Chased down and killed for a broken taillight

A 60-year-old black man went out for a grape soda.

He never returned.

It’s the old familiar story: White cop, black man, shot dead during a traffic stop.

Julian Lewis, 60, woke up alive and healthy on Friday, Aug. 7, 2020. That evening, after he went out to buy a grape soda for his wife, he was shot once in the head by a Georgia state trooper.

News reports say the trooper, Jacob Gordon Thompson, 27, claims Lewis sped up “to 65 mph” when he tried to pull him over, and he eventually stopped Lewis with a PIT maneuver that pinned his car between Thompson’s patrol car and a tree. Then, Thompson wrote in his incident report, “he heard Lewis’ car revving and saw him ‘wrenching the steering wheel in an aggressively back and forth manner towards me and my patrol vehicle. It appeared to me that the violator was trying to use his vehicle to injure me,’ Thompson explained. ‘Being in fear for my life and safety, I discharged my weapon once.'”

The family’s attorney said, “It is not altogether clear to us that Mr. Lewis was trying to flee” and added “it was likely that Lewis was trying to get to his uncle’s house nearby so that a witness could see the police interaction.” He said “since Lewis’ death his office has received more than a dozen complaints about Thompson and another trooper that patrols the same area …, ‘the commonality among them are that they’re black or brown.'”

The Georgia State Patrol says on its website that its patrol cars are equipped with dashboard cameras, but as yet no dashcam video of this shooting has been released to the public.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re going to say: Media report facts selectively, and they’re “liberal-based,” especially CNN (read their story here), but including Fox (read their story here).

I’ll try to be fair.

On its face, it looks really bad when someone gets killed by a cop for a traffic infraction, and even worse when the cop is white and the dead person is black.

But, you’ll say, there’s more to the story. Yes, there is, there always is. The guy ran from the cops.  

Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he sorta did, but not really, i.e. didn’t feel safe alone with a white cop on a lonely road and intended to pull over where there was a witness. Maybe the cop got aggressive, so he sped up a little. Maybe he even sped up a lot. Maybe he didn’t speed up at all. Maybe if the engine in Lewis’ car revved, as the trooper claims, it was because the car crashed into a tree (I haven’t found a photo of the car, so I don’t know what damage it sustained from the PIT maneuver). The dashcam video should answer these questions. Maybe the trooper lied in his report.

Cops don’t lie, you’ll argue. Sure they do, I’ll say, even on video.

But suppose Lewis did run from the trooper. What of it? The argument, “Don’t run from the cops!” doesn’t sell anymore. Why? Because black people have been conditioned to fear white cops. When a black man runs from the cops, he’s running for his life. It has nothing to do with a guilty conscience or whether he did anything wrong. But I guess you have to be a black person to really understand that, and I’m not black, so I’m guessing.

I’m just speculating the trooper’s actions were unjustified, you’ll say. No, I’m not. Even if you want to completely dismiss the news reports, including Fox‘s, you won’t be able to talk your way out of this: After investigating the incident, the Georgia State Patrol fired Thompson, and the D.A. charged him with murder. Presumably they reviewed all the evidence, including crime scene photos and the dashcam video (if there is one), before making those decisions.

Their judgment of whether this killing was justified may not persuade you, but it’s enough to satisfy me. But, as a reminder: All persons accused of a crime are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law. So, we’ll have to wait and see what a jury thinks of this.

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