The Rev. Lorrie Carter Owens

The Rev. Lorrie Carter Owens

On Tuesday, April 20, former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted in all three counts against him. Many across the world have applauded this decision and feel this action brings justice to the issue of equity in law enforcement.

While it is good to know that this former officer will be held accountable for the murder of an unarmed Black man, we are hardly in a place where we can say justice prevails. Just days before this verdict was rendered, Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just 11 miles from where Mr. Floyd was murdered. Was an air freshener hanging from a rear view mirror really a reason to pull this young man over in the first place? Did he have a warrant? Yes. Did he resist detainment? Yes. Did he deserve to die because of the warrant and his resistance? Absolutely not. Did a 26-year police veteran mistakenly pull her firearm instead of a Taser in shooting Mr. Wright? This also was reportedly how ex-BART police officer Johannes Mehserle killed Oscar Grant as he lay handcuffed, face down (like Mr. Floyd) at the Fruitvale Bart Station in Oakland in 2009. He posed no immediate threat to any officer or anyone else in the vicinity. If someone with the level of experience of the officer who shot Mr. Wright can’t tell the difference between a Taser and a gun, perhaps law enforcement should ban Tasers. They would then know, any time they draw a weapon, they are shooting to kill.

Meanwhile, four days before the Chauvin verdict, Luke Oeltjenbruns attacked an employee at a Mernards store in Hutchinson, Minnesota, approximately 60 miles away from where George Floyd was murdered. He was apparently upset over a mask dispute. The police were called. Mr. Oeltjenbruns engaged the police in a low-speed chase. When the pursuit ended in a local mall parking lot and one of the officers approached Mr. Oeltjenbruns, the officer became entangled in the driver-side window of the vehicle. Mr. Oeltjenbruns took off, dragging the office behind him. He also allegedly struck the officer in the head with a hammer. Mr. Oeltjenbruns was neither shot, nor was he hit with a Taser. Did Mr. Oeltjenbruns deserve to die for his actions? Absolutely not. However, Mr. Oeltjenbruns is white. Had he been Black, there is a good chance he would be dead.

In December 2020 in Ohio, Merak Burr was pulled over on a traffic stop. The officer initiating the stop noticed a loaded Beretta 9 mm semiautomatic gun on the passenger seat. Mr. Burr refused to put his hands on the steering wheel or to exit the vehicle. He actually threatened to shoot the officer. Mr. Burr was neither shot, nor was he hit with a Taser. Did he deserve to die for his actions? Absolutely not. Had he been Black, he would probably have ended up like Philando Castile. Mr. Castile, who was Black, was shot in 2016 in front of a 4-year-old in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, after honestly answering the officer’s question about being armed with a gun that was in the car but not in sight, and that he had a permit to carry. He never reached for the gun, and stated to the officer he was not reaching for the gun. He was shot anyway. Not only was the officer who shot Mr. Castile acquitted of all charges, but he also received a generous severance package upon separation from the police department.

I could go on and on about the multitude of disparities between how Blacks and whites are treated by law enforcement across the this nation. Too many Black people are dying on the streets of America. Sometimes, we are dying in our own homes. The only reason Derek Chauvin was convicted on Tuesday was because a brave, 17-year-old girl recorded the encounter.

Because of that video, we saw up close Mr. Floyd’s anguish and pain as his life was casually snuffed out under the knee of an officer who didn’t have a care in the world while he murdered a human being. It is kind of hard to ignore this type of graphic evidence of murder.

It was hard to ignore the mutilated body of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, who was kidnapped and murdered by two white men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The woman, who is still alive, subsequently admitted she lied. Upon Emmett’s body being returned to his home city of Chicago, his mother insisted his casket be opened for all the world to see.

America needs to look upon these murders. America needs to face the ugly reality of what too many still shrug off in this country. State-sanctioned execution cannot continue to be OK in a land in which we say there is liberty and justice for all.

The Rev. Lorrie Owens is the president of the San Mateo branch of the NAACP.

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(14) comments

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Reverend Owens,

In the 60's I attended College Park Middle School. I lived in the North Shoreview Subdivision. One day before I could make it to the pedestrian overpass at Mt. Diablo Ave I was attacked by a gang of black kids. Whilst walking through Hunters Point, I was harassed by a group of black men saying I didn't belong. The same thing happened in the Fillmore District. Applying your logic I should assume bad will come from blacks. Unlike you, I will not make assumptions about groups of people. To do so would make a racist.

Tafhdyd

Wilfred,

You are giving away your age. Looks like I have about a half a dozen years on you. Not necessarily wiser, just older. FYI, I did "trouble myself" on the the other comment.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Hello my friend Tafhdyd,

Indeed, I'm old enough to have supported the causes of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. Old enough to have known and hung out with the Haysberts and Swans. Lynn was a particularly tough guy to defend against without allowing him 35 yards from the line of scrimmage. Old enough to have watched Jesse Jackson develop the the race hustler industry. Old enough to know when it comes to sex, money and egos, all bets are off. Politicians, Academia and the Media thrive in that world. So I don't buy what they sell and have no patience for the lazy regurgitation of divisive narratives they promote. There is no place in the world that affords the opportunities of our nation. Without concern of sex, sexual orientation, color or religion.

I read your other comment yesterday. I enjoyed your reference to Columbo and I had a good chuckle with you. You know how to touch my funny bone. Thanks

Ray Fowler

Hello, Wilfredo

Hmmm... I guess I tried to be more collaborative in my comments. I agreed with the Reverend's premise that police officers should not be above the law but emphasized the law must be applied based on the facts of each particular case. I set aside some inaccuracies in the op-ed piece that fueled a misapplication of the facts, e.g. Daunte Wright was not stopped because an air freshener was hanging from his rear view mirror and Oscar Grant was not handcuffed when he was shot. Emmett Tilll's murder may have been the catalyst for the civil rights movement which saw the rise of a young Baptist minister as a leader in that movement, but Emmett was murdered by racists not a police officer in Minneapolis. Plus, the Reverend's reference to "state-sanctioned execution" is reckless and without foundation. I found it odd that an op-ed piece about life and death matters authored by a clergywoman makes no mention of God. Maybe that's just me...

Tafhdyd

Oh Wilfred, just one more thing:)... One good turn deserves another.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Good morning Ray,

Methinks we both achieved our goals. I saw the same errors as did you. Those errors created the genesis to my supposition the Reverend is not using her own words but those of whom she follows. The Triangle of Evil.

https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Triangle%20of%20Evil

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Good morning Tafhdyd,

👊

Ray Fowler

Hah! Wilfredo... I didn't know you were such an Urban Dictionary fan: Politics + Religion + Money = Triangle of Evil. I have not heard this sentiment expressed in this way.

I would amend "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1st Timothy 6:10) portion of the equation by inserting a quotation by Mark Twain. He said, "The lack of money is the root of all evil.”

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Mi amigo Ray,

I wholeheartedly agree with your proposed amendment. 🤣

Ray Fowler

Hello, Rev. Owens

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, "Too many Black people are dying on the streets of America." Your op-ed piece speaks to accountability and justice... and they deserve our unflinching attention. What will they look like going forward?

Officer Derek Chauvin committed an unlawful homicide. He murdered George Floyd. He will serve the rest of his life in prison. Has he been held accountable? Has justice prevailed? A jury believes so. (On some level, we have to realize that nothing will bring George Floyd back... can there ever be true accountability... true justice?)

Officer Kim Potter committed an unlawful homicide. She killed Daunte Wright. Will she serve time in prison? Will she be held accountable? Will justice prevail? Jurors have not yet considered the facts surrounding this case. They will.

Officer Nicholas Reardon committed a homicide. He killed Ma'Khia Bryant. Was this homicide unlawful or did Reardon act lawfully to save another person's life? The facts are being examined to determine if this case will be sent to a jury. This particular case shows how different and how complex officer involved shootings can be. But at the end of the day, we want accountability and justice. Again, what will they look like going forward?

Emmett Till's murder was a tragedy beyond measure. An unlawful homicide occurred. Emmett, a boy of 14, was murdered in Mississippi by white supremacists in 1955. There was a trial. No convictions. There was no accountability. Justice did not prevail. Consider Michael Donald, a young man of 19. He was murdered by members of the KKK in 1981... my God, that was only 40 years ago! There was a trial in Alabama. One of the murderers was executed and two others were sentenced to life in prison. There was accountability. Justice... as far as it can be served... did prevail. The difference in the trials following Emmett and Michael's deaths show things have changed. And today, when someone takes a life, even if they're wearing a badge, they can expect to face a jury if that's where the facts lead. That shows things are continuing to change.

As you said, "Too many Black people are dying on the streets of America." Yes, and the leading cause of death for young Black men is homicide. We can look to the courts for accountability and justice in the case of a young Black man being shot and killed by a police officer. Derek Chauvin's conviction is a step in that direction. But where do we look for accountability and justice for the thousands of other young Black men gunned down in our streets?

Rev Jim MItulski

Thank you Rev. Lorrie for stating some plain truths about the everyday reality of racism, even here in San Mateo County where we live daily in the unvindicated aftermath of Chinedu Okobi's death by police taser, At the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition we are committed to standing in solidarity with the NAACP as are many faith houses in this county . We are willing to look within for how racism and white supremacy manifest itself unconsciously, and we are committed to working with the NAACP and other organization to press for systemic change including police reform Our faith compels us to act for justice and accountability. Rev. Jim Mitulski and Diane Fahrner , co-presidents of the Peninsula Multifaith Coalition

wlydecker

This kind of thinking scares me. I saw the same arguments on TMZ. The writer says the whites shouldn't have been killed but she could fool me. It's pure speculation that the suspects weren't shot because of race. Even Biden is guilty of such flawed logic. After the January riot in DC, he said if the mob had been mainly black the reaction by police would have been stronger. Perhaps it might have been even weaker because of the media reaction. The fact is we can't know until it happens - and it didn't. The reverend who wrote this column notes that one of the white arrests came four days after the verdict. Perhaps the officer didn't shoot because he felt the media reaction would be against him. In other words. don't shoot anyone even if you know you should. Again, just speculation. Notice on page 2 of today's DJ there is a story about the killing of a deputy No race is mentioned. Why? The reverend also says "Americans need to look at these murders." Her column suggests that people of no color are not killed by police. She should check that out. i say we need to look at all murders - including the Zebra murders in San Francisco. The recent death of former SF police chief Earl Sanders provided an opportunity to unearth that string of racial killings. The media failed to do so. Face it America, the media is driving the bus. Wake up!

wlydecker

Same goes for those who say "if the verdict went the other way, every city would have riots and looting." Again, opinion and speculation.

Terence Y

Thank you for your letter, Reverend Owens. In several examples, you posit that if the perpetrator were black, there is a chance they would be dead. I’d posit that if the perpetrator never committed a crime, they would never have been stopped. If they complied with officer’s orders, there would not be an escalation. If they didn’t resist arrest, an officer wouldn’t need to resort to restraining them. Where is personal accountability? Parents? Elders?

Separately, perhaps you could weigh in on the displayed sign at what is being referred to as George Floyd Square. Do you think this action helps community and race relations? Would you like to see signs instructing blacks how to act? If anything, this type of behavior and the hundreds of millions of dollars in destruction (many against black owners) caused by BLM will serve to incite more racial tension.

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