The terror of police brutality

(News4usonline) – No one knows the terror that Tyre Nichols felt as he was beaten into submission by five former Memphis police officers. Anyone who has ever encountered excessive force or endured any form of police brutality knows that feeling of submissive fear of not knowing what’s going to happen next. 

It is a paralyzing feeling that leaves you helpless and at the mercy of law enforcement to which too much power is given. Unfortunately, I experienced this terrible episode as a young man and it forever changed my life and my thinking about the way law enforcement treats Black motorists, especially if they are male. 

January 27, 2023- Mayor Michelle Wu, members of the clergy and community members join together for a vigil in response to the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

I am fortunate that I made it through my encounter with police brutality to talk about it. Long before I became a journalist, I was headed to my job as a custodian one night at Los Angeles USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles. I was exiting the freeway and had just made a left turn onto the street where the hospital was located, not even two minutes away from the parking lot of my job.

As I make my turn, I hear the usual police siren swoop behind me. All I could see were those blinding red and blue siren lights. I go through the drill of having my hands placed on the steering wheel with my wallet on the dashboard. I am nervous. As I look at my rearview mirror, I see the two police officers, both white, with their guns drawn. I am very nervous now.   

As the officers approach the car, they are yelling and scream for me to put my hands on top of my head and to get out of the car. Inside, I am freaking out. What is happening? But I stayed calm and tried to do what the officers asked of me. I am grabbed by one officer who whisks me to the front of my Ford Mustang and places my hands on the hood. 

I am in a spread eagle formation with my legs wide and my hands on that blazing hood.  Now mind you, I had just driven from Long Beach to East Los Angeles. That’s roughly a 23-mile commute from where I lived. The hood of my car is smoking hot. 

The officers told me if I moved they would shoot me. As you can imagine, my hands are scalded. As much as I wanted to scream, I tried not to say anything. The officers ran my plates and driver’s license. It seemed like an eternity. 

One of the officers throws just about everything I had in my car into the street. As that one officer was sifting through my stuff looking for whatever, I made the mistake of asking the second officer why I was being stopped. 

My reward for that question was being taken off the hood and thrown up against a wall with a cocked gun placed in the back of my head. That’s when all the racial taunting and race-baiting serenade began from that second police officer. I was called all kinds of different forms of the N-word. 

I could feel the hard cold steel of the officer’s gun firmly planted in my skull. This particular cop’s anger was very clear and direct. There was a young lady crossing the street at the intersection where I had turned. I saw her and didn’t really pay attention to her. 

Obviously, this police officer did. As he screamed and yelled racial epithets at me, one of the most lingering things he said to me stood out over everything else. 

With me jacked up against the wall and his gun or revolver being pushed harder and harder against my head, he asked me, “Do you like white women? Do you like whistling at white women? I am in total disbelief at this point. What? My mind immediately ran back to Emmett Till, the Chicago Black teenager brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. 

Now, I was terrified. I was in a dark area. No one was coming to my rescue. I started thinking aloud. I am being stopped and brutalized because these police officers thought I looked at a white woman. Really?  I asked the officer why I was being stopped. I don’t remember everything he said. However, I do remember these words coming from his mouth. 

“If we ever see you around here and catch you even looking at a white woman, we’re going to come back here and finish the job and blow your f–king head off,” he said.

 Those words and that night will forever be seared into my memory bank. That evening, my look at Officer Bill changed dramatically. I was just another n—er to them. By the way, I never did receive any type of citation or ticket from that traffic stop.  

Like everything else, law enforcement has its place in society. Many of us actually take for granted the importance of having law enforcement among us. They are to serve and protect. Not take life. Law enforcement keeps our neighborhoods and communities safe. 

January 27, 2023- Mayor Michelle Wu, members of the clergy and community members join together for a vigil in response to the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

They are visible as well as invisible watching to make sure that we all have that security blanket wrapped around us as we go to the movies, have dinner or go shopping. 

As I was told when I was a youngster in elementary school, Officer Bill is your best friend. As an adult, I understand that in theory that is a beautiful thing to believe in. In practicality, for many Black Americans and those in the Latino community, that is not what they see or think. 

A simple traffic stop like one that involved 29-year-old Nichols and previously, Philando Castile, should not be a death sentence. For Black Americans, this happens way more than it should. And now, another blatant form of police brutality ending the life of a young Black man has reared its ugly head again into the social fabric of American consciousness. 

It keeps happening. Why? This time the perpetrators of the heinous beating of Nichols that eventually robbed him of his life, are five Black men. It appears that Black-on-Black crime is no longer regulated to the confines of where the usual suspects operate. 

These individuals were not gang members. They were not drug dealers protecting their territory nor were they pimps looking out for their vested interests on the streets. They were supposed to be the good guys. 

After watching multiple videos of seeing these five ex-police officers beat, stomp, kick, baton, and punch the life out of Nichols, it’s clear that these individuals are on the other team. 

They’re the bad guys. They were not operating as cops. They were nothing but uniformed terrorists who masqueraded as police officers. What happened to Nichols is not a Memphis problem. It’s an American problem.    

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