser because she thought he had a weapon, and she was planning to arrest him for being intoxicated in public and possibly obstructing the investigation, Wood said.

Shelby ordered Crutcher to stop multiple times as Crutcher walked toward the SUV with his hands up, Wood said.

But those orders cannot be heard in the audio from the dashcam video, which starts as another patrol car pulls up to the scene, showing Crutcher walking toward the SUV with his hands up as Shelby follows him, apparently with her weapon drawn and pointing at Crutcher.

As the video from the helicopter begins, Crutcher was "angling" toward his car while Shelby repeatedly commanded him to stop, Wood said. His hands were still in the air.

"As a police officer, you have to wonder — why would someone ignore commands at gunpoint to get to a certain location?" Wood said.

Crutcher's arms came down, and he turned to face the car, Wood said, and he reached into the driver's side window with his left hand. That's when Shelby fired one shot and a fellow officer, Tyler Turnbough, deployed a Taser, Wood said.

Shelby believed that when Crutcher attempted to reach into the car, he was retrieving a weapon, Wood said. In her interview with homicide detectives, she said, "I was never so scared in my life as in that moment right then," according to Wood.
He might have had a gun in his pocket. He might have been on PCP. He might have been going back to his car to reach for the gun that might have been inside instead of for the one that might have been in his pocket. After Ferguson and countless "Hands up. Don't shoot." Black Lives Matter protests, a black man, encountering police, puts his hands in the air unasked and that's "strange." "You have to wonder" why a guy who might have been on PCP might be doing something irrational at gunpoint, police said. Crutcher had no gun. If police received better training (and if Crutcher were white), he might still be alive.

Gregory Wallace, a law professor at Campbell University in North Carolina, cites a 2013 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals case and asks, even if Keith Scott had a gun, whether police were even justified in stopping and questioning him about it. North Carolina is an open-carry state:
“The mere possession of a handgun does not give the police probable cause or reasonable suspicion to briefly detain you for stop and frisk,” Wallace said. “The mere fact that you have a handgun isn’t enough – it’s legal in N.C.”
Unless, of course ....