Hot Air: What We Know; What We Don’t Know

Clearly, the December 20, 2011 incident in St. Louis that resulted in the death of a man named Anthony Lamar Smith was a frightening one for police officer Jason Stockley. After all, Smith had rammed Stockley’s patrol car with his own vehicle and then led Stockley and his partner on a high-speed chase.

Police officers, as a rule, interpret such behavior as indicative of the rammer/chasee’s ill will. Seems reasonable.

The officers eventually rammed Smith’s car to a stop. When Stockley approached Smith’s vehicle, acc’d’g to Stockley, Smith appeared to be reaching for something that the officer assumed was a gun. Stockley shot Smith five times, killing him.

It’s only natural for Stockley to have been pumped to the sky on adrenaline when he approached Smith’s car. Seeing Smith reaching for something had to have triggered an overwhelming urge in Stockley to do something to protect his own life.

Fair enough.

It turned out Smith hadn’t been reaching for his gun because he didn’t have one. So Stockley did what police officers have been doing since time immemorial — he produced one out of thin air. Most of the cops I’ve ever known carry small personal pistols in addition to their service revolvers, the firing of which they have to make reports on. Most cops see this as good policy to protect themselves from what they consider to be innocent errors or, in more sinister scenarios, when they have to pop a guy for whatever extrajudicial reasonings they might have.

County prosecutors discovered Stockley had planted a gun in Smith’s car. They also found video of Stockley saying to his partner as he got out of his patrol car, “I’m going to kill this motherfucker.” Ergo, prosecutors hurled the book at Stockley, charging him with first degree murder.

Prosecutors hate like hell charging cops with crimes. They consider cops their allies in the eternal struggle against bad guys. Not only that, prosecutors understand that when the cops feel said prosecutors aren’t “on their side,” they’ll do everything they can to sabotage prosecutors’ cases. That’s another long-standing police tradition.

So, when a prosecutor lays a murder rap on a cop, guaranteed s/he knows the case is airtight.

Only this one wasn’t. Stockley walked, Friday. Protesters gathered immediately afterward and, later, some turned violent, breaking windows, throwing paint on the mayor’s house, and otherwise expressing rage.

We seen this time and again in this holy land. The whole sick ritual of white cop killing black guy, prosecutors occasionally charging the cop, the acquittal, the ensuing chaos.

We know this. Just as we know all the facts in the Anthony Lamar Smith killing.

Stockley was reported to have said after the acquittal, “I did nothing wrong.” He believes that. If I’m him, I’m thinking, I thought the guy had a piece so I had to shoot him. When it turned out he didn’t have a gun, I knew I’d be crucified, so I had to plant one. It’s a war zone out here. What else could I do?

All of which, as I say, is perfectly reasonable.

Then again there’s the nagging perception that white cops are quick on the draw when it comes to black guys. Sometimes, even black cops are quick on the draw when it comes to black guys. Peer pressure can make a person forget the color of her/his own skin. And — don’t you know it? — there are few, if any, in-groups more peer-pressurized than the cops.

We’ve seen too many videos of sweet white girls ramming cop cars and then leading them on high speed chases. It seems they’re always apprehended alive. We saw the white lunatic ram a crowd of protesters with his car in Charlottesville the other week. He was apprehended, alive. We’ve seen recordings of white guys tussling with cops, reaching for the cops’ guns, and they were subdued, alive. I could go on and on with such examples.

The truth is black guys inspire a deep, visceral fear in white people. Have you seen that study where white people are shown arguments for certain social safety net policies? The one where the arguments are accompanied either by pictures of white people or black people? Whites are all for the social policies if the argument is accompanied by pictures of whites. They suddenly turn dead set against them if the argument is accompanied by pix of black people.

What we need to know today is how many ram-and-chase incidents end in police shootings, and what the ratio of black dead guys is to white dead guys.

Then we need to figure out why white people are so terrified of black guys.


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