The police involved in the shooting death of 18-year-old Deon Kay have already been found guilty in some courts of public opinion.
On Wednesday night, protesters gathered outside the home of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. They chanted the usual phrases — “Black lives matter” and “Hands up,” according to Fox News — but some went a bit further than that.
“If we don’t get no justice, then you don’t get no sleep,” demonstrators could be heard chanting, as per a video posted on social media. “If we don’t get it, burn it down.”
“Justice” assumes that the police are guilty.
At that time, the officers said Kay had brandished a weapon and pointed it at them before he was shot earlier in the day. The protesters apparently didn’t buy that — and were willing to “burn it down” if they didn’t get their justice, which sounds a bit more minatory than just giving Bowser insomnia.
On Thursday morning, at least from accounts from WJLA-TV, things were a bit more peaceful outside of Bowser’s home, although there were still protests, this time from Sunrise Movement DC. They were demanding two things: the firing of Washington Police Chief Peter Newsham, citing an “inordinate amount of aggression by police” toward demonstrators, and the release of body camera video of the Kay shooting.
“The mayor may or may not come out of her house but we’re going to tell her to her face that she needs to fire Newsham and that real police reforms are needed. Anything short of defunding the police is not real police reform,” said Crystal Gong of Sunrise Movement DC.
By the end of Thursday, they had at least one of those things — and it showed the rush to judgment was uncalled for.
In the video, Kay can be clearly be seen with a firearm in his hand. As he’s being shot, he throws it away.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic violence that some viewers will find disturbing.
However, it happened so quickly that the officer — identified as Alexander Alvarez, according to WTTG-TV — said in a statement he merely saw Kay draw the gun. In fact, it would’ve been impossible to see were it not slowed down.
Alvarez said he fired only one shot because he saw Kay no longer had the firearm. Kay was taken to a local hospital, where he died.
Police said they had first been alerted to the situation by Kay posting on social media with a firearm.
In the media briefing on Thursday afternoon in which the video was released, Newsham called the effort to release the video “herculean” given the procedural hurdles but said he felt the expediency was necessary given “the current climate.”
Yes, I would say it is. Bowser, whatever you may think of her leadership of the District of Columbia otherwise, has a 2-year-old child at home. While she has police protection, having angry demonstrators outside her home at unholy hours of the night screaming that they were going to “burn it down” could be seen as problematic.
Newsham added that Kay already had a history with Washington police and that police had previously confirmed his membership in a gang.
Even with the video’s release, however, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump tweeted a more-graphic version of the footage and claimed that “the officer could have used ‘less-lethal tactics’ but chose to SHOOT him instead” — although he didn’t offer any insight or elaboration into what these tactics might have been.
Meanwhile, conspiracy theorist Tariq Nasheed, not content to let any crisis that might even tangentially touch on race escape being despoiled by spreading fake information as if it were gospel truth, tweeted Wednesday, before the video was released, that Kay had been “shot in the back.”
Outdoing Nasheed was the American Civil Liberties Union — which claims to uphold the Constitution, including the due process of law. Yet, in a tweet, it said that “DC police murdered Deon Kay yesterday.”
These three tweets are all dismissive of the facts in different ways, but they’re all similar in the utter surety they convey that police murdered Kay.
The death of an 18-year-old is a tragedy, something Newsham emphasized in his news conference. “I’m sure Deon Kay fell through multiple safety nets before yesterday afternoon,” he said.
However, to say that this was a preventable outcome when you see the body cam video is a dubious claim, at best.
But perhaps this was never about the evidence.
At that Sunrise Movement DC protest outside of the mayor’s home, one individual was heard shouting this into a megaphone, according to DCist: “If you don’t defund the police, then you shouldn’t bother running for re-election.”
Deon Kay’s death, for activists, is merely grist for the mill. They’ll be chanting that after the body cam footage was released, and what was in it won’t make a bit of difference.
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