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St. Louis court decision shows larger race issue

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St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was recently acquitted of first-degree murder in the death of a black male back in December 2011. Protests broke out over the acquittal of Stockley this week, highlighting the injustice of the decision. More than 120 people were arrested Sunday night after peaceful demonstrations turned violent. CNN affiliated networks reported that officers chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” after making arrests that night. On Monday, silent and peaceful protesters locked arms on Market Street. Participant Bryan McClellan stated, “We want to achieve one goal — an end to the disparate killings of black citizens at the hands of police.”

Two issues surround the controversy of this case: whether the officer planted the gun on the victim, and whether the statement the officer shouted caught on his body cam prior to the shooting counts as premeditated murder.

Video footage during the police chase catches Stockley claiming he was “going to kill this mother... don’t you know it.” Prosecutors have accused Stockley of planting a .38 revolver in Smith’s car. Court documents state that Stockley’s DNA “was on every weapon he touched. Anthony Smith’s DNA was not on any.”

This is the full account. Jason Stockley was serving as a St. Louis police officer for five years. Stockley was with partner Officer Brian Bianchi when they were called to a suspected drug buy happening in a parking lot in the Walnut Park West neighborhood. The officers in their SUV attempted to barricade the victim, Smith, who was sitting in his Buick. While exiting the SUV, Stockley wielded his personal AK-47 rifle, but switched to his police-issued Beretta and shot seven times at Smith’s car, which was fleeing the scene. A police chase ensued, until the SUV was able to rear end Smith’s car, forcing it to spin to a stop.

Stockley exited the vehicle and ran to Smith’s driver side. Sensing imminent danger, he fired his Beretta at Smith’s side five times, killing Smith. Stockley claimed that Smith ignored his commands to show hands and was instead reaching for what Stockley believed to be a gun.

This event adds to the recent years’ high-profile controversies of police brutality against minorities, though the practice of overt discrimination by utilizing violence is as old as the United States itself. Black men in particular are affected by the killings, as the officers claim their actions are in “self-defense” as a veneer of justification for murdering the often unarmed individuals. Recent cases include Trayvon Martin’s murder, where George Zimmerman opened fire on the hoodie-clad teen, and the 2014 murder of Michael Brown, where Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed the unarmed teen in Ferguson, MO.

I have my own strong opinions about gun violence, race relations, and police brutality. Having seen the racial profiling and mistreatment of black youths throughout my life, I know where I stand. I can try to persuade skeptics about the immorality of it all, the failure of Reconstruction after slavery and the Civil War, the systemic oppression as a foundation for this type of treatment, the income inequality, the school-to-prison pipeline, the failures of public school in disenfranchised areas where black and Hispanic people heavily populate, and more, because the problem of police brutality and racism is much bigger than one article’s explanation.

However, what is more directly telling are the sheer numbers of black people being killed unjustly every year. What matters is the stigma of black-on-black crime and the so-called “violent tendencies” of this race that somehow justifies these numbers for those most skeptical. Consequently, the rest of this article will be empirical evidence that brutality against black people in 2017 still exists, and in conjunction, violent crimes against black people by American citizens as well.

Black people are being killed by police at persistently higher rates. In 2016, 963 people in the U.S. were been shot and killed by police forces. Of those, 309 of them were African American. Fewer than 1 in 3 black people killed were suspected of a violent crime or armed. However, black people are still three times more likely to be killed by police force than white men, according to the American Journal of Public Health. 30 percent of black victims were unarmed, compared to 21 percent of white victims. Dr. James Buehler, a professor of health management and policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, found that, “although white men accounted for the largest number of deaths, the number of deaths per million in each demographic population were 2.8 times higher among black men and 1.7 times higher among Hispanic men, respectively.”

This is larger than police violence. Interracial homicides increased last year by its largest margin since the election of Obama. The percentage of black people killed by white people jumped 25 percent, and the number of white people killed by black people rose by 12 percent. However, black people have accounted for nearly half of the country’s homicide victims, despite making up 12 percent of the nation’s population. At first, an argument about black-on-black violence can be made. A 2013 FBI report stated that 90 percent of black people who are murdered are murdered by other blacks. However, the same report continues to state that 83 percent of white victims of murder were killed by white people. Moreover, almost every study done in this field shows that crime is a socioeconomic problem. The Bureau Justice of Statistics reported that between 2008 and 2012, “Poor urban blacks (51.3 per 1,000) had rates of violence similar to poor urban whites (56.4 per 1,000).” Black-on-black crime does not exist — just crime. The question is, why are there so many poor black people? Based off of the United State’s historical treatment of this race, I believe the answer to that is clear.