A Black off-duty cop was shot in St. Louis by a fellow police officer who was “fearing for his safety,” despite other cops on the scene recognizing him as an officer. Rufus Tate Jr., an attorney for the injured officer, has stated that race absolutely played a factor in the shooting.
None of the seven officers involved in the incident have been identified, but they are all currently on administrative leave as the department sorts through the incident.
According to the police report, the incident began on June 21 when a group of anti-crime detectives were pursuing three suspects, who are all Black, in a stolen car crime. The suspects began firing at the officers, but they eventually crashed the vehicle they were driving. They fled on foot, and two officers began shooting the suspects.
At this point the Black officer, an 11-year veteran with the force who lives near where the incident took place, came from his residence, carrying his department-issued firearm. The report states that two officers initially challenged him upon his arrival and ordered him to the ground, and the officer complied. But the on-duty officers then recognized the Black cop and told him to stand up and walk toward them.
The unidentified shooter, an eight-year veteran with the police force, was just arriving on the scene and, “fearing for his safety and apparently not recognizing” he fired one shot, striking the off-duty officer in the arm.
The officer was treated at a hospital and has since been released.
“In the police report, you have so far, there is no description of threat he received,” Tate, the attorney, told the Fox affiliate. “So we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years. There is this perception that a Black man is automatically feared.”
This perception has been in the national spotlight for the past several years. It appears that this very perception is what led to the death of Philando Castile in 2016, recently released video suggests.
St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over 32-year-old Castile last July in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., and asked for Castile’s license and registration. Castile complied and then informed the officer that he had a firearm. Yanez immediately reached for his holster. Castile calmly told Yanez he was not going to pull out the weapon. Despite Castile’s compliance Yanez shot him seven times, twice in the heart, while Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter sat in the car.
Castile’s permit to carry was later found in his wallet.
Like the St. Louis officer, Yanez said he feared for his life after Castile began reaching for a firearm. But the dashboard camera video does not clarify whether Castile had reached for his gun he told the officer he was carrying.
Research has concluded that this perception is all too common. A study published earlier this year found that Black men are in fact often perceived as being larger and more capable of causing harm than white men who are the same size.
“Racial Bias in Judgments of Physical Size and Formidability: From Size to Threat,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, concluded that “people have a bias to perceive young Black men as bigger (taller, heavier, more muscular) and more physically threatening (stronger, more capable of harm) than young White men.”
“Participants also believed that the Black men were more capable of causing harm in a hypothetical altercation and, troublingly, that police would be more justified in using force to subdue them, even if the men were unarmed,” said John Paul Wilson, PhD, of Montclair State University, one of the study’s lead authors.
According to the study, this only applies to the non-Black participants:
“Although both Black and White participants perceived Black targets as more physically muscular than White targets, the difference was significantly smaller for Black participants. Furthermore, Black participants did not show the race-based difference in harm perceptions that White participants did.”
Black participants saw Black and white subjects as similarly capable of causing harm.
Previous research has found that when Blacks and Latinos are stopped by police, they are not significantly more likely than whites to be shot or killed.
According to “Perils of police action: a cautionary tale from US data sets,” the root of the issue is that Blacks and Latinos — particularly men — are more likely to be stopped by police in the first place. A practice of discriminatory policing is therefore the problem.
The authors write:
“On average, an estimated 34 people were killed or medically treated for injury by law enforcement per 10,000 stops/arrests. That ratio is surprisingly consistent by race/ethnicity. Blacks have high arrest and stop rates, and per capita are much more likely than whites to die at the hands of police. However, when Blacks are stopped or arrested, they are no more likely than whites to be injured or die during that incident.”
Blacks and Latinos are also more likely to be arrested as a result of a police stop than whites — 85 percent of Blacks and 82 percent of Latinos were arrested following a stop, compared to 71 percent of whites.
In a 2016 interview for The Society Pages Rashawn Ray of the University of Maryland’s sociology department said that departments should examine their strategies for going out and making arrests.
“We need to know the approach that police precincts use to actually go out and stop people,” he said. “In other words, are they posted up doing DUI stops and speed checks and if so where do they do these speed checks? Are they more likely to do them in predominantly Black neighborhoods? So if you are doing a DUI check in predominantly Black neighborhoods, even though Blacks are less likely to use drugs than whites, then you are going to find more Blacks with drugs and you are going to end up convicting more Blacks.”
Arrests could lead to death, too, as was the case of Sandra Bland. Bland was pulled over in Prairie View, Texas, in a routine traffic stop on July 10, 2016, for failing to signal when changing lanes. Dash cam footage showed excessive force during her encounter with a state trooper. Bland was eventually taken to Waller County jail, where she was found dead in her cell just three days later.
Earlier this month the parents of Michael Brown, a Black teenager shot and killed by a white cop in Ferguson, Mo. (a suburb of St. Louis), settled a lawsuit with the city over their son’s death. Brown was shot and killed in August 2014 after reportedly robbing a convenience store. His body remained in the street for four hours after his shooting.
A video of Michael Brown on the day he was shot that was just released several months ago called into question the facts surrounding his shooting. Surveillance footage from Ferguson Market & Liquor, the convenience store Brown allegedly robbed, shows that Brown was there earlier on the day he died. A filmmaker who made a documentary about the young man believes Brown and the clerk had engaged in a drug deal and that Brown returned to the store to retrieve his payment (in the form of cigarillos), not to commit a robbery.