On October 7, another young man of color was killed by San Francisco police. The police account of what happened is contradictory and not credible. Yet the media obligingly reports the police account and allows them to frame the story. They ask none of the obvious questions, and ignore the shifting accounts offered by police.
The police narrative on the killing of O’Shaine Evans is typical of the way cops have justified countless other police murders. It has become the standard police account justifying the epidemic of police killings that occur in this country. Marianne Moore, a member of the Evans family put it: “In light of all the police brutality and the blatant lies that have happened in recent times where the police have given a different narrative than what surveillance and what other eye witnesses have shown,” she said, “it causes us grave concern and makes us really question the police narrative and what they want us to believe.”
Following are examples of the “explanation” of the fatal shooting of O’Shaine Evans, in what has become the standard police narrative in defense of police killings.
- The police claim the suspect pointed a gun at them or attacked them. This is the most typical claim by cops attempting to justify a killing. And yet, so many times, this claim has been contradicted by eye witnesses, by coroner’s accounts, by videotapes of the crime scene. In Evan’s case, the accounts provided by police chief Suhr are not only suspect, but contradictory. In the original police version of the incident, (as reported by ABC news on Oct 8) police Chief Greg Surh, claims that the suspect had “produced a gun”. In other reports, police claimed they saw a gun on his lap and that Evans refused to hand it over. No mention was initially made of Evans pointing a gun at the officer. But by the town hall meeting that was called two days, later, the story had changed – O’Shaine supposedly pointed his gun at the officer who approached him and identified himself as police. The accounts are contradictory on several other facts as well. We have to ask, how credible is it that a person would point a gun at a police officer during an interaction with one?
- The police claim they had no option other than to shoot to kill in order to protect themselves and others in the line of duty. In this case, Police Chief talks of the officer “being forced to fire seven times into the car”…“In defense of himself and others, the officer was forced to discharge his gun.” In so many fatal shootings by police, the police say that they fear for their lives. But time and time again, it is revealed that suspects have their hands in the air or are fleeing the police.
- The victim is presented as a criminal, his reputation is smeared, thereby implicitly “justifying” the police killing. The media reports that the police killed a “suspect” and dug up whatever they could on O’Shaine Evans in an obvious attempt to smear his reputation. Police tell the media (and the media unquestioningly reports) that “Evans (a 26-year-old man) had a juvenile history that police did not disclose.” Given the way Black and Brown communities are so heavily policed, it’s difficult for a young Black man to reach adulthood without some kind of record. More importantly, what does a dead victim’s record have to do with anything?
- The family of the victim is disrespected and their involvement is avoided. In this case, family members were not informed of the town hall meeting where police “explained” the incident, and O’Shaine’s mother was initially not allowed to see her son’s body.
- The autopsy reports are withheld. It often takes months before autopsy reports are disclosed, and they frequently prove that the cop’s versions were lies. (In the most recent example here in the Mission, autopsy reports of Alex Nieto following prove the police were lying when they claimed Nieto aimed a weapon at them before they riddled his body with bullets).
- A weapon supposedly belonging to the suspect is supposedly found at the scene of the crime. Remember the “gun” that Kenneth Harding “waved at the police” turned out to actually be his cell phone?
- Surveillance video, which may show what actually happened is not released. A striking example of this (among many) is the recent release of footage that contradicts police reports of the killing of John Crawford in Ohio, just four days before Micheal Brown. It was withheld until after a jury declined to indict the police officer. We are still hoping that surveillance footage from the night of O’Shaine’s death emerges.
The family of O’Shaine Evans is holding a service for him on October 22nd. Please come and show your support.