Sunday, January 18, 2015

More on the Latest APD Killing - - and the MLK Weekend of Rage

The police have released a bit of body-cam video of the latest APD killing. It's disturbing from the outset because the officer involved is prominently displaying and using his automatic rifle during the incident.

The dead suspect, John Okeefe, was said to be armed with a replica old west Colt .45 revolver -- which he may or may not have been -- and he was said to be wearing body armor -- which he may or may not have been -- but even if so, the issue to me is that the police brought out the heavy weaponry and were marching around and firing in a populated neighborhood at rush hour. What's up with that?

Really, there was no concern for civilian casualties at all.

And this is all based on a report of "suspicious behavior" of two men behind a beauty salon? Something's wrong here.

The accounts of what happened are distinctly odd, to say the least, and there seems to have been a deliberate effort to obscure the participation/culpability of the other man involved. He was said to have been arrested, but according to other reports, he wasn't. He was transported to the hospital for assessment of dizziness and shortness of breath, and was released without charges.

According to police, the suspect Okeefe ran when confronted by police who were called to the scene of "suspicious behavior". According to police, the suspect Okeefe fired at officers as they pursued him. According to police, they didn't fire back. They say they lost track of the suspect Okeefe for a few minutes, then found him again running along the alley where he was eventually shot to death.

One of the citizen videos I posted links to in a previous post are alleged to show suspect Okeefe firing at officers, but they don't. In fact, it's impossible to tell from that video whether or not suspect Okeefe fires at all, or even if he has a gun.

It is, however, interesting to note that officer Fisher and officer Oates -- said to be the actual killers -- are not apparently the officers seen in the citizen video chasing suspect Okeefe in the alleyway. Officer Fisher is in fact on the other side of the shrubbery -- he starts out on the other side of the street -- and officer Oates (if I'm reading the stories right, and who can say about that, as I do get confused now and again...) is in the SUV that jumps the curb. So if I'm understanding it right, the officers chasing suspect Okeefe in the alley are not firing, whereas two other officers are firing, one out of camera view in the citizen video, and one arriving in the SUV.

[Note: I crossed out that particular paragraph because it was based on my initial misunderstanding of what the citizen video shows.]

Officer Fisher is apparently the officer running at the left of the scene, outside the shrubbery. It's not clear exactly when he fires at Okeefe, but it appears to happen while he is screened from view by trees. Another officer -- unidentified -- who is probably closest to Okeefe at that time suddenly backs away, no doubt due to the shots being fired. Officer Oates is not located, though he is likely in the scene. One report had it that Oates was in the SUV, but I've not found that report again, and I've seen no confirmation.

The one video released from officer Fisher also does not show the suspect Okeefe at all until after he is dead in the alley. It does not show him firing, though officer Fisher says he is firing. This may or may not be true, it's impossible to tell from the video, but given the frequency of police using the line "Stop resisting!!!" on unresisting suspects who have been tased or are being beaten, one would be wise not to take anything an officer says in a crisis/conflict situation at face value.

Officer Fisher's video doesn't show suspect Okeefe until sometime after he is shot dead and his corpse is surrounded by side-arm wielding officers. When we see Okeefe's body in the alley, he appears to be lying face down, what looks like a gun lying on the ground a foot or two away from his left leg.

The police claim Okeefe was wearing body armor, but that's not clear from the video at all. He appears to be wearing a black or gray shirt. That's all I can discern.

From the citizen video shot at a distance, it appears that Okeefe was trying to climb a resident's back wall to escape when he was shot and killed. There are several bullet holes in the wall. Probably more bullet holes in Okeefe, though.

The media has made a great show of "all the mug shots" of John Okeefe in order to make it seem as if he needed killing, and from certain theories of law enforcement and Führerprinzip, that's true enough. Get out of line, the man don't just come and take you away anymore, the man come and shoot your ass as likely as not.

There's a lot of "Darwinism" in the responses to police killings these days. Those who die, according to the "Darwin" fans have failed at survival of the fittest, too bad so sad. It's just "Nature" -- Natural Selection at work. Police are doing their part in cleaning up the riff-raff, "human garbage disposal" as one APD officer notoriously remarked about his job.

Both officers involved in the Okeefe shooting have had, shall we say, issues in the past. Officer Fisher has been repeatedly accused of use of excessive force, and the city has paid out more than $100,000 in settlements. Officer Oates was one of three officers who opened fire and killed a suspect in a carjacking in 2011.

Was this a "necessary shooting?" No, not at all. The idea that "suspicious activity" behind a beauty salon is worthy of a police chase and killing like this is just absurd. There was no threat to anyone at the time of the call to 911, not even a hint of it. When police arrived, one of the suspects ran. (I wouldn't be surprised if the other "suspect" was a cop, but that's another issue for another time.) The police say Okeefe fired at officers as he ran, but there is no concrete evidence it is so. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but even if he did,  does that automatically warrant a death sentence? On the street? Like that?

Many would say yes. They have been conditioned to believe that police are always justified in killing someone in self-defense. But in this case, even if Okeefe was firing -- and there is no proof that he was -- killing him in the alley like that makes no sense and clearly endangered others. It wasn't self defense, especially if Okeefe was trying to climb a wall to get away. The "race card" can't be used in this instance because Okeefe was Anglo, but because he had a long rap sheet, the killing was automatically justified in many people's minds, whether or not it was self-defense. Simply having a criminal record is enough for many to believe killing is the right remedy.

If this incident means that APD has gone back to its innate tendency to kill, it will mean a very difficult period for Burquenos ahead. When it seemed that maybe, just maybe, the killing had stopped, we may find it has been ratcheted up to a new level.

That would be a tragedy.

Reclaiming the real legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is a primary objective of this weekend's celebrations of his life and there are militant demonstrations all across the country asserting that Black Lives Matter and that Martin Luther King, Jr. was far from the rather bland pacifist he's been lionized by white folks as.

The Oakland Federal Building was barricaded for four hours and 28 minutes on Friday in a wonderful display of third world and white ally unity with #BlackLivesMatter. It was great.

Simultaneously with the action in Oakland, the BART stations from the Embarcadero to Powell Street in San Francisco were shut down.

In Boston, I-93 was shut down through the city, snarling traffic for hours.

Actions were taking place all day yesterday throughout the country. More are planned for today and tomorrow.

The protests over the egregious killing of Mike Brown -- and so many others -- have become a Movement to end police violence. The lists of demands are growing, and there is no sign that the protests will cease or that the protesters will back down. The issue is as straightforward as can be:

Justice where there is none, and an end to police violence where there is too much.

Whereas last year it seemed that the issue might not catalyze the public to action, this year it looks like the necessary action is almost certain.

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