The man was tased by the police and then left to die on the floor of a jail cell. He was 24, mentally ill and he was black.
In the surveillance video, Brandon Bethea is hit three times with the stun gun during the March 2011 incident while being restrained by leg shackles. He dies on the floor of the cell in the North Carolina jail. The video was finally released last Tuesday.
Officers say Bethea was mouthing off and making threats before the incident. At one point in the video at least five law enforcement officers are standing over Bethea who appears to be motionless on his back, before the officers leave the cell. No one checks on him for 20 minutes.
As if Bethea’s treatment wasn’t egregious enough, none of the officers involved was punished. John Clark, 54, the man who tased him, still has his $40,000-a-year job. Clark, who is black, said he regrets the incident and wishes he had died that night instead of Bethea.
If you’ve questioned the Black Lives Matter movement, maybe you should stop questioning it: Black men are still dying at the hands of police in record numbers.
Five years go by before the public is allowed to see footage of the incident. Those involved are not punished, and because the victim has a record or is considered low class, his death is swept under the rug.
And for readers who will counter: Blacks kill blacks so why aren’t you talking about that? The short answer is, I do talk about it. But when blacks kill or hurt other people, they are prosecuted and incarcerated for their actions. Officers often aren’t prosecuted, and that is a problem because they shouldn’t be considered above the law.
The Bethea family did receive compensation — by agreeing to not talk about the case — but little justice. The county awarded them $350,000. Meanwhile, Bethea becomes another footnote in a long line of black men who have lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement.
This is not a knock on all officers. Police put their lives on the line all the time. This was evident Thursday night when a veteran officer was shot in the chest chasing down an armed robbery suspect near N. 76th St. and W. Mill Road. The officer was saved by his bulletproof vest. Burt Johnson, 38, was killed after firing at officers, Police Chief Edward Flynn said. Johnson, 38, was accused of robbing the O’Reilly Auto Parts store nearby. His gun was recovered at the scene.
But still: Despite making up 2% of the total U.S. population, black men between the ages of 15 and 34 make up more than 15% of all deaths logged by police in 2015. Their rate of police-involved deaths was five times higher than for white men the same age, a Guardian report said.
When compared with mortality data, one in every 65 deaths of a young African-American man in the U.S. is a killing by police.
In Milwaukee, we know firsthand what this looks like. Dontre Hamilton was fatally shot 14 times on April 30, 2014, in Red Arrow Park by then Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney.
Manney lost his job but was never criminally charged. Friends and family showed support for the Hamilton family on April 30 on what is being called “Dontre Day.”
Before the encounter, a pair of officers responded to a call that Dontre was sleeping in the park. They checked on him twice and found he was doing nothing wrong. When Manney arrived — the third officer to check on Dontre — he patted down Hamilton and a confrontation ensued. Manney was fired for “not following protocol.”
Bethea being tased to death in a jail cell by a black officer is just as bad as Eric Garner being choked to death by a gang of white New York City police officers in 2014.
Garner’s crime? Allegedly selling loose cigarettes on the street. While he was being choked, he can be heard gasping “I can’t breathe.” The incident was capturedon video. He was not armed.
A perception study conducted by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association shows that white people view police much differently than minorities do when it comes to deadly force. About 63% of whites responded deadly force is “always or most of the time” necessary and “justified” compared with just 24% of minorities.
Nationally, in 2015, unarmed black people were killed by police at five times the rate of unarmed whites, according to the group Mapping Police Violence.
The report says that black men are killed by police nearly twice a week and only 10 of the 102 cases in 2015 where an unarmed black person was killed by police resulted in an officer or officers being charged with a crime.
In one of the cases where an officer was charged, a citizen’s video helped a grand jury issue a murder indictment.
Walter Scott, 50, the father of four, was shot in the back April 4, 2015, while he was running away from a police officer in South Carolina. The officer, Michael Stager, initially claimed that Scott grabbed his Taser after a traffic stop and pointed it at him. Video captured by a bystander showed a different story.
Scott was black; Stager is white. Scott was not armed, and the North Charleston police chief told reporters that he was sickened by what he saw.
Until we all get sickened by the number of black men dying at the hands of law enforcement officers, little will change. I’m sick of writing about these stories, but I will do it until it stops.