Jul 092016
 

EVERY Life Is Sacred
Five police officers were killed and six wounded in Dallas. The killer: black army veteran bent on exacting revenge for the recent deaths of two African Americans at the hands of the police.

As we all know by now, just a day apart, there was the execution-style killing of Alton B. Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; then in what appears to be a very similar incident, Philando Castile was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Two African American men who – by all appearances – were victims of police brutality, perished.

Their deaths were followed by peaceful protests across the country from Minnesota, Philadelphia and Manhattan to Chicago and Atlanta.

The protest in Dallas was just one among many. Dallas police was on the scene watching over the protest when the officers were ambushed. Five police officers were killed; six wounded. According to Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings one civilian was wounded in the gunfire, too. The gunman who allegedly acted alone and told authorities that he’s hidden bombs in Downtown Dallas was killed by a robot-delivered explosives. (The hidden bombs – as of now – were not found.)

Law enforcement officers risk their lives while controlling traffic, intervening for victims of domestic violence, saving lives in danger, fighting crime and in general, protecting the public. The vast majority of police officers are not merely employees of the Police Department, but heroes. Even though they risk their lives daily, even though many lose their lives in the line of duty, their bravery is rarely publicly recognized.

Each of the slain police officers had a face, name, life, future, hopes and dreams, not to mention a family. So did the killed African Americans.

The outcome? Both, white and black families are in mourning, now. Nobody won. Lives have been lost. Women and children – who had no part in any of the incidents – are hurting. Black and white women and children – widowed and orphaned this week – find themselves suddenly alone and will struggle to come to terms with their losses for years to come.

The events of recent days call for an open dialog, law changes, retraining of law enforcement officers and yes, a transparent investigation and severe consequences for the police officers involved in the two mind-boggling killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. But indiscriminate killing of members of law enforcement won’t bring about the needed changes; violence begets violence. Just like the loss of lives – black and white – is wrong so are killers of any color. We need peace and sound judgment, now.

To the Dallas Police Department: the whole country mourns your loss.

To the African American community: you are not alone in your grief; white people in the United States are as outraged as you are and grieve with you.

To families of the victims of last week’s events: anyone who lost a loved one, shares your pain.

Killing – whether out of an exaggerated sense of power and fear or out of revenge – doesn’t solve problems; it creates more pain. EVERY life is sacred. All citizens of The United States are ENTITLED to feel safe in their country and on the job.

Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor / E. Elrich

 

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Let there be peace!

★★★★★
5 5 1
I whole-heartedly agree. Stop the killing. Make it better, at last.
Jul 072016
 

Murder In Baton Rouge

To be explicitly clear, Anything L.A. Magazine doesn’t have a reporter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. None of us, me included, has personally witnessed the arrest or the killing of 37-year old Alton B. Sterling. We know as much as all of us have learned from news reports. I have however watched both of the bystander videos released to date and they are terrifying.

I’m not black. Anything L.A. Magazine dedicates a lot of attention to LAPD’s excellent work in protecting Los Angeles residents from crime. Personally, I never had any bad experience with the Police Department. I have no bias.

The two videos released till now, clearly show the murder of a man pinned to the ground by two armed police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The police officers are in complete control of the man in their custody. The man doesn’t act aggressively. I certainly don’t see him reaching for a gun or posing a threat to anyone. I see very clearly that a defenseless man is being shot point-blank by a police officer or police officers.

Police officers have stressful work. I’m sure they’re dealing with adrenaline surges. Obviously, they have to be aware of potential dangers to their safety. On several other occasions, I’ve taken a stand defending the police officers involved in fatal shootings. But in this specific case, I see no possible excuse or explanation for their actions. Shooting somebody who poses no threat point-blank is murder. This was no accident; no case of self defense.

According to the coroner of East Baton Rouge Parish, William Clark, Mr. Sterling died at the scene from gunshot wounds to the chest and back. No information was released clarifying whether a stun device was used during the apprehension of Mr. Sterling or whether the fatal shots were fired by one or both of the arresting officers.

No defenseless human being – of any color, for any reason – should be murdered: by anyone, including police officers; perhaps, especially police officers on whom we all depend for our safety.

I don’t know if Alton B. Sterling had a gun. I didn’t see him reach for a gun or threaten anyone with a gun. The reports say that he has been selling music CDs on the street. We don’t know whether the CDs were of legal or illegal origin. We don’t know whether he held a valid street vendor’s permit allowing him to sell merchandise on the street.
We are pretty certain however that no matter what his misdeeds may have been, none of them called for a death penalty. We are quite sure also that police officers are not authorized to carry out executions in general and without a trial in particular. The videos show cold-blooded murder of a man in police custody – a man who cannot defend himself – by the arresting officers. It isn’t he who should be judged but his killer / killers.

This is not a race or color issue. Seeing that a person apprehended by the police can be shot at point-blank range and killed in cold blood by police officers sends shivers down my spine. That’s against every law, human rights and basic human decency.

If instead of police officers, civilians were the perpetrators of this crime they’d be convicted of murder. In this case, the perpetrators were police officers, one would hope that abuse of authority will be an added charge.

Louisiana officials vowed an in-depth and transparent investigation. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the F.B.I. and the United States attorney’s office in Baton Rouge will conduct their own investigation.

Black or white, with criminal record or without, Alton B. Sterling was a human being, an American in America, someone’s son and someone’s father. Unless the police officers are punished to the full extent of the law, anyone could become their next victim: police will be feared and not looked up to as the public’s protector.

We share in the grief of Alton B. Sterling’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Anything L.A. Magazine’s Editor / E. Elrich

 

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