In December of last year, I predicted that Officer Peter Liang — the rookie New York Police Department cop who fatally shot Akai Gurley in a dark stairwell in the Louis H. Pink Houses complex — might be the first (and perhaps only) police officer indicted in the killing of an unarmed Black man when this issue was captivating national headlines.
Earlier that year, the killing of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson failed to result in an indictment for his killer Darren Wilson. Eric Garner’s death following an illegal chokehold administered by Daniel Pantaleo also did not produce an indictment. The shooting of unarmed John Crawford III in an Ohio Walmart by police did not result in an indictment. The shooting of unarmed college student Jordan Baker by police in Houston did not result in an indictment. No charges were even filed against the Utah police who shot and killed Darrien Hunt, cosplaying with a replica sword at the time of his death.
In fact, post-Ferguson analysis suggests that although any district attorney worth their weight can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich“, this rule of thumb only seems to apply to civilians; indictment rates for police officers are markedly lower. Josh Voorhees estimates for Slate that most police officers are not indicted for on-the-job shootings: between 2005-2011, only 41 officers were ever indicted, which works out to only a little less than 7 indictments a year. Many sources further report that only 1 in 3 of those police officers who are actually indicted are ever convicted.
I predicted in December that Officer Peter Liang might be one of those police who would face indictment.
There was no indictment in the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. There was no indictment in the choking death of unarmed Black man Eric Garner by NYPD officer Dan Pantaleo.
Now, a Brooklyn Grand Jury is considering an indictment in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old Black man who died after being shot once in the chest by NYPD rookie officer Peter Liang, who is Asian American.
Earlier this year, unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson; earlier this month, a grand jury refused to indict Wilson of a crime in Brown’s death.
This above sentence is not partisan. It is not fantastic. It is not subjective. It is a factual description of the events in Ferguson over the last year.
Yet, this description — which reflects the general coverage of the Michael Brown shooting and its aftermath — seems to bother some within mainstream America. That’s because Michael Brown simply doesn’t fit neatly into one of the several pre-defined tropes available to Black men, or to people of colour, in general.
This description chafes because, to them, there’s no such thing as Black humanity.
This afternoon, a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17th killing of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Black man who died of a heart attack after Pantaleo put Garner in a chokehold, a maneuver illegal for NYPD officers. A medical examiner ruled Garner’s death as due to both the chokehold and restriction of his chest as police officers put their weight on him.
Despite claims that NYPD acted appropriately, a widely circulated video showed police officer conduct in the moments prior to Garner’s death (embedded after the jump).
By now, it’s probably unnecessary for me to explain who Robert P. McCulloch is, but I will do it anyways. McCulloch is the Prosecuting Attorney for St. Louis County. It was McCulloch’s job to bring an indictment against Officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown earlier this year; and, if an indictment was passed down by the grand jury, it was McCulloch’s job to prosecute Wilson. It was Robert P. McCulloch’s job to advocate for Michael Brown, and to seek justice in his death.
It’s also unnecessary for me to explain how Robert P. McCulloch utterly failed in this task. It’s unnecessary for me to discuss how McCulloch sabotaged the grand jury proceedings; how he never met with the Brown family; how he sought to confuse the jury with an excess of data and a lack of narrative; how, in the end, he was simply disinterested in building a legitimate criminal case against Wilson. It’s unnecessary for me to talk about what Arthur Chu describes as his confoundingly “tone deaf” announcement of the grand jury’s findings Monday night, where he blamed protesters, mainstream media, social media, and Michael Brown, hismself — everyone but Darren Wilson — in Brown’s death and its aftermath. It’s unnecessary for me to point out that while McCulloch’s office was ostensibly building a case against Wilson, his organization “BackStoppers” helped raise nearly half a million dollars to benefit Wilson’s legal fund.
Put more plainly, it’s completely unnecessary for me to tell you that Robert P. McCulloch is a man who has no business continuing to draw a $160,000 per year paycheck as St. Louis County’s prosecuting attorney.
This post will explain how we can change that, in three easy steps.
Since 2001, Reappropriate has been the web's foremost Asian American activism, identity, feminism, and pop culture blog!