Officer Samayoa’s body camera was only recording because he turned it on, in shock, after what happened. When initiated, the camera (dormant prior) provides the thirty seconds of footage before it “went live”. No sound, just video. Video of a one-shot kill through a police car window. One shot, one kill. Great stats for a videogame. The viewer is familiar with similar videos of similarly unjustifiable police killings of black people in America. Thus, the viewer notes, this is not a videogame.
Conversations follow—what was the crime, what was the weapon that Keita held? Alleged carjacking, no weapon. Not a belt of weapons, not the robbery of a life, but, to readers of articles that came up in the aftermath, often, alleged carjacking and no weapon justifies extermination, confirms the biases, the fears, the disgust. Good and moral cops, bad and immoral black body, threat, lost, always too soon, always on external terms.
What, then, is the right moment for lethal force, that which is “required” by law in certain altercations the police must allocate, responsibly, subjectively, as situations which “require” lethal force? It’s worth noting here that Tasers, the latest weapon on the police belt (it’s getting heavier) are not to be used in situations where lethal force is required, though, statistics have shown, as the case of Warren Ragudo displays, the Taser is a lethal weapon. So that gives police departments across the country a lethal weapon to use when lethal force is “required”, and a lethal weapon to use when lethal force is not “required”. But as evidenced by police killings such as that of Eric Garner, neither the Taser nor the gun are required to exercise lethal force on bodies, black bodies, brown bodies.
The death of Keita O’Neil requires public mourning, public anger, police accountability. The blame is always shifted: “rookie cop”, “poor supervision”, “we didn’t know what he was capable of”—You didn’t know that shooting him with your gun necessitated him dying? A black man running by your car jeopardizes your life, or, then, is it that lethal force is “required” merely because this black man was your responsibility, your requirement, to murder?
This is a letter to Bill Scott, to Christopher Samayoa, to Dennis Herrera, and to Mark Farrell.
Two days following, folks were gathering to mourn Mario Woods. In the same week, Shaleem Tindle was murdered in Oakland, another suspected police homicide. And just last week, as noted, Tasers took the life of Warren Ragudo. Keita’s mother is suing the city. What are you going to do?