A Weekend of Shootings Leaves Communities Across the Country Wounded

Posted on August 3, 2012

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The weekend of July 21, 2012, amounted to be a tragic one. At the midnight showing of the latest Batman film in Aurora, Colorado, 24 year old James Holmes allegedly tear gassed and opened fire on a theater full of people, some of which were children. At the end of Holmes’s rampage, 12 people – Jonathan Blunk, Alexander J. Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander C. Teves, and Rebecca Wingo – were dead and 58 other people were injured. Holmes was apprehended by police outside the theater minutes after the shooting and taken into custody. Holmes, unarmed, surrendered without resisting. Police found guns in the theater and inside Holme’s vehicle and located a ‘booby-trap’ of homade explosives and a large quantity of gasoline in his apartment. After the shooting, vigils for the victims and their families were planned across the country.

On Saturday, in Anaheim, California, 24 year old Manuel Diaz was reportedly pursued by police for being involved in “a suspicious gathering of three men near a car.” Although many details still remain unclear, Diaz, unarmed, was running from police when he was shot in the buttocks, and then the head. Video recorded at the scene by witnesses shows, as he lay on the on the ground dying, police handcuff him and do nothing to aid his injuries. After Diaz’s murder, witnesses and members of the community, including children, gathered to protest the injustice that occurred earlier that day. The peaceful protest was met with violence leveraged by officers with rubber bullets and tear gas, which resulted in injuries to adults and children present. A K-9 on the scene attacked several people, including a woman and her baby.

Then on Sunday evening, not far away, in the Guinida neighborhood, 21 year old, Joel Acevedo, was killed by police. According to police, Acevedo was driving a stolen vehicle when they began to pursue him; the vehicle crashed and the occupants fled on foot, including Acevedo. Acevedo then allegedly fired two shots at police, to which they returned fire, killing Acevedo. Family members, local residents, and protesters started to quickly arrive at the scene. Guinida is the same Anaheim neighborhood that an unarmed man named David Raya was shot in the back three times in while fleeing police last year. In the days followed Diaz and Acevedo’s deaths, the streets of Anaheim erupted with unrest. Community members rallied in the streets to protest the young men’s deaths and the Anaheim Police Department’s continued brutality, excessive force, and suppression. Police decked out in riot gear lined the streets. Suspected agent provocateurs made attempts to incite riots. Dozens of arrests were made. Tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, pepper-balls, bean bags, and 40mm sponge tip grenade rounds were fired at protesters and journalists.

Also on Sunday, in Tampa, Florida, 16 year old Javon Neal was shot by police. Officers said Neal matched the description of a suspect in a neighborhood shooting. According to reports, as police approached Neal, he ran through his apartment complex, and up several flights of stairs, with police close behind him, demanding that he stop. Neal was fatally shot by the officers after reaching the top of the stairwell and allegedly turning and pulling a shotgun from his waist band and pointing it at the officers. After Neal was shot, the shotgun lay several stories down, on the ground. Witnesses say that he lay breathing rapidly and whispering for help, but officers refused to allow anyone to give CPR. A large number of police then flooded the scene, some with less-than lethal weapons drawn, surveying the crowd that had begun to gather. The apartment complex is ‘equipped’ with multiple surveillance cameras, which the police seized the recordings from, but have not released. In fact, little evidence has been released at all, other than a blurry photo from the stairwell. Eye-witness accounts don’t match the official story, leaving Neal’s family with questions. That, paired with the lack of transparency on the part of police, has prompted Neal’s family, community members, and local activists to organize and demand answers from police.

What do the above stories have in common? How are they different? What communities did they take place in; what communities will they affect? The answers may not be as clear as you’d think. I encourage you to look deeper into these events. Not only are there more facts relating to the totality of circumstances of each of these cases that this article does not contain, but beyond the surface there is much more behind these stories. It is certainly worth one’s critical analysis. Look deeper into our history. What value does our society place on human life? Is one life more or valuable than another? How does your privilege affect whether or not you will be shot by police? Does class affect how police respond to calls? What is ‘justice’; what is ‘justifiable’? Who is the victim? Who is responsible; who is ‘guilty’? As a sticker on the shirt of a ten year old protesting the murder of Manuel Diaz read, “The whole damn system is guilty”.

-Selena Braden

*Written on August 1, 2012

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