Another unarmed black man executed by the police in broad daylight. Another family in a state of hysteria, left to spend the remainder of their lives mourning their loved one who was shot dead, most likely because he was 240 pounds, black and horrifically misunderstood.
But what about black on black crime, David? What about all the blacks killing police officers earlier this summer? How about all the white people who are killed by blacks?
My heart is equally as sickened and broken for the victims of those vicious tragedies as I am with this one (the Terence Crutcher shooting). Not every police-related fatality is because of race. It isn’t.
I have a great deal of respect for the majority of police officers. They have the hardest job in America, a job I wouldn’t want if it paid a million dollars a day. The overwhelming majority of police officers aren’t sadistic racists. Police officers are human beings who are just as prone to make a mistake in the heat of a stressful moment as anyone else would be.
I just wish there was more discussing these situations on a case by case basis without using smoke screens to divert the attention away or to try to dilute what just happened.
Because yet another unarmed black man was shot to death by the police. That’s what just happened. Right here, right now, let’s talk about that.
My heart was broken for Terence Crutcher before the shots were even fired (a taser and a bullet according to the report). Hearing that voice – from way up in a helicopter no less.
“That looks like a bad dude. He might be on something.”
How do you know he’s a bad dude? Do you know him? How much time have you spent with him? Do you know anything about him other than his appearance? Why is an unarmed person getting shot dead before anyone knows why the car was stalled on the street and why he was standing outside the vehicle as they arrived?
I am personally a year removed from having two situations happen to me within a 3-month radius of one another.
After work one night, I meet my wife at the grocery store. I park and walk across the parking lot looking for her car.
From out of nowhere, an employee of that store comes walking up and begins interrogating me.
“What are you doing? Why are you walking around the parking lot like that?”
Being someone whose almost always nervous, even while checking the mail, she sees me open my mouth and anxiously twitch in an incoherent stuttering panic.
“Sir, don’t go anywhere. Stay right here.”
She whips out a walkie talkie and I hear her say “Yeah, I’ve got him right here.”
“…Mmmmm-m-m-mmmmaaaam I’m j-j-jjjjjj-jjjjj-ust l-l-llllll-lllllll-looking for my w-w-w-wwwwife.”
“You’re looking for your wife? Then where is she? Why would you be looking for her in the parking lot at night? Where’s your car?”
Then she hits me with, “If you didn’t do anything wrong then why are you stuttering so much? Huh?”
Turns out, I had arrived just moments after a customer alerted the store that a suspicious person was walking around the parking lot, messing around with cars, perhaps trying to steal things.
She took one look at me in my filthy work clothes, she noticed my week and a half stubble, my nervous and bizarre mannerisms and she had her suspect.
I looked like a bad dude. Like I may have been on something.
But she was talking to the minister of the Belleview Church.
Three months later, I’m at The Olive Garden to get a to-go order I had placed online.
I arrive fifteen minutes early so I walk over to a department store nearby to kill the time. I exit the store. I’m doing nothing but taking a two-minute walk at night.
Suddenly, as I return to the parking lot of the restaurant, a squad car pulls up next to me.
“Excuse me, sir. What are we up to?”
Being someone whose extremely nervous about anything, even if it’s calling my grandmother, the police officer sees me open my mouth and anxiously twitch in an incoherent stammering panic.
I finally get it out. At least some of it out.
“G-g-g…gggggggggggg…..ggggggggggggggggggg-gggggggggoing fffffffff-ffffor a w-w-w-wwwww-wwwww-wwaaaaaallllk on mmmm-m-m-m-m-mmmmy way to g-g-g-ggggg-gggget…”
Out of breath, I point at the restaurant. Still struggling to speak, I finally manage the words “to go order.”
He calls for reinforcements.
Another squad car pulls up. The officer joins us.
A minute or so later, another officer walks up from out of nowhere in plain clothes, surrounding me, closing in on my personal space.
One of them notices the name badge on my shirt from work.
They ask me where I work. I finally get the words out. It’s 20 miles away from where we stood. The restaurant is closer to my house than that job was.
He begins interrogating me. “Well if you work in Ocala then what are you doing way out here (in Oxford)? What are you doing way out here?”
In my mind, I’m thinking, “Is it a crime to drive eight miles down the street from my house and pick up an Olive Garden order? Is it illegal to go for a walk at night?”
I try to answer but my anxiety is now off the charts. The words won’t come out of my mouth. One of the officers speaks once more, the tone of his voice escalating.
“I’m not going to ask you again. What are you doing out here?”
At this point, I’m so anxious I’m shaking, on the verge of having a full blown panic attack. I have now lost my ability to speak.
“Sir, raise your hands in the air.”
“Sir – Sir – Sir!!! Stand straight!”
They ask me if I have any weapons on me. I silently shake my head no. They ask me if I have any drugs on me. I silently shake my head no. They ask me if I have any stolen merchandise on me. I silently shake my head no, feeling nervous tears welling in my eyes.
Next thing I know, I’m pushed up against one of the police cars and they’re patting me down.
I’m so panicked I couldn’t even process anything they said to me after that. Even though I had nothing to hide and had done nothing wrong, seeing three big stone-faced police officers interrogating me, seeing their guns up close and being unable to verbally communicate with them, I felt absolutely helpless, like I was going to be arrested and go to jail.
Finally, with no evidence to pin on me, they inform me I’m free to go. In an unexpected burst of fluency, as I’m walking up to the restaurant, I turn and try to lighten the tone of the past ten minutes by sarcastically asking the officers if any of them might be interested in a breadstick when I came out.
I looked like a bad dude. Like I may have been on something.
But they were talking to the minister of the church twelve minutes down the street.
And I totally see where they were coming from. At least to an extent. Even the woman at the grocery store.
Based on my outward appearance, I looked suspicious.
They had no way of knowing I suffer from social anxiety and that when made even more nervous than I already am, I’m not going to be able to speak. They clearly had no idea what it was when they saw it. To my disadvantage, most people associate chronic stuttering with guilt.
The lesson is, as Scripture teaches. That man takes one look at the outward appearance and makes his knee jerk reactions and pronounces all their judgments from far up above in their helicopters.
But God looks at the heart.
We cannot expect the world to be God.
But as for me and for you and the people we encounter along the way, we can grow to the point of daring to look beyond the external packaging and loving that individual enough to ask some questions before we whip out our tasers and revolvers and plow people down just because purely on sight, we’ve decided they’re bad dudes.
I don’t share these stories to compare myself with Terence Crutcher or with anyone else, regardless of the ethnicity, whose been innocently shot dead. There is a very serious problem in our country. Things need to dramatically change. This cannot continue happening.
I simply shudder, thinking in far too many instances, what would have happened to me in those circumstances if I was the same height with the same twitching incoherence but a hundred pounds heavier and black.
Before there’s any more smoke screens. Before there’s any more attempts to dilute this tragedy and gross injustice, take a listen to this clip. And dare to learn what I myself had no idea of, that so many people have to experience on a daily basis.