The problem of police violence is underscored by the fact that protests over one killing are still ongoing when the next high-profile incident happens. Such is the case with the killing by Atlanta PD on Friday of Rayshard Brooks, whose crime was falling asleep (allegedly) in a Wendy's Drive-Thru.

The Brooks incident struck me not because it is unusual – sadly, it is a story every American whose head is not buried in sand has heard many times over the years – but because it so perfectly encapsulates everything that is wrong and cannot be fixed with blandishments about "reform."

The APD version of events was so stupid that even if it were correct – which history tells us these things almost never are – it would still demonstrate that they acted inappropriately. If Brooks was unarmed, whether or not he "got belligerent" when approached by police they flat-out murdered him; shooting a man fatally because he, what, didn't put his hands behind his back fast enough? Told a cop to fuck off? Pulled his arm back when they reached for it? That's straight-up murder.

However, they've attempted to cover their asses by claiming Brooks reached for their Taser, i.
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e. that he was "armed" theoretically, in that they thought he might have a weapon in a moment. Now answer this: if police had justification to shoot every single person they encounter armed with something – gun, knife, pepper spray, taser, medieval halberd – they'd be gunning down dozens of people in every city every day. Being armed is a hobby for a lot of Americans. Police encounter people – especially white people, obviously – who are armed all the time. If they can arrest a white guy with three loaded handguns on his person without shooting him, they can apprehend a man they outnumber 3-to-1 who might be, allegedly, kinda sorta reaching for a stun-gun.

The point is, even the version of events given by the police and carefully crafted to justify what the police did fails to do so. Even their lies, as I am comfortable assuming the Official Version of Events will once again turn out to be, incriminate them.

Most of all, the Brooks incident highlights something that is only rarely given much attention in these stories: why would *anyone* feel the need to call the police because a man seemed to be asleep in a car? This is an obvious example of bringing police into a situation in which, knowing everything we know about the racial aspects of policing and police violence in this country, a bad outcome was more likely than a good one. This situation seems like it could have been handled with five hard taps on the windshield by one of the drive-thru employees. What, you're going to tell me people working the weekend overnight shift at the Atlanta Wendy's drive-thru have no experience with or ability to problem-solve drunks? Or people who are just tired, or whatever?

These situations are always described as "tragic" or "sad." Murder isn't "sad" so much as it is infuriating in these cases. What is tragic, and sad, and dumb, and so completely unnecessary is that the police were involved in this situation at all. Their actions are the second of two problems here. One is that they cannot handle a simple incident without shooting someone. The other is that this situation was somehow judged to require armed cops to show up to address it.

I know we are all wary of each other in this country, and especially late at night when people may be drunk or whatever, but for christ's sake, if the guy in the drive-thru seems like he is asleep just go tap on his fucking window. If we don't figure out some way to start interacting with other people except to call the cops to come and deal with them this problem is only going to get worse. I know there's no easy answer here, and it's a slippery slope to vigilantism if you take this argument too far.
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But this is serious. We can carp about how cops act – with good reason for carping – but we, all of us, need to contribute to a solution by not calling 9-1-1 at the drop of a fucking hat.

12 thoughts on “ALL IN ONE”

  • Not to discount your main points but I believe Brooks did take the officer’s taser and pointed it at an officer during the chase, after which he was shot. It looked like that in the videos I’ve seen and the CNN article you linked reports it as such. Again, not justifying any violence against Brooks, it just looks like you got a detail wrong.

  • Safety Man! says:

    Even with the taser, so a taser is a non-lethal weapon when fired at peaceful protestors and news crews, but suddenly a lethal response-worthy weapon when fired at police, or just attempted to fire at them? Especially when they outnumbered the guy 3 to 1, even if he did strike one?

  • Might I suggest that if Black Lives Matter succeeds in persuading law enforcement to stop behaving like they're in a real life FPS, the benefits will not be limited to those who aren't melanin deficient. Also, living in a metro area where the "Barney Fifes" have been inexplicably given all the ammo they can carry, to go with the enormous chip on their shoulder, is as suboptimal as any number of broken windows, cars on blocks and purveyors of recreational pharmaceuticals.

  • the problem is tazers have killed people and are not safe, they are
    "less than lethal". I know more than a few high pacemakers and
    heart conditions that a tazer could and likely would kill.

    Also the stop was for Drunk while driving and was blow tested and
    found to be over the limit. He broke loose while being cuffed and
    two cops could not subdue him. He attempted to escape.

    That he had a tazer and could have escaped and used it on
    anyone is also a further issue.

    Watch all the videos!

    That said arrested he should have been, shot in the back, sorry never.
    That last part shot In the back is the problem. They knew who he was
    where he lived and had his car so in the end he could have been

    For the moment the cops did wrong. Firt error was not securing the perp.
    Second was letting the perp get their tazer or any other thing. The last
    due to the first two fails shooting him in the back.

    Lives matter.


  • There's video of the altercation, you know, as well as an autopsy. Brooks was shot while running away unarmed. The officer fired three shots at his back, two of them hit him in the back and killed him.

    The real crime here, as is often the case, was "embarrassing a cop". Cop decided that rather than let a drunk guy get away and be the subject of ridicule in the locker room, it was better to kill him.

    Keep in mind there was absolutely no question he would be arrested for DUI. Police had his vehicle, had his ID. So running away did not in any sense mean he wouldn't be arrested and charged for DUI. It only meant he wouldn't be arrested in the next five minutes.

  • I'm a classically trained pianist. While serving in the military I wasn't able to have a piano, so someone gifted me an electric keyboard. I immediately plugged it into my stereo speakers and started playing some of my favorite Bach pieces. Within less than an hour there was a policeman at my door telling me that he had received a noise complaint from one of my neighbors in my apartment building. (I lived off base.) It could not have been any later than 7pm.

    Of course, since I was a young, skinny, blonde, blue-eyed white woman and this was in El Paso in 1991, the worst thing that happened was that the police officer looked mildly embarrassed.

    We all know that even if I had been drunk, had grabbed the officer's taser and ran down the street with it, he would NEVER have shot me in the back.

    No matter what excuse is given for Rayshard Brooks' death, it's still racist bullshit.

  • So Ed, why are you standing on the sidelines punditing?
    Roll up those sleeves and join the force.

    The police can only hire from the available pool of applicants. Give them the better candidate to choose from. If they only have racists to choose from, racists you get.

  • I think you are blaming the wrong people here a bit, not that I object with it in a practical sense. While I agree there cannot be a knee-jerk reaction to call armed hair-trigger paranoid racist police at the first sign of trouble (or a sleeping driver clogging the drive-thru), in a normal world the workers at the Wendy's SHOULD be able to call the police to see if there is a problem with a person who passes out in a drive thru. There SHOULDN'T be the insanely-high probability of death when police are called. That's why everyone is protesting to begin with.

    While it is a better practice in these days to NOT call the police, the workers at the Wendy's shouldn't be blamed for calling who they might have thought would be a public service organization dedicated to "protect and serve" the citizens, not murder black people for embarrassingly escaping from custody.

  • Leslee–

    You still may be right about not getting shot, but the chances would be significantly increased from your sanitized rendition if you'd first fought with two arresting officers, then pointed the taser at one of them and at least attempted to discharge it into him.

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