Mark Meets World: Dallas, Sterling and Castile shootings are all wrongful deaths

Washburn Review writer Mark Feuerborn

Mark Feuerborn

The past week has seen high-profile killings of seven people – Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Philando Castile in Minnesota and five officers from the Dallas Police Department in Texas.

Sterling and Castile were shot and killed by police officers on separate occasions, the first being a confrontation with Sterling in front of a store where he was selling CDs, and the second where Castile reached for his identification to give to a police officer at a traffic stop after informing the officer he had a concealed carry permit and a weapon in the vehicle. Officers in the Dallas Police Department were targeted by two snipers, who killed five and injured seven officers, as the officers protected Black Lives Matter protesters.

My condolences go out to Sterling, Castile, the 12 dead or wounded police officers and all three parties’ families. The past 72 hours have permanently altered the lives of 14 people’s loved ones in ways they will never forget, all recorded on videos being played back constantly on every media source they turn to.

We must recognize that all three of these shootings are tragedies. It is entirely inappropriate to say that some deserved to die and some deserved to live. There is no applauding the death of five officers as revenge for Sterling and Castile’s deaths, no matter how wrongful their deaths were.

Having said that, I am entirely disgusted with the way those justifying Sterling’s death have attempted to paint him as deserving to be shot. It is correct that Sterling was a felon with a past criminal history who was illegally carrying a firearm. What is so absurd about bringing these points up is in Sterling’s case, the police officers pinned him down without even acquiring identification from him. This means his criminal record and illegal possession of a gun were not brought to light until after he was killed and in turn have been used purely to depict this man of deserving to die.

A second video uploaded by Abdullah Mufadhi, owner of the store Sterling was outside of, gives an unobscured view of the police officers pinning Sterling down. When one freezes the video, it is possible to see a view of both of Sterling’s hands being restrained before the officer shoots him. It’s hard to believe the police officers’ narrative that they were justified in shooting Sterling when they confiscated the store’s security footage and are now claiming their body cameras became “dislodged,” meaning they conveniently gathered no footage of the shooting. We should all be thankful the store owner was willing to film the event from right behind the officers.

Philando Castile’s death was no more justified, and once again attempts to paint him as a criminal are irrelevant as he was shot reaching for his identification. The man had only minor traffic violations on his record and was in legal possession of a firearm. I only wish he had not informed the officer he was carrying a weapon, and what started as a stop for a broken taillight may have ended differently. On the other hand, a black man should not have to worry about being shot for lawfully carrying a firearm.

The only thing we can hope for is that the Justice Department carries out a proper investigation and punishment for these officers. Just like any job, there are good and bad employees, and employees who don’t do their job correctly are supposed to be fired for the good of the company. An officer who is so terrified of encounters with civilians that he shoots them as they reach for their identification should not be on the force.

The Dallas shooting is just as much unjustified as the shootings of Sterling and Castile. In no way should we condone the snipers’ attacks on the Dallas police, and their actions should not be representative of Black Lives Matter. The officers protecting the protesters Thursday were good officers doing their jobs, and some were forced to sacrifice their lives for it. By no means do I condone violence as a response to police brutality, but rather peaceful protest, discussion and legislation.

Violence is what a person resorts to when they can no longer articulate their feelings or beliefs. Violence divides us further, rather than letting us grow to mutual understanding and work toward change.

I echo Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show,” in saying “You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens they are sworn to protect.” Be critical of police brutality, but do not be brutal towards good officers critical to the justice we need.