Black Experience

Student Jason Goolsby Still Fears Police

Routine Visit to the Bank Ends in Tackling by MPD Cops

Jason Goolsby and his friend, Michael Brown, both 18, now understand the dangers that can come when “walking while Black.” And Jason says that after a frightening run in just a few days ago with Metropolitan Police Department [MPD] officers, he now “feels afraid every time I see red and blue lights.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a statement last Thursday that said police are reviewing what she called an “unfortunate incident.”

Tell that to Jason, who has since secured the services of local attorney Peter C. Grenier. On Monday, Oct. 12, just minutes after the two young Black men had participated in a “boot camp” in Southeast where they were going through orientation to become volunteers to help troubled youth, they found themselves facing the full, brunt force of the MPD including, in the words of Grenier, being “handcuffed, physically and psychologically brutalized and detained for almost two hours.” But what sparked this confrontation?

Jason said he needed a few dollars and decided to walk with his friend Michael and another youth to the Citibank at the corner of 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast. His plan was to use an ATM machine, located in the bank’s vestibule. Allegedly, another bank patron, who is white and female, noticed the young men and told her husband she felt threatened.

After leaving the bank, and within just a few minutes, two MPD officers jumped out of a speeding SUV and confronted the young men, ordering them to the ground, with one officer placing his hand on his gun and the other prepared to use pepper spray.

Jason said he had to jump onto the curb in order to avoid being hit by the speeding police vehicle.

“I always knew that things like this happened to Black men but I never believed it could happen to me,” Jason said. “I instantly thought about situations with Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Ferguson and Trayvon Martin in Florida and figured that the best thing to do was to run. I was afraid for my life,” said the former standout student at Richard Wright Public Charter School for Journalism and Media, located just blocks away from where the incident occurred.

“I didn’t want to get shot and I didn’t want to die,” he said.

Jason suffered injury to his left shoulder for which he sought medical treatment. But his attorney said that the young man, a former ambassador for his high school, a student-athlete and part of a select group chosen to participate with First Lady Michele Obama in a Career in Music and Film Symposium at the White House, has suffered a great deal more than his outward, visible scars reveal.

“The physical pain pales in comparison to the psychological and emotional pain that he and Michael suffered,” Grenier said in a written statement. “This has to stop and we hope and pray that this case will bring a better awareness to the public that something needs to be done and that status quo is wholly unacceptable in a civilized society.”

After being detained for almost two hours, while being shackled with their hands behind their backs and sitting on the ground, the officers removed the handcuffs from Jason and Michael and told them they were free to go. They called the situation a “misunderstanding,” Jason’s attorney said.

Jason said he asked repeatedly what he had done wrong. He said one of the officers told him that “a woman called and said that you made her feel uncomfortable.”

Grenier and his staff continue to investigate the incident and said they intend to hold “all culpable individuals, as well as the District of Columbia, responsible through whatever legal means possible.”

Meanwhile, Jason, now a freshman at the University of Columbia, plans to move on as best he can with his life and his pursuit for higher education that includes an interest in music.

“I rap and write songs and after this situation, I’ve been inspired to write a piece about my experiences, my feelings and my fear,” he said. “I know now that I have to stay on my toes and that I have to be aware of people around me. But most of all, I have come to realize that even when you’re doing the right thing, trying to be a positive force in your community and seeking to better yourself through education, that you are not untouchable — not if you’re young and Black.”

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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