• Jena

Sure, Jan

Joshua Brown during Guyger trial

Just days after testifying against Amber Guyger in the Botham Jean case, witness and former neighbor to the deceased, Joshua Brown was shot to death. People in Dallas and across the the US understandably connected this latest death to the Guyger trial. Some speculated that it was a hit job done by police officers sympathetic to Guyger. Dallas PD, however, denied this accusation and have arrested two suspects that they said are connected to Brown's death. (There is a third suspect who hasn't been apprehended.). Police report that Brown was murdered in a drug deal gone wrong- they say that the suspects traveled from Louisiana to buy drugs from Brown and after an altercation, ended up shooting Brown to death.

Dallas PD's report was met with...let's just say a healthy dose of skepticism. Reading the tweets on this topic was a study in how little the public trusts official reports these days:

"So they're saying these guys drive from Louisiana to Dallas to buy 12 pounds of weed from Joshua Brown. Shoot him. Leave the weed and money. He lived a floor beneath a police officer then testified in a high profile case PUBLICLY. Did the writers of Power write this?"- God's Trombone

"Dallas PD claims three men traveled 4.5 hours from Alexandria, LA, to buy weed from Joshua brown and murdered him after Brown supposedly shot one of them. This sounds...off."- Marisa Kabas

"I'm actually offended by how patently ridiculous this Dallas PD story is. If Joshua Brown was a drug dealer, we woulda known already bc it would've come up during cross examination! Also, Louisiana has plenty of weed. Zero people are driving 4 hours for weed."- Zerlina Maxwell

I would recommended searching "Joshua Brown" on Twitter and reading the tweets. Alongside the snarky gifs (I saw a few variations of the "Sure, Jan" clip from The Brady Bunch), a lot of interesting questions are brought up. Why would a group of guys travel from Louisiana to buy weed from Brown? Why wasn't it brought up during the trial that one of the star witnesses was a supposed drug dealer? Isn't it a little convenient that this man testified against former cop Amber Guyger and then within days is shot to death in a supposed drug deal gone wrong?

Brady Bunch Meme

One of my acquaintances, a police officer, once asked why there was so much distrust towards police officers. She was asking specifically about the Black community, but there are a few reasons that apply to the general public. As more people have access to video cameras on their phones and we do not have to depend on body cams (which are often "not working" or can be turned off), we have seen so many videos of police brutality, that many people feel afraid of the police. Besides the brutality itself, we've also seen how the criminal justice system protects rogue police officers- either they get off without jail time or they receive light sentences, like Amber Guyger. Most of us have a healthy distrust of people who can act with impunity- the same reason we are often skeptical of politicians and the rich.

When you look at the Black community's relationship with the police, you see another layer of distrust. After all, it wasn't too long ago that police officers were tasked with carrying out racist Jim Crow mandates. Even today, police officers are part of the cogs of the justice system- a system that isn't always just or fair. When we see bias in treatment and sentencing, it's difficult not to feel distrust not only towards judges but towards the police forces who make the arrests. It's easy to start to feel as though the system is set against you, especially when someone is beaten or killed by police and the excuse becomes that they had drugs on their person or in their home or that they had stolen something a few years ago and had a criminal record (the insinuation is that someone who has done/or has possession of drugs or has a criminal record is deserving of harm. They're "no angel" is the common refrain.) Even in the Botham Jean case, police immediately announced that the deceased had a small amount of marijuana in his apartment. (Why this would matter in a case where a cop trespassed in someone else's home and shot them to death for no reason is anyone's guess. Is it common practice to investigate the victim more than the perpetrator?) This sort of narrative has led to some cops planting evidence during busts (see the case of the Baltimore police officer who planted a soup can filled with drugs at a scene in January 2017. Have some time on your hands? You can also read about the Kathryn Johnston shooting in Atlanta- police killed an elderly woman in a botched drug raid and then planted marijuana in her home. Want a Florida Man case to read about? Look up Deputy Zachary Wester who planted meth on motorists in Florida.) When we see cases like these or see victims of police violence immediately slander in case reports and in the media, it leads to a belief that no justice is forthcoming for certain members of our society. (Please also see articles about the rape kit backlog. The Atlantic did an article reporting the skepticism that some police officers have for women who report rape: An Epidemic of Disbelief.) When people don't see justice working for people like them, they develop a suspicion towards the system. This is where distrust comes from.

So when we read Dallas PD's take on the Joshua Brown crime, many of us feel skeptical, although it's doubtful we'll ever get to the bottom of what happened. True justice is necessary for any society to function. It's also necessary to have trust in our elected officials, judges, and other agents tasked with making and carrying out laws- we have some who truly work towards a fair and equitable justice system, who truly care about protecting society. There are others who don't. Until these people are removed from office or fired from their positions, it's likely that distrust will continue.

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