Tennessee Tribune Publisher Mrs. Rosetta Miller Perry

By Rosetta Miller Perry

There are three things that separate the cases of Robert “Bobby” Crimo III and Jayland Walker. The first concerns their actions. Robert “Bobby” Crimo III fired more than 80 rounds into a crowd of people in Highland Park, a Chicago suburb, gathered to celebrate the 4th of July at a parade. Jayland Walker sped away from police cars in Akron, Ohio, then later fled on foot. 

The second concerns what happened to them. Despite the fact Crimo III killed seven people and fled the scene, when police caught him he was arrested. He’s now being held without bond, facing multiple counts of first degree murder. Still, he is ALIVE. Jayland Walker is dead, shot more than 60 times in a hail of gunfire that also totaled 80 rounds. 

The third and most important is Crimo III is white. Jayland Walker is Black, and the latest in a long array of Black suspects blown away by police before they could be arrested, booked, given a trial, and found either guilty or not guilty. The police are far more careful when it comes to dealing with white suspects than Black ones, and this isn’t a pattern that just began with Walker’s case. Black Americans have seen this inequity for decades in many cities, and it’s the main reason why they turn a deaf ear to the notion the criminal justice system is equitable, and police are there to “serve and protect.”

There are even cases when police have been killed and they still take the suspect alive. Last week in Prestonburg, Kentucky, Lance Storz opened up on police officers who had come to serve a warrant at his home. Storz eventually killed two officers and a police dog, plus wounding several others. He was taken into custody alive. 

Does anyone honestly think that if police came to the home of a Black man and he opened fire on them with a rifle that there would be any hesitation in killing him? Indeed the only instance in which the use of deadly force is authorized in almost every police manual in the nation is to either save the life of innocent persons or fellow officers. So these police would have been well within their rights to shoot and kill Storz, who was both armed and posing a threat to the community.

hat was clearly NOT the case with Jaylon Walker, and there are hundreds of people inside and outside the city of Akron who want a truthful explanation from police on why they found it necessary to open fire and execute an unarmed man.  According to Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett, the sound of a shot was heard from Walker’s car, and a transportation department camera captured what appeared to be a muzzle flash coming from the vehicle. That changed the nature of the case from “a routine traffic stop to now a public safety issue,” he said.

Police body camera videos show what unfolded after the roughly six-minute pursuit. Several shouting officers with guns drawn approach the slowing car on foot, as it rolls up over a curb and onto a sidewalk. A person wearing a ski mask exits the passenger door and runs toward a parking lot. Police chase him for about 10 seconds before officers fire from multiple directions, in a burst of shots that lasts six or seven seconds.

But no one has yet offered a reasonable or plausible explanation for why more than 80 shots were fired, nor for why they felt it necessary to shoot at all. The claim that they felt Walker was about to fire on them is negated by the fact the gun (assuming he even had one) was found in the car and not on his person.

Walker’s attorney appeared July 5 on the PBS Newshour and openly questioned both the police account and the police claim his client posed any threat to them while running away. First, he debates whether Walker ever fired from the car when the police were in pursuit, and second, he questions the need for them to fire on him while he was running,

Bottom line is once more the life of a Black suspect isn’t valued in the same manner as a white one, and that’s no matter what crimes we are referencing. A new study released by Drexel University on Tuesday rebuts the idea that no racial bias is evident in police shootings. Dr. James Buehler, the paper’s author and sole researcher, found that Black people are 2.8 and 1.7 times more likely to die during encounters with police than white people and Hispanics, respectively.

“A different conclusion is apparent when a population-level perspective is taken,” Buehler says in his study, which refutes a previous one  claiming no racial bias was evident in police shootings.  He said an important difference in his study was it “aims to identify all such deaths in a population and reflects not only the outcomes of police encounters,, but also the likelihood of police encounters. That difference matters.”

Put another way, when police encounter Black suspects they act differently from when they encounter white ones. So long as that bias exists on police forces, this nation will continue to have situations where white suspects, even those who shoot and kill innocent citizens and/or police, are still treated better than Black ones who haven’t even committed any violent acts, and in many cases aren’t even armed.

Until that reality is acknowledged and the issue truly addressed, all the talk about the need for co-operation between Black communities and the police is nothing more than empty and hollow rhetoric.