Since a Cleveland jury believed police officer Michael Brelo’s story today that justifiable fear drove him to stand on the hood of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams’ car and shoot 15 of the 137 bullets officers fired at the unarmed couple’s bodies, I decided to post a photo of the car in question to show you what “fear” looks like.
Officer Brelo had already shot 30 bullets before he leaped on the victims’ car for that final death volley.
I always thought officers responded to what they perceive as imminent gunplay by seeking cover, if available, and looking for a good angle to take a shot.
But fear drove Officer Belo to jump on the hood of a car—presumably in the perceived line of fire—and shoot two unarmed people to death? Because he perceived a threat to his life?
There appears to be a large amount of perceptions which took place within Officer Brelo’s head before he decided to end two lives on November 29, 2012.
Yes, the incident started with a traffic stop that turned into a car chase. And yes, Russell’s car muffler backfired during the chase, which was perceived as a gunshot.
But police radio transmissions show that Officer Brelo and his comrades suffered from an overdose of perceptions that night:
“The passenger is sticking a gun out the window.”
“He’s pointing a gun out the back window.”
“Passenger is turning back around again pointing a firearm.”
“Again, the male pulled a gun again.”
“ [The suspect is] waving a gun out
The perceptions continued. The State Attorney’s investigation established that Officer Kevin Fairchild inadvertently hit the car driven by Russell, but this is what came across the police radio:
“He just rammed into a police car.”
Here’s another police perception from that night, which was wrapped around a fact:
“There’s a pop can in his hand. There’s a red pop can in his hand. Just be advised.”
The officer was referring to Malissa Williams, the passenger, who is female.
So the cops have this perception that they were dealing with two Black males, and haven’t completely ruled out their perception of the suspects being armed and dangerous. So why should the cops’ perceptions stop when the vehicle they’re pursuing stopped?
“They’re shooting at us or shooting at officers.”
At some point during the cops’ attempt to cover Russell and Williams with bullets, Williams leaned forward—likely because she’s trying to duck bullets, was hit by at least one or was already dead —perceptions continued their takeover of the cops’ reasoning:
“[The passenger] is loading his gun.”
Highly visible events like poverty and black-on-black violence are widely credited for the death of African Americans, but don’t you think that perceptions are also killing us?
I’ve said this before—as long as Fear of a Black Person can be admitted into courts of law as evidence, shaped in the forms of “I perceived my life being in danger” or “I perceived [s]he was going to do something bad,” the subsequent action will also serve as a Get Out of Jail Free card, or a My Bad Deeds are Justifiable meme.
And bad perceptions are larger than law enforcement…
song currently stuck in my head: “caledonia” – bb king