The death of a police murder witness in Dallas is reminiscent of another police atrocity and coverup in New York City.
We know that a black person is killed by the police, security or vigilantes every day. Most of these victims remain unknown to the public. But sometimes a few of those cases make the news. When that happens, we embrace the victim as if they were our own friend or family member.
Botham Jean was once such individual. He was killed by an off-duty Dallas, Texas, police woman while he was in his own home. She claimed to have mistaken his apartment for hers and believed he was a burglar. Jean was sitting in his home watching television when he was murdered. Only black people die the way he did.
There is always hope that justice will be done but also recognition that it is rarely the case. Yet in Dallas the killer cop was actually convicted by a multi-racial jury. But what should have been a cause for some relief turned into farce as some black people sank to the lowest levels of debasement they possibly could. A female bailiff comforted the murderer after her conviction and even stroked her hair. The victim’s brother gave the killer a hug and his father said he hoped to befriend her one day. The judge also felt compelled to hug the shooter and give her a bible, too.
The insult was not just to Botham Jean’s memory but to every black person who must witness these sick and embarrassing displays. But consternation over the appalling behavior was not the worst thing that would happen.
Joshua Brown was Jean’s neighbor and he testified in court about what he heard the night of the killing. His presence in the courtroom was in question until the very last moment. He feared for his life and left Texas before the trial. He returned and testified under duress after being subpoenaed by prosecutors. Just three days after the conviction Brown was also killed.
Brown’s murder was immediately considered suspect by all black people and anyone else with common sense. Credulity was strained further when Dallas police identified three suspects who they say drove more than four hours from Louisiana to do a drug deal with Brown that “went bad.” Police also claimed to have found $4,000, and marijuana in Brown’s apartment. Needless to say, this version of events is highly suspect.
While the facts surrounding Botham Jean’s and Brown’s murders were somewhat anomalous, a man in New York City suffered the same fate but in a more typical fashion for police murder victims. The police and their friends in local media misinformed the public because they not only had to cover up the circumstances of Antonio Williams death, but also their role in accidentally killing one of their own at the same time. We were told that a “hero cop” was shot by a man labeled as a gang suspect, Williams, who was then shot by other police.
Like Jean, Williams was also minding his own business when the encounter began. He was standing outside a building in the Edenwald housing authority complex in the Bronx. Such behavior is quite legal, but black people are never safe from the police and the most benign activity can suddenly be cause for execution.
According to witnesses, plain clothes police emerged from an unmarked car and began to question Williams who then attempted to leave the scene. According to a witness , Williams’ last words were, “I didn’t do nothing. Why are you bothering me? Why are you after me?” The police tackled and shot him but two of the bullets struck one of officers and he died along with Williams.
The friendly fire death made the news, but there was no question or debate regarding the dubious police practices which led to the deaths of two people. Over-policing of black people and the use of alleged gang activity as a pretext have caused unjustified arrests and the deaths of people like Antonio Williams.
So far not one black elected official in New York City has publicly commented on this most recent instance of police lynch law. The local media took on the role of scribes and repeated the NYPD version of events word for word. They mention that Wiliams had a criminal record but they never pose larger questions about policing in black communities.
Josmar Trujillo did what other journalists should have done and pointed out the dubious reasoning behind policing in housing projects. Entire communities are labeled dangerous, young people are prosecuted via dubious RICO statutes. The cops who shot Williams behaved in their usual way. There is no body or dash board camera footage. They claim to have found a gun but it isn’t clear if they did or if it was planted or if it belonged to Williams at all.
The circumstance of Williams death means that his story will fly under the radar. Jean’s passing won’t be forgotten nor will the behavior of black people whose actions gave aid and comfort to our enemies.
Black elected officials in New York City should also be condemned because of their silence. The liberal mayor Bill deBlasio has lionized the dead cop but says nothing about Williams. To add insult to injury his solution is to flood the Edenwald Houses with more police, the only people who are doing any killing there.
Williams, Jean and Brown are all dead because of 21st century lynch law. We should not only say their names but we must call out by name those black people who made such an awful spectacle of themselves in the courtroom. Jean’s family should not be spared from this scorn. The only way they can begin to make amends is to thank Brown for his testimony and demand an independent investigation of his death.
The psychological damage done to black people reverberates. So much so that a family would not stand in righteous and uncompromised indignation against the person who killed their loved one. Black elected officials are silent cowards and neither speak nor act on behalf of their people. The rest of us must be watchful and prevent ourselves from falling under the spell of insanity and treachery. Let us begin by remembering Botham Jean, Joshua Brown and Antonio Williams. No one will if we do not. Black lives don’t matter in New York, Dallas or anywhere else.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.