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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Columns

Law enforcement, injustice claims another father


Sorrow and rage are clouding Baton Rouge, Louisiana after police senselessly gunned down a 37-year-old black man July 5.

Alton Sterling was selling discs outside a convenience store before he was tased, tackled and fatally shot by two police officers, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II.

An unidentified person dialed 911 and reported that Sterling had a gun and was pointing it at someone. If this was a fact, many will argue that he had it coming. It’s another red flag for an individual who has had many brushes with the law.

His past wrongs, however, were no justification for a brutal death sentence. The officers have been put on administrative leave since the shooting. The Department of Justice is assisting local police with the investigation.

Sterling’s death is all too similar to Eric Garner’s case, in which Garner was put into a fatal chokehold for selling cigarettes on a sidewalk.

After the shooting, the police quickly confiscated the store’s security camera footage, but forgot the one the store owner had recorded. The video showed the officers removing what could have been a gun from Sterling’s pocket, and yelled that Sterling was reaching for the weapon when it looks like he was not.

It’s time for police officers to be held to the same standard as military officers — soldiers aren’t allowed to fire on enemy combatants until they are fired upon. It’s mind boggling how police officers can gun down civilians just for reaching in their pockets.

Officers are trained to de-escalate situations, and Sterling’s case could have been handled much differently. The two officers had already restrained the man. No additional force is necessary.

This “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality is killing too many people.

When will enough be enough? The moment when minorities get their fair shake with law enforcement remains unseen. Still unheard-of, too, are officers that know how to diffuse the situation when a person of interest is a minority individual.

The tragic shooting that took place in Dallas can’t cloud what is still happening in this country. I mourn for the five police officers and their families. Despite what most people may assume, my call for accountability is not hatred toward the police. They play a vital role in our society, but must be held accountable for their actions.

Just last Sunday, actor and activist Jesse Williams, who received the Humanitarian Award at the 2016 BET Awards, delivered an extraordinary speech on racial injustice.

“Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data, and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm and not kill white people every day,” Williams said.

His words rang true in the death of Sterling.

I don’t want to hear about firings from the Baton Rouge Police Department, Gov. John Bel Edwards. I want to hear about the murder charges being brought up against those two low-life officers. Don’t let two get away with murder because of some technicality.

Show that, like everyone else, police officers should be held accountable for their actions as well. These men and women of the law are meant to serve the public and not downing its minorities.

Odus Evbagharu is a political science junior and can be reached at [email protected]

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