Someone shouted that a neighbor’s son had been killed and was left in the street. They said that the cops did it. Someone said he was sixteen, while another speculated that he was in his twenties. A voice cried that he had a child.
A fog of confusion and mourning enveloped a neighborhood in Southeast DC on the night of June 12, 2018 after police officers shot and killed a man near the corner of First Street SE and Wayne Place. They fired into him around 7 pm and left his bullet-ridden body in the street for around three hours. The police used the chaos they created to orchestrate a familiar alibi — that he had pulled a gun on them, that they fired at him in self defense. Several witnesses said the victim hadn’t reached for a gun at all; after he was shot, they saw officers push his bleeding body closer to a gun they claimed he pulled.
In the neighboring Silver Spring, just moments before police killed the man in Southeast, community members were gathered to protest the June 11 murder of Robert White. Police officers in Montgomery County shot White to death for being “suspicious” and “combative,” despite being unarmed. Black Lives Matter DC (BLM DC) organizers were at the protest to honor Robert White’s life when they got an alert about the shooting in Southeast. Activists from BLM DC, BYP100 DC, and other comrades within the Movement for Black Lives — who are too familiar with their communities having to heal from incidents of police brutality — rushed to the scene where a community member had been live streaming the chaotic aftermath of the murder.
It’s hard to overstate the confusion that occurs after the police kill someone in a neighborhood and leave the body in the street. The victim was initially thought to be sixteen, and the hum from watching community members reflected this. Was he on his way home from school? Could it be one of my students? One of my child’s friends? One of my friend’s sons?
More details emerged over the next few hours: that the victim was not a teenager as initially reported, but was in his early twenties, and that he was a father to a small child who was nearby when he got shot. Once officials confirmed his name, an organizer from BYP100 DC realized that he was a member of her family. A number of witnesses watched police officers chuckle to themselves as other officers assured teary-eyed relatives that the body cameras would show everything — that this father in Southeast had pulled a gun on them, that the cops had done everything by the books.
This follows a disturbing and consistent pattern of police brutality in the DMV. In early May, twenty-two year-old Northeast DC resident Jeffrey Price was chased to death by MPD officers after a cruiser pulled into the path of his dirt bike and caused a fatal collision. A few days after Price’s death, twenty-four year-old D’Quan Young was murdered by an off-duty officer near a recreation center in Northeast. MPD officers punched twenty-three year-old Samuel Cooper in the face a couple weeks later during a brutal arrest on the same block as Young’s murder. At the Fort Totten Metro Station in late May, a Metro Transit Police Department officer tackled a young Black woman for allegedly evading a fare of a few dollars, bruising her and exposing her breasts in the process.
Then there’s the 2016 murder of Korryn Gaines in Baltimore. Police surrounded Gaines’ home to serve a warrant, leading to an hours-long standoff that culminated in them killing the twenty-three year-old mother and striking the child she cradled in her arms. There’s the 2016 murder of Terrence Sterling in Northwest DC, who was thirty-one years-old and unarmed when an MPD officer shot him on his motorcycle. There’s also the 2015 death of Natasha McKenna, a thirty-seven year-old Black woman with mental illnesses who was killed by police in Fairfax County jail when they shackled her and shocked her with 50,000 Volts four times.
In the DMV, some police officers wear their brutality like an old sock, while others wear it like a badge. Officers in Maryland and DC have been caught planting drug evidence, sexually abusing young people, and illegally dealing thousands of firearms. An officer who was charged with beating Black children during the 2008 Caribbean Day Parade attended a June 2018 hearing for the J20 Defendants wearing a t-shirt that proudly promoted police brutality. A separate officer was spotted in the summer of 2017 sporting a t-shirt with neo-Nazi symbology, donning it like a coat of arms.
Despite this violence, police departments make sure they are showered with praise. The MPD hosts ice cream socials on the same streets that they arrest, brutalize, and murder the community members they claim to protect. Instead of investing in the safety and empowerment of Black and brown communities, the DC government may raise their investment in the MPD to over $500,000,000 a year.
Police harm and police lie. They get to make the official reports, to decide what information is publically available, which information should be trusted and which should be tagged as hearsay. They get to claim that they’re here to “protect and serve,” even though many of us know that means that they protect and serve themselves and the status quo. We’ve witnessed it happen — when things get heavy, cops are quick to shield themselves at the cost of the Black and brown communities around them. We know that in many regions in America, the police system originated in slave patrols, and that police are thinly veiled tools to enforce segregation and oppression in favor of white supremacy.
With this knowledge, it’s not surprising that officers fired several rounds into a man in Southeast DC and claimed self defense. It’s not surprising that they said he pulled a gun on them. It’s not surprising that many people will believe them.
It’s not surprising that they left his body in the street for hours. That they let neighbors worry and speculate over who the dead could be. That they feigned sympathy when the victim’s mother realized, hours later, that it was her son’s body that she had been looking at the entire time. That a woman in a “Re-Elect Mayor Bowser” T-shirt arrived to pat the mother on the back while condemning organizers for “causing the commotion” the officers had created.
None of it is surprising. Still, a fog of mourning and confusion floats over DC. It hovers over a shaken neighborhood, sits in a thick vapor on the corner of First Street SE and Wayne Place, and rests inside the hearts of a grieving family. Inside the fallen’s cousins, brothers, mother, child, child’s mother. This fog will remain there for some time.
— written by Jordan DeLoach
Organizer with BYP100 DC
Designer/Editor at MelaNation
To protest the Southeast shooting and the string of police killings in the DMV area, please call the Office of the DC Mayor at 202-727-2643, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @MayorBowser directly to demand the mayor order the immediate release of all body camera footage of the DC police department murders of Jeffrey Price, D’Quan Young, and the man murdered on June 12, 2018, in the public’s interest.
On Twitter, follow organizations like Black Lives Matter DC (@DMVBlackLives), Keep DC 4 Me (@KeepDC4Me), Stop Police Terror Project DC (@StopCopTerrorDC) and BYP100 (@BYP_100) to stay up to date on protests against police brutality in the DMV.