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You might think that two people dead in a hail of police bullets a la Bonnie & Clyde would have attracted some media attention immediately; but it's only recently, more than a week after the story broke that it is attracting some national notice.

Cleveland 137 bullet

Malissa Williams, 30 and Timothy Russell, 43, were killed by police on Nov. 29 after a 22-mile car chase that began near the Justice Center and ended at Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland... 13 officers fired 137 bullets at the car.
The story is hauntingly familar to those who lived through the death of Alan Blueford in Oakland on May 6th, 2012 (and, I'm sure, many other victims of police violence). Alan may only have ended up taking three bullets, while this man and woman had twenty to thirty entry wounds each, but the unfolding of the aftermath was more than predictable.

First come the reports that the victims had a gun, and fired shots at officers (Initial reports said the suspects in the car had fired shots at police officers). Those items headline the biggest stories, leaving a lasting impression in the public's mind. Only days later do we find out that no gun was ever found and no casings were ever discovered. (The Oakland Police initially reported that Alan was in a "gun battle" with the officer who shot him, a disreputable lie of the highest order, only retracted days after the stories had already been published).

Cleveland 137 bullets

Almost as quickly comes the slander: the person or people killed were "bad guys", with police records, somehow justifying the killing. (The Oakland Police immediately released information that Alan was on probation and had a juvenile record, as if this somehow justified his murder. They later went on to suggest he was involved in a "drug deal" just minutes before he was killed, another blatant lie.) Only the most astute realize that all this "information" is irrelevant -- the police at both scenes had no access to this knowledge; it could not have affected their actions because they were unaware of it, and yet it is used to imply justification for what actions the officers took and to suggest the victims "had it coming."

As more and more evidence is released, more and more doubt appears. In the Cleveland case, we learn that police were apparently ordered to halt the high-speed chase; instead they continued it. Police, who have claimed their lives were in danger, apparently "stopped to reload." (In Alan's case, the officer who shot him multiple times behaved in a bizarre and inconsistent manner, if one is to believe his own sworn statement, let alone if we consider the statement's apparent conflict with witness claims and the evidence).

Cleveland's police don't have dashboard cameras on most of their units, nor are their officers equipped with chest or lapel cameras. So the claims they make as to what occurred can never be verified. (In Oakland, police are supposed to enable their lapel cameras whenever engaging the public. But for some "mysterious" reason Office Masso, who shot Alan, failed to turn his on, even though there was no emergency situation when he and his partner made the decision to stop Alan and his friends).

In Cleveland, the driver of the vehicle apparently used the car as a weapon once cornered, driving it at police. But what of the passenger? Did the police give any thought to the possibility that she might have been an unwilling rider, caught up in a crazy 100-mph chase, unable to extricate herself? Was there no plausible alternative to conducting a high-speed 22-mile chase at night that could have easily resulted in pedestrian, bystander or police deaths (...innocent bystanders constitute 42 percent of those killed or injured in police pursuits.) and which probably violated their own policy on vehicular pursuit? (In Oakland, Officer Masso chased Alan Blueford into a crowd of people attending a party, then shot Alan amidst the partygoers, apparently oblivious to the risks of ricochets or stray bullets.)

In both Oakland and Cleveland (and surely elsewhere) the police are totally oblivious to the larger world around them and viciously protective of their own.

"The real problem here is the criminal element," D'Angelo said. "The criminals have become more lawless. But we, as a society, focus on the officers who respond to the lawless element. We don't call out the people who initiate this conduct... officers daily are forced to respond to an ever-growing criminal element."
I don't know what "The criminals have become more lawless" means, but facts are facts. Crime has diminished by almost startling amounts in the last couple of decades. That police feel the need to confront less and less of it with more and more violence is symptomatic of paranoia, not a "real problem." (Oakland's police are similarly convinced that lurking around every corner is a gang of young men of color ready to commit every conceivable violation of the criminal code. Hence their calls for gang injunctions, curfews and further crackdowns so that they will have not only the right but the obligation to stop every young man of color on the streets of Oakland to harrass them.)

Finally all police believe they are never wrong, their actions never unjustified. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer relates

The figures involving investigations of use of force have dramatically favored officers. All of the 4,427 investigations by supervisors from Jan. 1, 2003, through Sept. 9, 2006, ended in the officers' favor, The Plain Dealer reported in 2007.
Uh, "dramatically favored" is nothing less than studied understatement here when every single investigation of 4,427 comes up empty of officer misconduct. Even Mother Teresa couldn't have scored that highly when she appeared before St. Peter. (One of the principal complaints the Federal Monitor of the Oakland Police noted in his latest scathing report was that OPD's Internal Affairs Department almost inevitably sided with their own when conducting use of force investigations, and that superior officers always concluded that their underlings use of force or behavior was justified).

No one knows what the ultimate results of the investigations into these deaths on the streets of Cleveland, and Alan's death on the street in Oakland, will show. But based on all past evidence, we can make some pretty confident predictions, and their arc does not bend towards justice.



Information on Alan Blueford:

Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition website.

Documents relating to the Blueford Case.


Another Young Black Man Gunned Down by Police on the Streets of Oakland.

I Am The Mother of Murder Victim Alan Blueford.

No Justice, No Peace

End Racing Profiling. End Stop & Frisk. The Movement is Building. The Movement is Now.

And the Children Shall Lead Them.

Are the Oakland Police Going Down At Last? At Long Last?


2:03 PM PT: From the comments:

That's more bullets than were fired by all the police in Germany during an entire year.
That's a keeper.
5:06 PM PT:

Originally posted to jpmassar on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 01:39 PM PST.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street, Police Accountability Group, California politics, and SFKossacks.

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