Devalued Black Life
It was a cold February night, in the back alley of Dewayne's Variety store. Roman Castro was hugging his employee tightly and the heat from his body must have felt good to the employee.
It all started when Maleek Jones was taking the trash out when a police cruiser drove down and approached him. A heavily armed city prone to violence finds it only reasonable to give law officers weapons and the authority to use them. Police who received several weeks of academy firearms training augmented by one trip to the police firing range every year. Coupled with an individual officer's judgement, that is deemed expertise enough to make the right decision every time.
So where did the police go wrong? Maleek Jones took out his cell phone in order to use the flashlight feature was met with deadly force. The rookie cop felt his adrenaline rush as he removed his revolver and opened fire on the teenager. Two bullets hit him in the chest, and a third caught his neck. He fell to the ground dropping his flashlight all in one motion. Roman Castro came out of the store quickly and grabbed the employee and held him close. He felt the blood warming his leg, but that didn't stop him.
The rookie walked over with a confused look on his face. He did not holster the weapon, but he did determine that Castro was no threat. Prior to the shooting, there was no warning, but it really doesn't matter that a shouted warning concedes every advantage to the police. The rookie officer thought about the whispers of riots, the protests that grew louder when a couple of police officers shot and killed an unarmed woman during a robbery. The state's attorney's office declined to present the case to a grand jury, citing a lack of criminal intent on the part of the police officers.
He thought about what they would do in his case. He could swear on a stack of bibles that he fired his weapon because he feared for his own safety. And in the eyes of god almighty, he'd be telling the truth. Enough was enough, the question was whether the department was going to sacrifice one of its own rather than confront one of the most unavoidable truths about police work. The rookie officer would be a perfect scapegoat, and his newness would protect the myth of the department's infallibility. The rookie knew that the public was going to demand answers. In which he had none. Maleek Jones was dead and nothing had diminished its vividness, a teenage boy has bled out and the officer still hasn't radio for emergency assistance. He was trapped in his own nightmare. The cobweb of fear kept him stuck in one place. He was speechless and felt remorse, but his mind kept thinking of ways to clear his name. He wanted to be a good cop, not a killer.
In the morning the news hit the fan. Everyone and their uncle wanted their voice heard. They wanted justice for all past police involved shootings. They wanted confessions, and answers. For the public, and the black community, the shooting of Maleek Jones became a long awaited victory over a police department that was rumored to had for generations devalued black life. For the police on the streets, white and black, the Jones shooting became proof positive that they were now alone, and that the system could no longer protect them.
© 2015 Frank Atanacio