Phoenix, Arizona a 67-year old white man mixed anti-anxiety
medication with alcohol and then got behind the wheel of
his car. He struck another car but didn’t stop as required by law.
He was apprehended only because another motorist followed him
and called police. When the heavily medicated driver finally
encountered police he used his knee as a weapon to strike
one of the officers in the thigh. He was found to have a
alcohol level twice the legal limit. He was charged with
extreme drunken driving, hit and run, and suspicion of assaulting
officer. His name is Glen Campbell and he is still
Cincinnati, Ohio a 41-year old black man passed out near a
White Castle. A 911 call sent paramedics to the scene who then
called police to say that the man was agitated. When police
arrived he struggled with them but he had no weapon and posed
no serious threat to anyone. His name was Nathaniel Jones and
he is now
I know about Cincinnati is not altogether positive. The city
is just across the Ohio River from Kentucky. Its proximity
to a slave state made it a magnet for escaped slaves and slave
catchers as well. Toni Morrison fictionalized the true story
of an escaped slave who killed her children in Cincinnati rather
than see them returned to slavery. The result was her novel Beloved.
Harriet Beecher Stowe met many former slaves while living in
Cincinnati and became inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
day Cincinnati is rated as one of America’s most livable cities.
It may well be livable but it is still very conservative. A friend
of mine worked there at the Procter and Gamble headquarters and
often said that few blacks were employed there, even in blue-collar
positions. As she put it, blacks weren’t even hired to sweep
the floor. My parents are both native Ohioans. My mother coined
the term “up south” to describe her home state. My father tells
the story of going to see a Reds game as a boy and buying ice
cream with his brother. After making their purchase they were
ordered to eat outside. It isn’t an occurrence associated with
northern states, but as my mother says, Ohio is “up south.”
is the latest in a long line of black men killed by the police
in Cincinnati. The city endured three days of rioting in 2001
after the death of another unarmed man. The events that have
played out since his death have been all too predictable for
Cincinnati and the rest of the nation as well. His killing
is on video but what appears to be proof of murder is disputed
nonetheless. Black residents vent their anger at community
meetings. The victim’s family calls for calm. Ministers call
for protest. Officials advise against reaching conclusions
yet declare that the police acted properly. Nathaniel Jones’ relatives,
like other survivors of police brutality victims, will probably
get monetary compensation from a lawsuit, but not the satisfaction
of a guilty verdict from a criminal trial.
reports begin with the same sentence. “Nathaniel Jones, a 350-pound
black man who died in police custody…” Only the obese are despised
as much as black people. However, given the perversity of American
values we should not be surprised that rates of obesity are
increasing. Stomach reduction surgery is all the rage and there
is now a market for super sized coffins. Yet Jones' weight
has become a rationale for his death. He weighed 350-pounds?
No wonder he is dead. A big black man? Case closed. Mayor Charles
Luken said that the officers acted properly. "It appears that the police responded appropriately
and consistent with their training. They'd been attacked with
a deadly weapon – a 400-pound
the video is
a painful experience. The viewer knows that a killing is taking
place. Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to video
voyeurism in our society that I wonder if the murder of Nathaniel
Jones was all that shocking to most viewers. In the digital
age we have witnessed police beatings, murders, shootings,
and child abuse. How can we forget that the riveting footage
of Rodney King’s beating was of no help whatsoever in the criminal
trial of the officers who assaulted him?
Jones was killed by police first, and the media afterward.
The old maxim that we should not speak ill of the dead doesn’t
apply to black people in general, it never applies to black
people killed by police. Bill Cunningham, a Cincinnati-based
conservative talk radio personality was allowed to give supposedly
expert testimony on the famously unbiased Fox News network.
He had this
to say about Jones: “I'll bet you a dozen Krispy Kreme
doughnuts this guy died of congestive heart failure, because
he weighed almost 400 pounds.” Not one to leave an insult unturned,
Cunningham gave this all important information describing
Jones as "…unemployed, had two kids he didn't support.
Previous criminal record." Cunningham lied about Jones
not supporting his kids, but he certainly creates a rationale
for murder. A black, fat, deadbeat dad, and drug user certainly
deserved to be killed.
of insults, the coroner said that Jones' death was a homicide
but added, "This word should not be interpreted as implying
inappropriate behavior or the use of excessive
force by police." Jones suffered from heart disease
and high blood pressure. The autopsy also indicated that he
had used cocaine and PCP on the day of his death. But all the
while straddling the fence the coroner says, “Absent the struggle,
Mr. Jones presumably would have gone on his intoxicated way." Only
the death of a black person at the hands of police could be
explained by such ludicrous double talk. Someone dies after
being beaten by police, the autopsy says that the beating caused
the death, but the death isn’t a homicide. I call it Rodney
of the most heart breaking outcomes from this case was the
realization that Jones suffered from narcolepsy. He may have
fallen asleep in public and then become agitated upon being
awakened by the paramedics because of his condition.
A friend knew that Jones suffered from some sort of sleep
disorder and realized that the best way to wake him was
to make a noise and then step away from him.
once heard someone say that when black people call the police
they are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Al Sharpton
has spoken of the black community’s fear of both the cops and
the robbers. Even when we need the help of law enforcement
the apprehension that someone will end up dead is always present
in our minds.
have a suggestion for ending police brutality. The cops who arrested
Glen Campbell should create a presentation for police officers
all over the country. It should be called “The Perp Doesn’t Have
to Die.” They can tell their law enforcement brethren how they
arrested a suspect who was under the influence, left the scene
of an accident, and assaulted a cop. And most importantly, they
can show how they did it without killing anyone.
Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms.
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more
of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/