At least two more “suspects” who just happened to be Black or brown were shot in the back this week as they were fleeing police, according to reports. The most high-profile instance of the two came Tuesday in Pittsburgh, when a Black teenager hopped out of a car during a traffic stop and ran away before an officer gave chase and shot him to death. Antwon Rose, a 17-year-old honor’s student, was unarmed.
Protesters demonstrated in front of a police department on Wednesday standing with the backs toward the building in a symbolic move, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“If they want to shoot us, make them do it in our backs,” one protester shouted.
The shooting came on the same day that California’s state senate passed a bill designed to stop excessive force police killings that, if approved by the state house, could become a national model. And make no mistake: Rose’s shooting was definitely an instance of excessive police force.
Just days earlier, police in San Francisco shot a Latino suspect in the back while he was fleeing. Oliver Barcenas was accused of having a gun before he was shot on a busy street in broad daylight on Saturday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But the Independent reported that body cam footage later released by police showed Barcenas never had a gun.
“Those videos do not look good,” city lawmaker Aaron Peskin said.
Those two incidents follow police in Chicago shooting and killing Maurice Granton, Jr. earlier this month and officers in Sacramento shooting Stephon Clark in March. Both were fleeing police, and both were unarmed, even though police said they believed they weren’t.
Another sad, but telling, common denominator: As of Thursday, no charges had been filed against any of the officers involved in any of these four shootings.
Officers who kill suspects by shooting them in the back should be, by law, accused criminals, PBS reported in April. Fleeing suspects should be shot at only “in very narrow circumstances,” PBS wrote, citing a 1985 Supreme Court case as the legal basis for its claim.
“In other words,” the report continued, “a police officer who fires at a fleeing man who a moment earlier murdered a convenience store clerk may have reasonable grounds to argue that the shooting was justified. But if that same robber never fired his own weapon, the officer would likely have a much harder argument.”
While the upward tick for police shooting people in the back was troubling, perhaps even more disturbing was the fact that fatal police shootings across the country were on track to reach 1,000 for a fourth consecutive year, further exposing a broken law enforcement system that shoots and/or killed Black and brown people at a much higher rate than any other race.
Maybe law enforcement officials should spend more time informing their officers about why people (not suspects) flee when police come around instead of training them to shoot first and ask questions later.