Yet another black man is shot by rogue police

“A Black man in New Jersey grabbing iced tea from a car was shot and paralyzed by plain-clothed officers last month,” NBC News reported on March 18, 2022 (story here).

Jajuan R. Henderson, 29, was inside the car, which was parallel-parked outside his Trenton home, shortly after midnight on February 12 “when a group of men in dark clothing and masks driving an unidentified vehicle boxed in” the parked car and jumped out, a lawsuit by the NAACP against the city and police alleges.

The masked men “began yelling” and Henderson tried to phone for help. He didn’t know who they were, or that they were cops. To him, they looked like “any other group of dangerous criminals from a horror movie.” The NAACP lawyers say “within seconds” after they surrounded the car, they smashed the driver’s window  and shot him 4 times in the neck and back, paralyzing him from the chest down (see story here).

Henderson has a past criminal record, but the lawyers say he did nothing wrong and, “We don’t have any reason to believe they even knew who [he] was.”

The police charged Henderson with assaulting all four cops and resisting arrest. They claim he refused to get out of the car, then turned on the car’s ignition and tried to flee “at high speed,” striking two cars (see story here). His lawyers dispute that, pointing out the car was blocked on all four sides by parked cars, the unmarked police car, and a utility pole on the curb.

If the police story is true, they should be able to produce photos of the cars Henderson allegedly hit while trying to flee, and statements from their owners. So far, they haven’t. Nor have they complied with a state law requiring release of bodycam video footage.

The police haven’t identified the cops involved, beyond the fact they work for the Trenton Police Department, so it’s unknown if they were white. Henderson’s lawsuit alleges he was racially profiled. At an NAACP press conference, his mother accused the police of nearly “executing” her son, and his lawyers said he was “lucky to survive.”

Not all the facts of this case are yet known. We don’t know for sure who’s telling the truth (but we know all to often the cops lie). But it doesn’t look good for the police; the cops weren’t in uniform, or a marked car, and to any reasonable observer they were indistinguishable from street thugs. Preliminary facts indicate Henderson wasn’t in the act of committing a crime.

There’s always a chance the police in this case will be protected from liability by qualified immunity, but if Henderson is permanently paralyzed, and will require extensive medical and attendant care for decades to come, the city could end up paying tens of millions.

But despite the protests and lawsuits, these incidents keep happening. Why? The logical response is they’re not disincentivized enough. Insurance companies, not city governments or police agencies, pay the judgments. Usually the cops, at most, might lose their jobs or ju8st get reprimands. And police reform is stalled (read story here).

Maybe Black Lives Matter needs to protest in the streets until more is done. Some white people won’t like that, for bad reasons. It’s our job to outvote them.

Photo below: Scene of the incident

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