Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Fight For His Life

I was going to write about running, that I ran tonight and was all excited about it because it had been two weeks since I last ran, that I ran for more than hour, up some pretty good hills, too, and about how difficult it is to free up the time to run that much. 

But the computer found a free wifi signal and there was more news about the man killed by Albuquerque police last night.

I am in Walnut, by the way, or maybe La Mirada, I'm not sure, about on the border between those two, parked in an industrial park. It's the Los Angeles area, about halfway between San Bernardino and downtown. It seems to be pretty safe here. I can't see any major streets, but there is a street light, and it's not entirely deserted. People come and go now and then, who work in these little factories. 

I first read about this police shooting on the way down here last night. I had stopped at the Wheeler's Ridge Petro and paid for an hour of internet, and since I have Albuquerque on my Google news page I saw the story about a cop shooting someone.

There's wasn't much detail about it last night, and they padded the story a little with other things, like, this was the 10th shooting by a cop in Albuquerque this year.

 But by this evening the police had their story straight and were disseminating it through the local media.

The officer was in a "fight for his life," the police said. This didn't jive too well with what had been published last night, but the media had not had much to go on, last night.

 Enrique Carrasco was his name. He was 38 and had a family, and was a maintenance man at a city senior center. It seems he got into an argument with his girlfriend at a store, and police were called. What happened in between then and him being killed is not all that clear to me, from what I read, but what's important is that Carrasco had a history of attacking police.

They always have a history. You knew that was going to be in there. 

What happened, according to the chief of police, Darren White, is that Carrasco attacked the cop. The cop was named Josh Brown, and he is a three year, or two year veteran of the police department, depending on which story you are reading. And what happened was, Carrasco attacked Brown, and Brown was in a fight for his life.

Oh, I forgot to mention. Brown was inside of his squad car. But, you see, Carrasco broke through the car window. With a knife. Yes, a knife. He was one of those. A knife carrying Latino.  A car window is a 3/8 to 1/4 inch thick piece of safety glass, but Carrasco shattered it using what must have been a big, big knife, and he was coming through, and brown was in a fight for his life. Carrasco was on the hood, they say, but was also coming through the side window, so I guess he was reaching around to the side window, and was going to get Officer Brown.

For the man to break the side window from the hood it must have been a huge knife, to make a hole in safety glass big enough for a knife wielding Latino with a history to come through. 

So Brown had to shoot him, four times. And when the other cops arrived they found Carrasco, dead, lying on top of Brown, and his knife was up against Brown's leg. Yes, up against his leg. The knife was. The big knife wielded by this knife carrying Latino who had a history of attacking cops, a history Officer Brown was apparently  aware of because it figured in the shooting, the way the narrative is going, so Brown must have identified Carrasco and looked up his history on his laptop computer just before Carrasco came through the window, or as he was coming  through. That part is not clear, the part where Brown finds out this man has a history and must be killed. It's not even clear whether Brown knew the history. But what we do know is that we were told at the beginning of the press conference that Carrasco had a history, so that we could have that piece of information in the back of our minds while we were listening to how Carrasco blasted through safety glass with a knife, and how Brown had to fight for his life.

So there you go, except the news account I read included some added information. One reporter, out of the at least seven media outlets that covered this story, had talked to people who knew Carrasco, and they can't believe it. Carrasco was a loving person. He had a little girl. They don't know about any knife. They say Carrasco carried a small leather pouch on his belt, which held the tools he used at his job as a maintenance man at a city-run senior center where he had worked for two years despite his history of attacking cops.

 They wonder why, in any event, the cop shot him four times. They wonder why the cop had to shoot at all.

But the cops say he busted through the safety glass window with a knife, or a screwdriver from a leather pouch that to the officer looked like a big, big, Mexican knife. That actually sounds almost possible. What sounds more possible, to me, and what would explain Carrasco being on the hood of the car and halfway through a side window, would be that the cop ran Carrasco down with his car. The police chief said brown pulled in front of Carrrasco. But why was he on the hood of the car? And was he simply trying to defend himself?

Something happened, of course. We may not know exactly what, but for the cop to shoot four times he was obviously scared, for some reason, right? It may not have happened exactly like the police chief said, but something happened.

Maybe. I don't have time to make the case right now, but people who have been following this kind of thing will tell you that things have changed when it comes to the police and the citizenry. One person I know of who has been following this kind of thing for a long time is Earl Caldwell.

 Earl Caldwell is on old newspaper man -- he was with the New York Times quite a few years and then wrote a column for the New York Post for a long time, where he used his skills as an investigative reporter to look into things like police shootings. He's kind of famous, to reporters anyway, for being involved in a supreme court case about reporters revealing their sources.

Now he teaches at Hampton University and once a week does a radio show on WBAI in New York City that I catch now and then, and listen to on podcasts now and then, and Earl is on top of this, on top police shooting people. It happens a lot now. It's become commonplace. Ten times this year in Albuquerque, seven of those resulting in death.


Caldwell, and other people who follow this kind of thing, put it into the broader context of the assault on the working class, that was begun by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with their attacks on, in Reagan's case the air traffic controller's union, and in Thatcher's case the miner's union.

 And as things have progressed since then, and as conservatism has entrenched itself in government and the courts and the news media and as corporate power has grown and grown, there has been a correlating shift in police violence -- in how it is used, and how it is portrayed.

There's been the proliferation of all these cop shows and the glamorization of police, and the automatic justification of anything they do. Questions aren't asked such as, Why aren't police trained to apprehend people who have knives or even firearms? Why do they automatically pull their guns out and kill them? There's a different attitude toward police violence. Remember the term "police brutality?" When was the last time you heard that used? A long time ago, I'll bet. 

The police shoot as a first resort now, not as a last resort. And cops know, now, that they can kill anyone they want to, anyone in the working class anyway, with impunity. Especially if that person is black,  or brown, like Enrique Carrasco was.

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