Non-Lethal Apprehension Of White Male With Knives Underscores Murder Of Mentally Ill Black Woman

Earlier this month, Chris Rock the comedian took some heat for making a comment during a recent comedy show for Netflix, that he wanted equality in police shootings and insinuated that he would like to see more white people shot by cops.

Of course, Mr. Rock was only joking but the statement is problematic as it gives the impression that white people are not being shot when white males make up the largest number of people shot by police but it could be possible that Mr. Rock was making a point that if more white people were shot by police, they would be moved to do something about it. Mr. Rock would be wrong. Despite white people being shot more than anyone else, there is more outrage among the white media and white people on social media towards Rock joking about police killing white people than there has been outrage about police actually killing white people with the exception of the white woman from Australia who was shot and killed by an Ethiopian-American (Black) cop in Minnesota.

In a system of justice, lethal force would not be used against anyone regardless of skin color, ethnicity, gender, nationality or perceived religion unless it was the last resort and there was an actual danger like an active shooter or someone in the commission of a violent crime like murder. However, the United States does not operate on a system of justice, it operates on one of white supremacy and legalized slavery where non-white life is devalued unless it is earning money for investors in private prisons or the inmate labor is used by jailers and corporations. The bottom line is that too often the police are needlessly and cowardly shooting people in the United States.

Two cases from two different states involving two different set of cops that occurred this month highlights how police are committing murder using the oft-repeated excuse of “fearing for their lives”.

Police in New Haven, Connecticut was called to an apartment building on March 14th where a man was reportedly threatening residents with “several large knives”. Two officers encountered the man in a hallway and the video was posted by police along with a statement about the interaction.

“he was in possession of a knife in each hand and approached the officers demanding that they kill him. Each officer can be seen with their department issued weapon un holstered, but as the individual got up and approached Officers David Delgado and William Coppola, Officer Delgado made the decision to holster his firearm and deploy his department issued Taser, which immediately incapacitated the individual, giving the officers an opportunity to move in and secure the knives. Once the knives were secure, Officers Delgado and Coppola were able to apprehend the individual without further incident.”

The officers did an excellent job of using non-lethal force to subdue and take a mentally distraught suicidal man into custody who was approaching the two officers with not one but two knives in his hands and did not use the excuse that they were in fear for their lives.

Contrast this case with the recent killing of a mentally ill Black woman and you should understand why the Black community has to ask whether or not individual cases involving Black people and police involve racism given the historical racist rhetoric heard from police unions and the white public surrounding these cases.

In Elgin, Illinois, police came across a vehicle parked on a dead end street with one occupant inside. When attempting to interact with Decynthia Clements, a woman who was seeing a mental health care professional which they were later infromed about, she drove off and the police gave chase. After stopping the vehicle and surrounding it with what looked to be up to six or seven officers and after spending an hour of talking and yelling at the woman and discussing non-lethal means to take her into custody among themselves, the police end up shooting her dead as soon as she steps out of her now burning vehicle to escape the fire and smoke.

When cases like that of Clements come to light, the issue of race does come up but more importantly, what should be asked is if the shooting was justified. Of course, Elgin police are claiming to have been in fear for their lives because Clements, a woman, was possibly holding a steak knife in her hand. They are also giving the impression that she was going after the officers when the video shows a distraught woman choking on smoke moving to escape the fire before being shot in less than one second.

By contrasting the Clements case with that of the case of a mentally distraught suicidal man in New Haven, it should be evident that unnecessary lethal force was used against her and in the very least should warrant mansluaghter or 2nd degree murder charges. The Illinois state police are investigating but given the history of such cases, it is likely the killing will be deemed justifiable but we will have to wait until the investigation is over which in some cases, have taken over a year even with the video evidence.


Black Talk Media Project founder Scotty Reid is the host of BTR News and New Abolitionists Radio which he co-hosts. He has been hosting and producing news talk radio and podcasting since 2007 and has interviewed hundreds of guests on various topics. He is also a freelance writer who focuses on social and political issues from around the world and has been published by various outlets.

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