Just when I was ready to chalk the story of Oscar Grant up to an isolated incident of a mishandled police authority, I read about the following stories:
Incident one: 22-year-old New Orleans resident Adolph Grimes III was killed in a police shootout a block away from his grandmother’s home near the French Quarter. Of the 48 shots fired at him (let me repeat: 48 shots), 14 of them connected. Of those, twelve shots were in the back.
Grimes, a recently displaced Katrina evacuee returning to visit friends and family for New Year’s, had no criminal record and was said to be a good student in high school, had a good job, had a fiance, and a 17-month old son.
The NOLA Police Department issued a statement indicating that Grimes shot first and officers – plain clothes officers driving unmarked cars, I should point out – simply shot back in retaliation. Also, a spokesperson for the NOLA PD also noted the semiautomatic firearm Grimes had in possession; though the family has indicated that he had a legal permit to carry the weapon.
The police have declined any additional comments. No suprise there.
Incident two: Robbie Tolan (son of former professional baseball player Bobby Tolan and minor league player himself), was on his way home from a late night fast food run. As they arrived at Tolan’s home in Bellaire – a predominately white suburb in Houston – he and his cousin were approached by officers suspecting them of driving a stolen SUV.
Tolan’s parents, the owners of the vehicle, came out of the house to explain the situation once they heard the commotion. After one of the arresting officers pushed Mrs. Tolan along the garage, an altercation broke out. It was at that point, one of the officers shot Tolan in the chest; with the bullet piecing the lung and lodging in the liver.
As to be expected, the Bellaire Police Department is tight-lipped about the incident. But before they all went silent, Assistant Chief of Police Bryon Holloway stated “Anytime someone is injured we take it very seriously. But any allegation of racial profiling, I don’t think that’s going to float.” He also stated that an investigation is underway to examine how the officers concluded that the SUV Tolan was driving was stolen. I’m no Sherlock, but I can take a wild guess at that one.
It does not appear that 2009 is off to a good start for young, black men who fit the generic description of every police suspect. It does not help much when it appears that one New Year’s resolution for the boys in blue is apparently to shoot as many black people as possible.