[Content Note: Death; injury; police misconduct; racism.]
In an absolutely terrible story
out of Detroit, police officers did not cease pursuing during a car chase once it entered a populous residential neighborhood, and two black children are now dead and several others injured:
Brother and sister Michaelangelo and Makiah Jackson, ages 6 and 3 respectively, were playing in front of their home when a police car appeared, chasing what appeared to be a red Challenger. According to eyewitnesses, the police car bumped the Challenger, and the car "flew up in the air." Witnesses heard tire squeals, as if the car was attempting to stop, but by then it was going too fast and had lost control and hit the two small children, killing them instantly.
...Even after the car had dragged the children a distance down the street, the police did not stop their pursuit. They continued to chase the car across one front lawn after another, finally crashing, critically injuring three more children including three-year-old Darius Andrews, Jr., Isaiah Williams, 5, and Zyaire Gardner, 7. Twenty-two-year-old LaKendra Hill sustained injuries. The father of the youngest called seven-year-old Zyaire "the real hero," adding, "He saved my son's life. He grabbed him and tried to hold him."
My condolences to the families, friends, and neighbors of the children who were killed, and I hope the families of the injured children, as well as LaKendra Hill, have the resources they need to heal their physical wounds.
As with many other deadly interactions with police, the original police account was contradicted by witnesses: "On the night of the incident, police Chief James Craig said that the police car had already stopped the chase after they 'lost sight of the car.' After many eyewitnesses had refuted that claim, Craig said that a supervisor had ordered a stop to the pursuit."
Further, the police tried to justify the pursuit by claiming that the driver (or passenger) of the car was seen with a gun, but again had to backpedal: "The next day the chief said there was no gun, and that the case started when the police 'made eye contact' with the occupants of the car."
If that sounds familiar, it's possibly because police in Baltimore "made eye contact" with Freddie Gray
before pursuing him on foot and then arresting him and putting him in the back of a police van where he later sustained fatal injuries.
The driver of the car, according to police is 29-year old-Lorenzo Harris, "who was on parole but had not been reporting in to his parole officer." Okay. Well, unless there was evidence he was imminently planning a violent crime, a high-speed chase was hardly necessary for a parole violation.
And that's not just my opinion:
On paper, the official policy of the Detroit Police Department includes this:
Members involved in a pursuit must question whether the seriousness of the violation warrants continuation of the pursuit. A pursuit shall be discontinued when, in the judgment of the primary unit, there is a clear and present danger to the public which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension of the violator. Officers must keep in mind that a vehicle pursuit has the same potential for serious injury or death as the use of fatal force. … Officers must place the protection of human life above all other considerations.Their true attitude, priorities, "policy" is written in the blood of small children on those front lawns.
Meanwhile, despite the Chief Craig's contention that "a supervisor had ordered a stop to the pursuit," the officers who continued the pursuit allegedly in contravention of a command have not been suspended nor fired, nor are they even being investigation, in any report I can find. Craig has said
merely that "his department is reviewing its pursuit policy."
Harris, the driver being pursued for a parole violation, has been arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder, among other charges.
Naturally, we are meant to view Harris, a convicted drug user who was skipping parole meetings, as exclusively responsible for the deaths of Michaelangelo and Makiah Jackson.
But I wonder how it is that we are supposed to ignore the context in which any black man or woman, who is pursued after "making eye contact" with police, might find themselves dead if they land in police custody?
Who the fuck is being served or protected by any of this?