Walter Scott shooting: Shocking footage – of grimly familiar racism

There has been a spate of white police officers shooting dead unarmed black men in America in recent months

Click to follow
The Independent US

The shocking video depicting the death of Walter Scott, shot in the back by a South Carolina police officer, will seem grimly familiar to many. It recalls the grainy CCTV footage of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, gunned down in a Cleveland park in November 2014. It echoes the mobile phone video of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, killed outside a newsagent’s in St Louis last August.

What links each case, besides being caught on camera, was that they all involved unarmed black men being shot to death by police. In the wake of the shooting of the black man Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on 9 August 2014, a spotlight has been trained on the staggering number of such incidents that take place across the US.

The death of Mr Brown, 18, at the hands of the Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson led to weeks of racial unrest on the streets of the troubled St Louis suburb. Mr Wilson, 28, resigned his post in November, after a St Louis grand jury declined to indict him for the killing. The grand jury decision sparked riots, and further intensified the fraught national conversation about race and policing.

Mr Powell was shot dead in St Louis 10 days after Mr Brown, after police responded to a 911 call accusing him of stealing energy drinks from the newsagent’s. The officers involved claimed he approached them aggressively, holding a knife, but the clip of the killing that emerged later showed he was further than claimed from the officers, and had his hands by his side.

In September, 22-year-old Darrien Hunt was shot in the back several times by police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, while dressed up as a Japanese samurai and carrying a replica sword. In November, Officer Tim Loehmann shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir seconds after arriving at the park in Cleveland, Ohio, where he was responding to a 911 call about a “juvenile” in possession of a “probably fake” handgun. The weapon in question turned out to be a BB gun.

On Tuesday, in its first municipal election since Mr Brown’s shooting, Ferguson elected two new African-American council members, meaning there will now be three black representatives on the six-member city council. Two-thirds of the town’s 21,000 residents are black, yet until now only two black members have ever served on the council. Under the national spotlight, Ferguson more than doubled its average turnout, with 29 per cent of registered voters casting a ballot.

A recent report from the US Department of Justice found a glaring racial bias in Ferguson’s police and judicial system. The report forced the resignation of several city leaders, including the controversial police chief Thomas Jackson. The new city council will be responsible for implementing the report’s recommendations, including hiring and training new officers.