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Sorry, but the bleak news keeps coming. Friday, another white cop got away with another murder of a black man, the third such travesty in about a month. Ray Tensing’s second hung jury came in the Cincinnati killing of Samuel DuBose during a traffic stop ( does this sound familiar?), which was caught on Tensing’s body camera. What wasn’t caught: The Confederate flag t-shirt Tensing was wearing under his uniform, or his record of pulling over more African-Americans – 83.5% of his tickets – than any other cop on the force, or the biased make-up of the jury.
Last month, Betty Jo Shelby, another white cop, was similarly found not guilty of first-degree manslaughter after Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma after his car broke down; Crutcher was unarmed with his hands in the air, but Shelby still he was a scary black guy. Shelby was even allowed to return to work, though Tulsa’s police chief said he wasn’t sure she would because it might feel “too dangerous.”
Tensing at least got fired. So did Jeronimo Yanez, bafflingly acquitted days before Tensing’s mistrial of first-degree manslaughter for the death of Philando Castile. After that verdict, troubling facts emerged. Investigators were found to have scoured Castile’s and girlfriend Diamond Reynold’s social media history – but not Yanez’ – looking for criminal activity or other dirt to re-victimize the victims; and damning, newly released dashcam video of the shooting showed a panicked Yanez screaming at a totally compliant Castile in what was widely seen as an execution. At subsequent protests and town halls to “mourn the loss of Mr. Phil,” black community members expressed anger and frustration in the face of ongoing violence by police, and the sense after so long that, “Help is not coming.”
Perhaps most disturbing is video that emerged of a distraught Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter being held in the back of a squad car moments after Philando’s shooting. Reynolds has long shown extraordinary strength, insisting to all who would listen, “I need justice.” Now, in handcuffs behind her back – why is this woman in handcuffs?!? – Reynolds alternates between furious grief and the singular composure she displayed in her own video of the shooting, complete with painstakingly remembering to call her partner’s killer “sir.” Reynolds’ shell-shocked daughter likewise veers between calmly trying to comfort her mother and her own horror. As Reynolds struggles with the handcuffs, the girl shouts in terror, “No, please, no! I don’t want you to get shooted!” After her mother tries to quiet her, the girl pleads, “I don’t want it to be like this anymore.” Reynolds’ righteous retort: “Tell that to the police.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released this video showing Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of slain Philando Castile, handcuffed and seated in the back of a police vehicle alongside her 4-year-old daughter. (June 21)
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This article was first published in Common Dreams.