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On Saturday, April 29, Jordan Edwards, a freshman at Mesquite High School in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, was shot and killed by a Balch Springs police officer, Roy Oliver. Responding to a 911 call of a complaint of underage drinking, Oliver and another officer went to a house to investigate. Upon their arrival, the cops allegedly heard gunshots outside the home as they tried to locate the owner of the home. A car of teenagers, including Edwards and his two brothers, was leaving the party when Oliver shot his rifle, hitting Edwards in the head from the passenger side.
Oliver originally stated that the car was leaving in an “aggressive manner” and driving in reverse towards him and a fellow officer. Later, the statement released from the officer was found false due to video footage. In fact, the car was driving away from the police when shots were fired. Balch Spring Police Chief Jonathan Haber let out a statement stating that the death was unjustified: “I’m saying after reviewing the video that I don’t believe [the shooting] met our core values.” Oliver has been fired from the force and faces murder charges. The family of Edwards have pleaded with the public for no protests, but they ask for justice for their 15-year-old son.
Jordan Edwards is yet another name on a long list of victims of police brutality in the last few years. Philando Castile was shot and killed on July 6, 2016, in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, by local officer Geronimo Yanez. Initially pulled over for a broken tail light, Castile was asked by Yanez for license and registration. Castile told the officer that he was licensed to carry a gun and was carrying. Castile and his girlfriend assured the officer that he wasn’t reaching for his gun, but despite their pleas, Yanez shot and killed Castile in front of Castile’s girlfriend and her daughter. Castile’s last words were “I wasn’t reaching for it,” as shown through the video footage from Castile’s girlfriend’s facebook live feed (Warning: graphic content in the video). Officer Yanez said that he feared for his life during the time of the incident and has plead not guilty to criminal charges.
Trayvon Martin was 17-year-old African American boy who was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida in 2012 by a volunteer neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman. Martin was walking home from a 7-Eleven after buying a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea when a confrontation with Zimmerman broke out. Initially Zimmerman had been following Martin and reported to the police a “real suspicious guy.” Zimmerman followed Martin after being advised not to by the police dispatcher. Unclear about what was happening, neighbors said they heard “heard a commotion, which sounded like arguing.” The commotion ended with Martin being fatally shot, face down in the grass. Zimmerman faced criminal charges but was found not guilty.
These deaths and other similar incidents have sparked protests and riots in cities such as Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Orlando, and Chicago. Many people from different communities have gathered to show their frustration towards the police. These are only a few of examples of deadly encounters with police that have happened over the last few years. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray are just some that have also spurred protest.
These deaths—all the victims African Americans, and almost all unarmed—have not only impacted the families of these victims, but they have brought chaos and divided communities. The actions of the police officers in these cases have resulted in fear and a lack of trust within communities that question the motives of the police force. Has it become acceptable for cops to shoot unarmed men? Are there no consequences for these careless acts? Is it okay to allow a careless mistake of one officer to affect the lives of family or end the life of another? These incidents instill fear into mothers and fathers as they wonder if their child will be another hashtag.
To address this social issue, we must respect both sides and understand that not all cops are dangerous, and not all incidents should end with unnecessary violence. We as a society have to realize that we should think before we act and digest the long-term effects of such a climate of fear rather than thinking in the moment.
As an African American woman, I am not here to argue over the controversies around the Black Lives Matter movement, and I am not here to criticize the police force. I am here begging America to wake up. To realize that color of our skin doesn’t make us a target, and certainly doesn’t make it an excuse to kill a 15-year-old. A boy was killed in Dallas on April 29. A life was lost, and justice should be served.