So, apparently a mentally ill Black man was shot 46 times, and killed by Saginaw, Michigan police officers almost two months ago; and, we’re just now hearing about it because it was caught on tape. Thanks to CNN and the work of a concerned citizen armed with a video camera, we’re reminded of the disadvantage of being black when encountered by police.
People of color have a long history of being on the receiving end of police abuse. But then, someone got lucky 25 years ago, and captured the brutal beating of an unarmed motorists by several members of the Los Angeles police department. Luckily, that man survived his beating, and in an act of kindness after the officers were convicted, he was awarded a large sum of money for his pain. Convenient, don’t you think?
After that incident, the rapper Ice Cube wrote a song called “Who Got The Camera”, and ever since, black folks saw it fit to arm themselves with video cameras to collect evidence, just on the off-chance that they encounter the police and happen to trip and fall into a few batons, or foolishly decide to obstruct the path of bullets fired from a police officer’s firearm. You know, sorta like Oscar Grant did in Oakland back in late 2008, just before New Years Eve?
Yeah, remember the outrage that sparked, and the subsequent outcome?
Yes, if you’re black (or any other person of color) it’s always a good idea to keep a camera handy, just like my man Ice Cube said back in 1992. But who would have thought that in today’s post-racial society, that black men would still have to adhere to such a rule to avoid being shot multiple times like Milton Hall was in Saginaw, Michigan on July 1st, 2012. Oh, before I go on, allow me to mention that Hall was black, mentally ill, and homeless; pretty much on the lowest rung of society.
This from CNN.com:
Three days before Independence Day, Milton Hall died in a fusillade of police gunfire outside a strip mall.
He had been arguing with officers in a parking lot next to a shuttered Chinese restaurant when he was shot, in full view of passing motorists and while he was holding some sort of knife. Saginaw County Prosecutor Michael Thomas said later that the squad of police confronting him opened fire “because apparently, at this point in time, he was threatening to assault police.”
Thomas’ office and the Michigan State Police are investigating Hall’s death. Saginaw Police Chief Gerald Cliff said Hall was “known to be an assaultive person” with “a long history” of contacts with law enforcement, “not only with police from our department but with the county.”
Hall’s cousin, Mike Washington, acknowledged Hall had been jailed for minor offenses like vagrancy in the past, but, “He was not violent.” And Hall’s mother is growing impatient with the probe and questions why police opened fire so furiously on her son, whom she said was mentally ill.
“It appeared to be a firing squad dressed in police uniforms,” Jewel Hall told CNN from her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “There was another way. They did not have to kill him. He had not done anything. He was not violent. He was not a murderer. He was not a criminal.”
Jewel Hall said her son had once trained as a civil right activist, been an avid reader and played football. He had lived in Saginaw for 35 years and received Social Security disability payments for a mental illness, but, “He knew his rights.”
“Everybody knew him. The police knew him well,” she said. “So that’s another question: they knew him, so why? Why did they kill him?”
The July 1 shooting happened in a parking lot on West Genessee Avenue, a busy commercial strip on the north side of Saginaw. In a video purchased by CNN, shot by a motorist from across the street, the 49-year-old Hall is seen arguing with a half-dozen officers. For more than three minutes, he walks back and forth, and at one time appears to crouch in a “karate stance,” according to the man who captured the scene.
You can watch the video for yourself below:
Maybe he should’ve reached for his wallet…
However, after watching the above video myself more than once, there is no way it can be concluded that this shooting was justified. That is, unless the Michigan State Police investigators can produce another video which shows Hall
literally eating the face of a police officer standing with a knife five inches from the body of any one of the six officers involved in the shooting. Hall may have been a trouble maker, but mental illness aside, he didn’t deserve to be murdered by the police the way he was. But hey, I’m glad that someone was there with a camera.
I say that because according to the following news report filed days after the shooting, police are saying that their electronic equipment — both audio and video — didn’t work at the time of the incident. And conveniently, as such, they were not able to capture the moments leading up to the shooting that can be used as evidence to justify their actions. Convenient and coincidental, right?