4.6.4 Case Review
The case of Freddie Gray proves unique in many aspects, first, other than the fact that Freddie running from the police as a provocative action, the manner in which he was arrested raised eye brows. More so, Freddie Gray was visibly restrained beyond comfort as he was dragged into the van. His death, therefore, is viewed from the perspective that he was the victim. The treatment that he received from the arresting officers overshadow the charges that he was arrested for namely the possession of a blade that was not licensed. More conspicuously, the fact that the officers involved were three White and three Black officers made the case appear more of a police brutality issue rather than a racial issue. However, the lack of indictment of any of the officers leaves people wondering whether justice was served or denied given that Gray died from injuries due to negligence of the police officers. The table below presents a synopsis of the findings on Freddie Gray’s Case.
Presentation of Freddie Gray
Table 5: Positive and negative comments about Freddie Gray in the Media (Source: Author).
4.7 Other Cases of Police Brutality
As earlier mentioned at the onset of the chapter, numerous cases of police brutality exist among which the five most prominent ones have been presented that include the cases of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Eric Garner. The proceeding section of the report presents other similar cases that have had notable attention, however, due to limited scope of the study, the cases shall be reviewed in synopsis with similarities drawn between them and the five cases discussed earlier in detail.
4.7.1 The case of Trayvon Martin (February 26th, 2012: Miami, Florida)
Marin was shot by a neighbourhood watch volunteer by the name George Zimmerman in a suburban area known as Sanford. Zimmerman had earlier called the police citing suspicious activity on the part of Martin after which he confronted Martin and a confrontation between him and Martin ensued. During the confrontation Zimmerman sustained injuries and claimed that he shot Martin in self-defence. The police officers did not charge Zimmerman based on the ‘hold your ground law’ that states that individuals can stick by their story provided they can back it with evidence in the absence of contradictory evidence. The hashtag #Trayvon soon trolled in social media including Facebook and Twitter calling for justice. Hence, social media wanted Zimmerman to be charged in court, however, he was acquitted of all charges. An evaluation of media reports mainly in traditional media, for example, FOX News, CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, reports presented Martin as an African American dressed in a hoodie (Alcindor, 2012; TBT, 2012). Moreover, the reports also insisted on the aspect of Trayvon’s aggressive character especially during the confrontation with Zimmerman (Robles, What is known, what isn't about Trayvon Martin's death, 2012). Consistent with cases such as Michael Brown’s the African American male is presented as aggressive and threatening to security officers despite the fact that Martin was unarmed at the time of his fatal shooting by volunteer neighbourhood watchman Zimmerman (CBS, 2012).
4.7.2 The Case of Rumain Brisbon (Dec 2nd, 2014: Phoenix, Arizona)
Brisbon was shot by a police officer after a foot chase to his apartment and a bit of struggle with the officer who thought he was reaching for a weapon. It turns out that Brisbon was reaching for a bottle of pills (Murphy, 2015). Consequently, earlier that evening the police had received a tip off of a suspect selling drugs whose vehicle matched the description of the SUV that Brisbon had been driving. When confronted by the officer, Brisbon ran into the house after struggling with the officer only to emerge that the confusion led the officer to shoot Brisbon since it looked as if Brisbon was reaching for his gun (Wasser, 2015). Soon after Brisbon’s death protests loomed in the streets, with calls for justice to be served, however, the officer involved was not charged. Reports characteristic of traditional media reported on the suspect’s profile along with the struggle that ensued between the officer and Brisbon (Cassidy, 2015). As such, Brison’s image appeared to be that of a drug dealer and an individual who was resisting arrest in which case the officer involved was forced to use force in containing the situation. In new media, social media sites were characterised by calls for justice for the slain Brisbon and an end to police brutality that largely borders racial discrimination against African-American males.
4.7.3 The case of Eric Courtney Harris (April 2nd, 2015: Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Eric Harris was a 44-year-old African American male shot in the back by officer Robert Charles ‘Bob’ Bates aged 73 who confused his Smith and Wesson 375 revolver for a model X26 Taser. As such, records indicate that immediately after shooting Harris, the officer yelled out saying ‘Oh, I shot him! I’m sorry’. Officer Bates was found guilty of manslaughter. Immediately after news emerged that White Officer Bates had shot an African American there was unrest and protests leading to the officer’s prosecution (Bankoff & Fuller, 2015). Reports in traditional press and broadcasting stations all reported of how Harris had posed no threat and yet the officer used a lethal weapon to contain him. The debate took centre stage in social media where Facebook and Twitter feeds were made of posts and tweets calling for justice respectively. The developments were such that the case of Harris was a victim of police brutality based on the racist nature of White police officers who pick on Black young men (Pierce, 2015). The case reiterated the calls for justice for African-American men shot by White police officers despite posing no threat at all as reminiscent of the cases of Michael Brown, Walter Scott, and Tamir Rice. Overall, the image of an unarmed Black man shot by White racist police officers suffices as a case of police brutality at its worst. The newspapers and television news reported that although Harris was being chased down in relation to an incident of recovered stolen arms, Harris himself was not armed at the time of his arrest (Pérez-Peña, 2015).
4.7.4 The Case of Alton Sterling (July 6th, 2016: Baton Rouge, Louisiana).
The 37-year-old was shot by police officers during a confrontation that was recorded by a bystander in what appears to have been a case of resisting arrest. The officers involved tackled Sterling to the ground before shooting him point blank while pinning him to the ground. Like the case of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray (Yan & Berlinger, 2016), most reports in the media especially traditional media that include CNN, FOX News, and PBS, reported that the suspect was reaching for a gun when the officers shot him (Silverstein, 2016). Like the other cases discussed, the shooting prompted calls for the arrest and prosecution of the officers involved leading to violent protests in Baton Rouge that lasted weeks. Overall, the image of an aggressive huge African-American was presented as intimidating and provocative to the officers who had no choice but to shoot Sterling in self-defence (Shoichet & Berlinger, 2016). Nonetheless, a few news reports such as the Daily News report by Silverstein (2016) reported on a background check on Sterling revealing that he was a favourite neighbourly CD seller who was popular around the block. He was also described as a father of five who was loving and concerned about his security after a friend of his was mugged prompting him to carry the weapon. From a broader perspective, the news reports in traditional media describe Sterling more in negative light than in positive light. The social media platforms, however, call for justice and a stop to police brutality citing the incident of Sterling’s shooting.
4.7.5 The case of Philando Castile (July 6th, 2016: St Anthony, Minnesota)
Castile was pulled over by traffic police officer Jeronimo Yanez in Falcon Heights which is a suburban neighbourhood. Castile is reported to have told the officer that he was licensed to carry and while reaching for his license, the officer told him to put his hands up. As Castile complied in the spur of the moment, officer Yanez shot him about five times, Castile bled out and arrived at the hospital when it was too late 20 minutes later and died while being attended at the emergency room. The video recording that surfaced where the officer was standing by in the aftermath of the shooting revealed the negligence on part of Yanez when he fatally shot Castile without provocation. The news reports that followed in traditional media seemed to align with the fact that police brutality and racial discrimination played a central role in the incident. Reports in the StarTribune, Washington Post, CNN and The New York Times all affirmed that the shooting was racist (StarTribune, 2016). Philando Castile’s death sparked outrage all over the country with renewed protests over police brutality especially against African-Americans. The protests reignited the #Black Lives Matter demonstrations that led to the recent revenge attacks where the shootings of five White police officers by a black ex-army sniper was linked to the shooting of Castile. Further, the Dallas attack was also linked to Alton Sterling’s shooting as well (Karimi, Shoichet, & Ellis, 2016). The representation of Castile in the social media took the form of calls for justice for the killing. Hence, new media took a remorseful stance on the issue with calls for justice whereas the traditional media portrayed the injustice that is racism leading to the killing of Castile.
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