'Black People Getting Shot Left and Right'

“Who cares about cosmic inflation during the first seconds of the universe’s existence when black people are getting shot left and right by police officers and vigilantes?” That is what Chanda Hsu Prescod-Weinstein, a postdoctoral fellow in physics at MIT, thought to herself upon hearing the news from Ferguson.

Are black people getting shot left and right by police officers and vigilantes?

In the St. Louis area in 2014 so far, there have been about 172 murders and 8 “law officer involved shootings”. Here is a map. The light blue balloons are the law officer-involved shootings. (Yellow are St. Louis city murders, red are St. Louis County, and blue are Illinois.)

Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch.

An interactive version of this map can be found here.

How do those numbers compare to national ones?

The FBI says there were 12,765 murders in 2012, the latest full year of available statistics. In that same year, there were 410 “justifiable homicides” by law enforcement. So the St. Louis area has a few more police shootings per murder, 4.65 per 100, than the national average of 3.21 per 100, but not that much more.

This means that police are not doing the most killing; the rest of us are – 20 to 30 times more often than the police.

Were those “justifiable homicides” really justified? You be the judge. Here are synopses of the eight cases in the St. Louis area, excerpted from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

  • Feb. 12, 2014: “[St. Louis city] Police shot and killed a man they said pointed a gun at them… The driver, holding a gun, ran down an alley and the officers followed, drawing their weapons. They came around a corner and saw the man pointing his gun at them.”
  • Apr. 17: “Claudell Webb Jr. and Jabari A. Quarles tied up two workers inside a Fenton check cashing store Wednesday morning during a robbery before one of the fleeing robbers [Webb] pointed a gun at St. Louis County police officers and was fatally shot… Quarles… was charged Thursday with second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of felonious restraint and six counts of armed criminal action… the suspects were confronted by arriving St. Louis County officers outside the store when Webb pulled out a Tec-9 with an extended clip holding 30 rounds.”
  • July 5: “St. Louis County police identified a man fatally shot by a Pine Lawn officer… Jones was shot by a Pine Lawn officer during a struggle after a traffic stop… the case will be presented to prosecutors to review when the investigation is finished.”
  • July 9: “A St. Charles man who called 911 early this morning insisting police show up at a Granite City gas station was fatally shot by the arriving [Illinois State Police] officers who say the man pointed a gun at them.”
  • Aug. 9: “Michael Brown, 18, of Ferguson, was fatally shot by Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson, 28. Wilson shot Brown several times after police said they struggled.”
  • Aug. 19: “Kajieme Powell, 25, fatally shot by [St. Louis city] police after he shoplifted energy drinks from a store and charged at police with a steak knife.”
  • Sept. 17: “St. Louis County police officers shot and killed a man who they say pointed a rifle at them… they recovered a fully loaded rifle from the man after he fell.”
  • Oct. 8: “The teen had a gun and fired at least three shots at the [off-duty St. Louis city] officer, who returned fire, the chief said. The teenager attempted to fire more but his gun jammed…”

Of those eight cases, five “pointed” or shot a gun at police, one “charged” the police with a knife, and two “struggled” with the police. At least according to the police. The police could be lying, of course.

(By the way, the identity of the Pine Lawn police officer is unknown. But Pine Lawn is 96% African-American and boasts of “the strengthening of our reputation as home to the first elementary school in St. Louis county named for the country’s first African-American President Barrack Obama.” A white former policeman there charged Pine Lawn’s police chief with racial discrimination – against whites. The city fired the police chief, for “unknown” reasons. The mayor of Pine Lawn was just recently arrested for extortion. Pine Lawn is not exactly the jewel of the St. Louis area, but there were no protests over the July 5th fatal shooting by a Pine Lawn police officer. I wonder why?)

Even if the police were lying in every single case of the 410 “justifiable homicides” in 2012, then police were responsible for 3% of the murders in 2012. Who was responsible for the other 97%? Vigilantes?

According to the FBI again, of the 12,635 murder victims in 2014 in which the race of the victim was known, 6,454 of them (51%) were black. Only 5,855 (46%) were white. Blacks are about 13% of the total population. So it is true that blacks are getting murdered at a disproportional rate. Murder has a disparate impact.

Who is doing the murdering? The FBI has some data on that also. In 2012 there were 5,923 single victim/single offender murders in which the race of the offender was known. The offender was black in 2,896 of those murders, or 49% of them. (The offender was white in 2,875 of those cases, also 49%.)

Of the 2,648 black victims in those cases, 2,412 of them (91%) were murdered by other blacks. (Also, blacks killed 431 whites and whites killed 193 blacks.)

Feel free to peruse the FBI numbers yourself. I personally find them easier to understand than the “the first seconds of the universe’s existence.” Here is what I get from that data.

  • The murder rate in the US has been cut in half in the last 25 years or so. In fact, the murder rate is very near the low point of the last century.
  • Blacks are about 6 to 7 times more likely to get murdered than non-blacks. But they are also 6 to 7 times more likely to commit murder than non-blacks.
  • If the above figures can be extrapolated, about 6,250 blacks get murdered in a year. About 5,700 of them are murdered by other blacks. The total of all fatal police shootings (black or not, the FBI does not break them down by race) is about 400 per year, and those are considered justified by the FBI.

Of course, the issue is never the issue. Ferguson is not about an epidemic of white cops shooting African-Americans. There is no such epidemic. Like most other “crises” that grace the front pages and TV screens, this one is made up. Made up to support political agendas.

Unfortunately, facts don’t matter. And for those with the agendas, neither does Ferguson.

Randall Hoven grew up in Jennings, Mo., which borders Ferguson. He was arrested at the Ferguson McDonald’s in 1971 for disturbing the peace. He lived in Ferguson from 1976 to 1979. His other writings can be seen at randallhoven.com.

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