We’ve seen their faces. We’ve said their names. We’ve witnessed their murders online. We’ve read their stories. Black people, men and women, have been killed in alarming numbers by the police. The issue of police brutality is not new, nor is the issue of excessive force; what is new is how frequently we hear “an unarmed Black man was killed by police,” or “an unarmed Black woman died while in police custody.” And those who are left out of the media most often are young Black men and women.
This week, in Minnesota, not far from where George Floyd was murdered, was another murder — that of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. The police officer, Kim Potter, resigned two days after killing him, and three days after that, she was charged in his death. What we know about our justice system and our police force is that something needs to change in order to save lives, because when a police officer shoots and kills a person of color, it is also gun violence.
We need to keep talking about those who have lost their lives at the hands of the police. In the last month, three young boys in Chicago were shot and killed this way. Here is what we know of their stories:
Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed during what should have been a simple traffic stop. The officer, Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran on the force, was charged on April 14th with manslaughter. There was a warrant out for his arrest due to his failure to appear in court. The mail with his court date, it is reported, had been sent to the wrong home address, and a warrant was then issued. The car he reportedly was driving the day he was shot had expired license plates, and there was an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror — which, according to Minnesota law, can be grounds for a police stop. “We have concerns that police appear to have used dangling air fresheners as an excuse for making a pretextual stop, something police do too often to target Black people,” the ACLU of Minnesota said in a statement.
Travon Chadwell, an 18-year-old boy who was suspected of stealing an item from a Chicago Home Depot on March 30th. During the alleged theft, Travon pulled out a gun and shot the security officer who had physically restrained him. When the cops arrived, Travon got into a shootout with the police and injured a policeman (both the policeman and the security officer have, so far, survived). During that shootout, Travon was shot and killed by police. In an interview, his mother says he suffered from ADHD and that he did not like taking his medication. “My condolences to the family because I know my baby did not mean to do that,” his mother told CBS News Chicago. “He didn’t, and I am sorry that it happened. I am.”
Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old student at Gary Elementary School, was shot and killed by the Chicago police department on March 29th less than a mile from his home. Police say they were responding to a report of gunshots and allege that Adam, who had never been in trouble before according to his mother, was armed. After a chase, he was shot in the chest by an officer. Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) initially stated that the bodycam footage of the shooting could not be released since the victim was a minor, but has reversed its stance, releasing the video on April 15th. Adam’s mother, Elizabeth Toledo, told the Chicago Sun Times that he wanted to be a policeman: “And the next thing you know, a cop took his life.”
Anthony Alvarez, a 22-year-old, was being chased by Chicago police when he allegedly pulled out a gun and was shot by an officer; he died of multiple gunshot wounds. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the officers involved with Anthony’s death will be “placed on routine administrative duties” for 30 days. His cousin Gustavo Fuentes told the Chicago Tribune that Anthony’s father says “it hurts more when they say police killed your son.”
In the last year, 991 people have been shot and killed by police according to The Washington Post. Within the first three months of 2021, 213 people were shot — and of those, 30 were Black. These numbers should piss you off. They should anger you enough to want to fight for police reform and education. When the person shot is the one blamed for their own murder, that is a problem. When a police officer justifies their actions with the words, “I thought that he had a gun” or “I thought that he was going to harm me with that knife” — the police need more training on how to handle situations when they are afraid. Shooting a gun is not the answer. Blaming the victim is not the answer.
We are a country on our knees right now. All the reckoning, all of the “Say Her Name” or “Say His Name” tweets are tired. We need compassion. We need education. And we need to value lives, those who are old, young, and Black. How will we get there, and what can the police do to help change lives instead of take lives away?
This article was originally published on