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Anyone who watches the video of the shooting of LaQuan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason van Dyke will see it : 16 shots into the body of a kid lying motionless on the ground. There were eight (8) police officers on the scene; none but van Dyke used his weapon.
We are told that van Dyke feared for his life; why then did the other officers not also fear for theirs ?
We are told that McDonald had lunged at officers with a knife. But van Dyke came to the scene after that, and in any case, none of the officers who McDonald lunged at acted to shoot him.
You can see the video for yourself here : http://abc7chicago.com/news/video-released-of-2013-chicago-police-shooting-under-investigation/795264/
Van Dyke has now been indicted on a charge of murder in the first degree : that he intended to kill McDonald and had sufficient time and occasion to formulate that plan before he began to shoot. Will the jury agree ? That’s for it to decide.
For me, as an editorialist trying to make sense of this event, the question is not IF, but WHY.
Officers do not simply go about executing kids because they feel like it. They do it for a reason. What could that reason be ? To send a message.
A message to “the street:” that, if you fuck with me, even just a little bit — even if you don’t realize you are fucking with me — I will shoot you dead.
“I am not to be trifled with” is a very powerful message for a man in uniform, armed with a killing weapon, to send to those who he might someday confront at a crime scene. Is there any crime prevention message more powerful than “hey, fellas, keep away from that dude” ?
The officer executing a kid lying on the ground is taking out street insurance, that someday, if he has to face a really dangerous kid, he has the upper hand, the fear advantage.
Chicago, with its horrific murder rate, as gang members fight and kill each other and each other’s families, is almost a textbook killing ground on which an officer wants — needs — a fear advantage.
I hear you saying, “but that’s all the law of the jungle. That’s not emnforcement, that’s lawless enforcement. We are a nation of laws to which police are subject like everybody else.”
You are right. We ARE a nation of laws. But we are also a nation of death. Which would you choose ? Laws or death ?
The people who initiate calls to police do so for a reason. They live in the neighborhood where law breakers do their stuff. They live with the sound of gunshots and seeing their neighbor’s kid shot dead. They live in fear, and unlike vigilantes, they turn to the police to keep them safe. Thus the death message that cops like Jason van Dyke send.
Is there racism involved ? Probably,. but not in the way you think. LaQuan McDonald was not executed because he was Black. He was killed because Chicago is a rigidly segregated city, and the very Black neighborhood in which he lived is loaded with unemployed young men, many of them released felons, many of them involved in the drug trade over which traders fight and kill each other because the drug money is there, and not much other money is.
He was killed because most residents of segregated neighborhoods are not killers or drug dealers but live where they do because that’s the only area they are allowed to live in, or the only place where they can aff0rd to buy or rent — not to mention that they feel safer among long time neighbors just like them, neighbors who form a very strong anti-crime network that usually works, whereas moving to a mostly white suburb might subject them to isolation and worse. And when that community network does network ? call the police, and yes, the death message, executioner policeman.
It certainly shocks the neighborhood when an execution like McDonald’s occurs, but you can bet that within the week calls will be made to police from the neighbo0rhood and the police will come and will do what they feel they have to.
It does not have to be like this. In Boston there is plenty of gang violence, too, and its neighbors look to the Boston Police Department just as do the neighbors in Chicago. But Boston Police respond to gang killings by hosting community meetings, encouraging discussion, and by actively encouraging the area’s youth — they along with a passel of outreach organizations — to keep their eyes on the sparrow of a better life. It really does take an entire community to move everyone in it away from death messages, and even in Boston it does not always work.
Even here, the death message execution remains a possibility. Imagine, then, the situation in segregated cities like Chicago — not to mention St. Louis — or in the South, where Black poverty is hardscrabble beyond anything we in the urban North know, and where outreach organizations almost do not exist and where petty fines municipal shakedowns are commonplace. Until we find a way to integrate low income neighborhoods — especially black ones — into the national economy and away from fear and the violence that fear breeds, there will continue to be death message executions like the one that Jason van Dyke used LaQuan McDonald to send.
—– Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere