In Chicago, Police Are Not the Problem
Will anyone in Chicago be embarrassed by this? Will any of the perpetually and professionally outraged say, “Gosh, maybe we were too quick to judge”? Will any of them look at the police body camera footage and say, “Yes, the guy had a gun and was trying to pull it out on the officers, so they had to shoot him”?
When Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., nearly four years ago, the fable quickly spread that he had presented no threat, that he had said to the officer, “Hands up, don’t shoot” just before he was mercilessly cut down. Investigators learned this was false within an hour of the shooting, yet the myth of Michael Brown as martyred hero was allowed to persist, and even when it was proven false beyond any doubt by the local investigation and that conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice (headed by Eric Holder, remember), the roots of the myth had grown so deep that, sadly, there are many who still believe it.
Despite the myth’s foundation on a lie, riots and protests continued for months in Ferguson and throughout the St. Louis area, with similar protests occurring across the country. Those protesters, I said at the time, were deluded fools, and I pointed out that a march in downtown St. Louis passed along a route that took them within a block of the scenes of two recent murders, both of which had claimed the lives of black victims. In St. Louis, it seemed, the only black lives that mattered were those taken by the police.
Which brings us to recent events in Chicago, where foolish delusion appears to have reached new heights (or lows, if you prefer). On Saturday, Chicago police officers on foot patrol in the South Shore neighborhood approached Harith Augustus, whom they suspected was carrying a gun. What happened next followed a script that has been repeated over and over, with only the details changing from one incident to the next. Augustus refused the officers’ commands and ran away while trying to pull the gun out of a holster. To protect himself and his partners, an officer shot and killed him.
And what then followed also conformed to a familiar script: Protesters gathered at the shooting scene and pelted the police with various projectiles, including bottles filled with urine. “He was unarmed,” they said. “He was a nice guy . . . He didn’t bother anybody . . . He was a good father,” and on and on and on.
In the initial absence of reliable information there is always speculation about what happened, with people of a certain mindset ready to believe even the most phantasmagorical tales about how the police may have transgressed. So, yes, people have the right to protest no matter how uninformed they might be on the issue, but they don’t have the right to do it violently.
But, even after being informed, even after being offered irrefutable evidence that Augustus was indeed armed and attempting to draw the pistol he was carrying, even after seeing the video which shows exactly what happened and how close one or more of those officers came to being shot, when you still take to the streets and call the shooting “murder,” it is not the least bit unfair to call you, yes, a deluded fool.
On Sunday, police released body camera footage captured by the shooting officer. The video, which was released without audio, shows the shooting officer and three others approach Augustus on the sidewalk outside the Jeffrey Big Market at 2016 E. 71st Street (Google street-view image is here). Absent the audio we don’t yet know what was said, but it’s clear that the officers were attempting to detain Augustus and had focused on what he had in his right waistband. The officers surrounded Augustus and tried to grab him, but he pulled away and walked quickly backward toward the street. As he did so his T-shirt was raised to reveal a holstered pistol on his right side and two extra ammunition magazines on his left. He turned to run into the street while reaching for the pistol, but it appeared he wasn’t able to draw the gun before he fell mortally wounded in the street. We haven’t yet been told where the police rounds struck Augustus, but it’s possible one or more of them hit him in the back. If this turns out to be the case, does it make it a “bad” shooting?
Of course not. An officer presented with a deadly threat, as Augustus plainly was, has no obligation to wait until that threat is facing him before defending himself. As the video shows, Augustus turned toward the officers in an instant while still trying to draw his gun. Had he not already been shot, he may have pulled it out and shot one or more officers.
And yet, as if none of this were now widely known, there were more protests Monday evening. Indeed, even in the face of clear evidence, there are those who insist the video shows Augustus was complying with the officers. “You can see [in the video] that he has what looks like a wallet in his hand,” said Maria Hernandez of Black Lives Matter Chicago. “He was trying to comply and he was shot in the middle of complying. Roughed up and shot,”
Maybe Hernandez was watching some other video, but it’s plain that’s not what was depicted in the one released by Chicago police on Sunday.
But again, to Hernandez and her fellow travelers in the grievance industry, it’s not all black lives that matter, only those lost to the police, no matter how justifiably those lives may have been taken. The Chicago Tribune informs us that in 2017 there were seven murders within a few blocks of where Augustus was killed, and that so far this year there have been two more. There have been seven non-fatal shootings in the same area in just the last 30 days. I searched in vain on the Internet for news on protests over even one of these crimes.
And now Harith Augustus will be placed on his pedestal alongside Michael Brown and all the other “victims of police violence,” and as people march in his name and pretend he didn’t bring on his own demise, violence on the streets of Chicago will continue as always while people ask why the police aren’t doing anything about it.
In Chicago, as elsewhere, the police are not the problem.