by G. Brown
Another shooting death at the hands of a police officer, but this time everything it seems is different. Justine Damond’s death by a Minneapolis police officer has raised awareness about the reality of police violence.for some who may not have seen it as a problem before now. Damond, a 40 year old Australian, called 911 earlier this month to report a possible sexual assault near her home. When officers Mohamed Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity arrived on the scene they reported hearing some kind of loud noise and what happened next still isn’t exactly clear almost two weeks later.
Police say Damond was standing in her pajamas outside her home in the upscale neighborhood. Some reports say Damond approached the police cruiser, other reports are less clear. They all agree that Noor while sitting on the passenger side of the police car, fired a single shot past his partner, through the driver’s door and hit Damond in the stomach. Both officers were said to be wearing body cams, but neither camera was recording.
A lawyer hired by the victim’s family referred to Damond as “the most innocent victim” of any police shooting. Wouldn’t all victims of police shootings who did not have weapons or were fighting back in any way be considered “innocent victims”? Would a 17-year old high school student carrying a bag of candy and wearing a hoodie be considered innocent enough? True he wasn’t shot by a police officer, but the justice system failed this innocent victim when the security guard who shot him–George Zimmerman –was acquitted of his murder.
Interestingly, the lawyer representing the Damond family in this case also represented another victim of a police shooting–Philando Castile. Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony Minnesota police officer after being pulled over on a traffic stop. As his girlfriend and her four year old daughter watched, Castile was shot and killed as he reached for his license and registration as instructed by the cop. The lawyer tries to distinguish what makes the Damond case so tragic is that the woman was in her pajamas and trying to help the cops. Was Castile not also a “most innocent victim” who was trying to obey the police and do as he was told?
How much more innocent can a victim be than Tamir Rice? A 12-year old child on a playground with a toy gun shot and killed by police because it never occurred to them that a child on a swing at a playground might actually have a toy gun.
And what about all the other victims, from Sandra Bland to Eric Garner and so many others who were killed by police. Damond’s case is bizarre and many inconvenient circumstances lend to the tragedy of it such as no video from body cams and no real clear explanation as to why Officer Noor discharged his weapon from inside the car. But in cases like Eric Garner, Walter Scott or Terence Crutcher being shot or choked where video clearly shows unarmed Black people being killed by police– we’re told not to believe our eyes.
Will this case follow the paths of all the other tragic police shootings? It’s doubtful because we’re already seeing it being handled differently this time since it was a Black police officer killing a White woman. The narrative behind her death immediately painted a picture of a victim, her story was told with compassion and respect. She was humanized and represented as a woman who was only here to wed the man she loved. Damond was established as a woman of civil and social responsibility who contacted police because she was trying to keep her neighborhood safe. It was established that she lived in an “affluent” neighborhood. The MSM made it clear, she was a ‘good woman’ and her death was a tragedy. But so were all the other police shootings of innocent victims. Whether police shot them in a playground, strangled them on the street or broke their backs while being transported in a police van—they were all innocent at the time of their deaths.
Even the protests being held in Damond’s case are being categorized on the news as just and fair when Black protesters were called “mobs” and “thugs” whenthey exercised their rights to seek justice.
Huff Post concludes that “Damond appears to fit the definition of the supposed “perfect victim” of a police shooting ― someone who does everything right and that everyone can empathize with, regardless of race or socioeconomic class.” But the people who are protesting for justice are doing so based on race and socioeconomic class. You have to wonder if they would be out there protesting if the White police officer had fired the fatal shot.
As for Officer Noor, the fact that he is Muslim is stoking the flames of the fires of Islamophobes and you have to wonder if he will be treated the same in the judicial system as officers who have been found innocent or acquitted in the deaths of Blacks. One headline referred to Noor as “Killer Cop” and detailed how Noor was a “diversity hire” and noted that he was unqualified to be an officer. How many headlines prior to this case have you seen the police officer described as “killer cop”?
There is still so much we don’t know about the Damond case, but we already see from the reactions in the street to the reporting on the news that justice is blind. And the value of life is determined not only by whether you live in an affluent neighborhood, but also by the color of your skin.