COMMUNITY RELATIONS DAMAGED BY POLICE SHOOTINGS
By: Ta'Corian Tilley
African Americans make up 13% of the United States population, but have accounted for more than a quarter of all Police-involved shootings since 2015, according to the Washington Post’s annual police shooting database.
This startling number is second on the list, behind White Americans, who make up 61% of the population and have been involved in 50% of shootings during the same period.
The Post’s database also states when you intersect race and gender, black men are more likely to be killed when they are unarmed.
These statistics portray the sad truth about race relations in America. In 2012 the name Trayvon Martin spread across news outlets in America because he was killed by George Zimmerman, a Florida resident. In 2015 Michael Brown, another young African American, lost his life after a White police officer shot him in Ferguson, Missouri.
Since the death of Brown, the shootings of Black bodies have rattled African American communities across the nation. And, in incidents such as Brown’s, where the shooters were police officers, the victims have seen little to no justice.
This has resulted in the formation of new activist organizations such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, and protests, such as the 2014 social media campaign #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.
But despite the efforts, counter protests such as #BlueLivesMatter and #BackTheBlue have risen, and the killing of unarmed black residents have become a recurring trend, causing some to wonder when, or if, this will end.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is not exempt from these problems either. In the last year, two African American residents of the DFW Metroplex were shot in killed in their own homes by white police officers.
The first incident happened on September 6, 2018, when 26-year-old Dallas resident Botham Jean was shot by Amber Guyger, a Dallas Police Officer. Reports say Guyger, 31, had just finished a long shift and was headed home. When she arrived to the South Side Flats apartment complex where she lived, instead of going to the fourth floor, where her unit was located, Guyger went to the third floor of the apartment complex. This caused her to walk towards Jean’s unit, who lived directly below her. When Guyger entered Jean’s apartment, she said she thought Jean was an intruder and shot him. At the time, Jean was at home eating ice cream and watching TV.
The arrest warrant said Guyger tried to provide medical assistance to Jean after she had shot him. But during the trial, the prosecution presented evidence that suggested otherwise. Following the closing statements, the jury convicted Guyger for murder, and sentenced her to 10 years in prison after debating whether or not the 28-year sentence was too excessive.
This case was not only important because Guyger shot an unarmed black man in his own home, but also because Guyger, is one of the only police officers to be convicted of killing an African American. Between 2005 and April 2017, 80 police officers were arrested for on-duty shootings, but only 35% of them were convicted, according to a CNN article published last October. Eric Garner, Aaron Bailey and Michael Brown are three of the many African Americans whose killers did not see criminal convictions.
Another police-involved shooting that has impacted the relationships between African American residents and the police happened just over a year later, when Atatiana Jefferson, a Fort Worth resident, was shot in front of her 8-year-old nephew.
According to CNN, it was 2:28 a.m. on October 12 when Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean and his partner responded to a wellness check request after Jefferson’s neighbor reported seeing her door open for an extended period of time.
At that time, Jefferson was playing video games with her 8-eight-year-old nephew, said Lee Merritt, a civil rights lawyer representing Jefferson's family.
After seeing the front door open, the officers began walking around the house with their flashlights. One then went to a window with his weapon drawn. The officer yelled “put your hands up” and quickly proceeded to fire through Jefferson’s window. The officers went into the house to help Jefferson, but reports say she died soon after.
According to the body camera footage released, neither Dean nor his partner identified themselves before shooting Johnson through her bedroom window.
Dean resigned the following Monday and was arrested and charged with the murder of Jefferson.
These incidents have put a dent in the relationship between African American communities and law enforcement sworn to protect them. In reaction to this, University of North Texas Mayborn School of Journalism students take an in-depth look at the relationship between law enforcement and the communities of North Texas.
This project tells the story of racial struggles from the perspectives of minority residents, college students, public officials and local experts throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
We present to you: Policing DFW: The Struggle for Peace.
By: Roger Ancona
THE DEATH OF BOTHAM JEAN
By: Gavin Dunaway
Police arrested Guyger three days later and charged her with manslaughter. And after a couple of contradictory statements, the Dallas Police Department officially fired Guyger two weeks later.