White officer fatally shoots innocent black youth (what’s new)

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Let’s face it: the police are not America’s favorite people to be aroung. And if you are a minority, you may even leave being racially profiled or even shot. On July 25, 16-year old Aries Clark, was fatally shot by two police officers. The officers that shot and killed Clark were found not guilty on Wednesday, August 9. Unfortunately, this did not make any sort of headline news. In fact, I dove six hours deep into the internet to find this article. Aries Clark, an at-risk youth, left the residential program of East Arkansas Youth Services (EAYS) on July 23, and had returned July 25 looking for a way back into the youth service shelter. The EAYS staff, not allowing Clark back into the shelter, called the police as part of their policy. When the police arrived to the shelter, it was reported by an officer that Clark was in possession of a handgun, later determined to be a BB-gun. According to Buzzfeed, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington wrote a letter to Arkansas police stating that “this is a common practice at the facility,” Ellington wrote. “When residents walk away from the facility they are not permitted back into the facility until they are cleared of possession of drugs or weapons by the [Marion Police Department].”

As most citizens and someone who is currently aware of the lack of media coverage on shootings involving a white officer, it is easy to take biased and assume that these involved officers beat the system and got away with, essentially, murder. To be quite frank, I agree with the majority, and believe, that police get away with an outrageous amount of crimes. The laws that apply to the public do not apply to the police force. And it isn’t small things like being able to speed through a traffic light, or being able to park illegally. It’s no secret that police have been notorious for being involved in fatal, unnecessary shootings with no consequences to face. Aries Clark is just one of many cases where a white officer shot a black civilian. And even though each instance is a little different in outcome, the storyline is pretty much the same.

White officer’s Brannon Hinkle and Wesley Smith of the Marion Police, along with others, responded to a call by the EAYS. ABC News reported that Ellington said that Hinkle and Smith were justified in using lethal force. Quoted from Ellington’s letter, referencing body camera footage gathered from Officer Smith, “[a]s officers attempted to convince Clark to drop his weapon, the juvenile turned and focused his attention on other officers to the south of him. Officers on the scene continued to negotiate with Clark for well over 10 minutes attempting to get him to drop the weapon…Clark pointed his weapon in the direction of those officers. Observing the imminent danger the other officers were in, Officer Smith immediately fired his service weapon at Clark, who was struck multiple times.” Believing one shot would not be able to take down a pretty slim 16-year old. “Well, I think it’s a very, very sad story,” Ellington said. “He made wrong decisions and the officers had no choice.” Ellington sides, according to his letter, that the shooting was justified. But how can you justify the death of a 16-year old that was holding a BB gun (no matter his actions)? How can you justify the wrongful death of any human being? The teenager’s grandmother, Vickie Burks said she watched the video, that she believes the officers could have stunned the teen with a TASER, and that she doesn’t believe the killing was justified. The prosecutor’s letter said the teen was hit three times – in the back of his head, in his back, and in his buttocks and continued stating that he didn’t know if the officers on the scene had training for dealing with people in mental health crisis. Then they shouldn’t have been the officers to respond to a possible threat at a youth shelter.

Police Shooting Eastern Arkansas

This is story is not unlike several others that involved a white officer and a black citizen. For example, the Oscar Grant shooting (2009) and Michael Brown shooting (2014). In the Oscar Grant case, Oscar Grant was brought off a train at Fruitvale station due to a disturbance that was said to have started on the train. White (and now former) transit officer, Johannes Mehserle, pulled Grant out of his group of friends, laid him face down on the ground, and fatally shot him in the back. Mehserle was initially convicted of manslaughter for shooting and killing Oscar Grant, who was unarmed. Mehserle, later convicted of involuntary manslaughter, was sentenced to two years in prison, the minimum term provided by law, and served 11 months before being paroled. 11 months. In this case, it’s no question that the officer charged got off with a slap on the wrist. In the same SF Gate article, Mehserle claimed he didn’t know it was his gun; he believed it was his TASER he was reaching for. Nevertheless, Mehserle got away with murder.

In the Michael Brown shooting of 2014, Michael Brown—an unarmed black teen—was shot and killed by Darren Wilson—a white officer. Wilson believed Brown to have been someone wanted by the Ferguson Police. Being wrong about this, Wilson still confronted Brown and according to witnesses, there was an altercation between Brown and Wilson. The real story, however, is unknown, as the court relied on several accounts by witnesses; each providing a different—yet similar—story on what had happened. Without discussing all of the nitty-gritty details of the case, the point is this: Michael Brown was unarmed. Officer Wilson shot 12 rounds with at least six injuring Brown. Is this justified? The answer is still no; and I don’t believe the negligence of a police officer should ever be justified. Wilson essentially murdered Michael Brown, and in the end Wilson was not indicted for any of the crimes he was alleged to have commit.

As a private citizen I can understand both sides of the debate. One side is biased to the law: it’s officers’ duty, and no matter how much we as citizens may detest the police, it’s the law that we should have beef with. The other side is biased to ethics and morals: Is it really okay for (any) police officers to shoot, kill, and get a slap on the wrist? Is this how we should charge civilians as well? Are they getting special treatment, or working the system? There is a certain extent that I believe the law can do to protect, even baby, the police force. Claiming that any officer with the right amount of training would have done the same thing. But would they really? There has to be some kind of end result for police officers—should the shootings they are involved with result in the death of a (possibly) innocent civilian. I realize that police officers probably get off with their “crimes” because it’s their job. They’re just doing their job. However, there are some officers that do their jobs poorly. So, because of improperly trained officers, the whole company should be held to harder and stricter standards in a court of law. These people are the role models and protectors of our cities and people. And in the public eye, they’re not doing much positive role modeling and protecting if they’re shooting to kill all the time.

 

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