Safety not guaranteed
“THE WORLD IS ENDING. HOW ABOUT NO,” is the Facebook message I woke up to Thursday afternoon from my best friend, Katie.
On Wednesday night, 18-year-old Vonderitt Deondre Myers was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer in his native St. Louis, Missouri.
The officer shot at Myers 17 times, and seven or eight of those bullets struck Myers. The fatal shot, however, was to the head.
Myers was armed, according to police reports, and he shot at the officer three times before the cop, moonlighting as a security guard, returned fire.
But eyewitnesses said Myers was unarmed and holding a sandwich instead.
Regardless, there were 17 bullets shot at a single person. The incident in Missouri makes it the third police-related death in less than four months nationwide.
And I’m absolutely infuriated.
Something here isn’t right. People our age are being murdered on nothing more than an accident, poor judgment or self-defense from the police. But are 17 shots still considered to be self-defense?
“When he uses deadly force, he uses deadly force until the threat is gone,” Neil Bruntager, St. Louis Officers’ Association lawyer, told CNN defending the cop who shot Myers.
Police defending themselves to an extreme degree in the United States seem to be a trend. And if this past summer doesn’t prove it, take a look at the incidents of police brutality or police-related shootings since the Los Angeles riots in 1992.
Myers’ death came on the eve of Ferugson’s resistance march, which was held two months after the death of Michael Brown, who was shot and killed in the St. Louis suburb by a police officer in August. Brown was unarmed when the cop shot him six times.
The day CBS news reported on the death of Sean Bell, I was sitting in front of the television, waiting to go to school.
My parents and my childhood neighborhood in Harlem were outraged. Local community activist called on its members to stand up for justice.
My elderly neighbors spoke of the incident with sorrow. My mother’s church led prayers and talked of protests. That day I learned what true anger felt like.
In 2006, Bell was killed by five NYPD officers in Queens because of the officer’s suspicion of Bell’s involvement in a prostitution ring. One officer told Bell to get out of his car, instead, Bell accelerated. The cops shot at Bell’s car 50 times. Nineteen of those bullets hit Bell’s friend, Joseph Guzmán.
While Guzmán lived, Bell was killed the morning of his wedding.
Coming from a city where crime is prevalent, I’m not scared of the Bloods and Crips on initiation day in October. I’m not afraid of the stray bullets that’ll fly across the street in the Lincoln projects. I’m not afraid of the possibility of getting jumped outside my apartment complex after a late night out.
I’m afraid of being in the wrong place at the wrong time without knowing and a police officer finding a cause to point a gun to my chest.
And finding a cause to pull the trigger.
Something needs to be done and we can’t look to an authority figure to fix things.
Our generation is the next generation of policy makers, police officers, CEOs, educators, journalists, renowned researchers and experimental scientists. We are the next generation responsible for our world and we need to fix it. The people who walk the halls of the Natural Science Complex or sit in the new chairs in Knox 20. The people who are educating themselves for the future.
The world we’re preparing ourselves for is a world that continuously allows authoritarian figures to pull citizens out of their cars and beat them unnecessarily. It’s a world that allows for people to be shot at 50 times and hours before they’re supposed to start a new life with someone else. It’s a world that allows for teenagers to be shot at after getting a bag of Skittles and an Arizona tea at a convenience store.
It’s a world where we say it’s okay to forget about the Rodney Kings, the Sean Bells, the Trayvon Martins, Eric Garners, Michael Browns and the Vonderitt Deondre Myers until it happens again and there’s a new name on the list.
But hasn’t history proven that it will happen again?
My heart is growing too heavy to bear more of this news. And when Katie tells me of the problems of the world, I remember why we stick to simple college humor in our conversations.
But I want to make it my responsibility to see that the unnecessary brutality, the unnecessary killings and the lost lives end. I want to see that they end with my generation.