During a Thursday press conference, the Washington D.C. college student who was chased, tackled, and injured by police earlier this week gave the explanation ironically used by officers in fatal shootings — the same (and valid) declaration uttered by many in communities of color when encountering those sworn to protect them.
He feared for his life. So he ran.
The statement is a familiar mainstay adopted by officers in cases where they use fatal or brutal force — and many times, wrongly so — but it’s not hard to believe that 18-year-old Jason Goolsby indeed thought he might die when a police SUV sped towards him and White officers jumped out with guns and pepper spray. Especially in the wake of a number of highly publicized police brutality incidents; one of which occurred just miles away in Baltimore this spring.
“He was well aware of the Freddie Gray incident, as well as numerous other incident of police brutality. He truly believed [the officer] was going to shoot him,” the teenager’s lawyer, Peter Grenier, said at Thursday’s press conference.
“I seen a gun and pepper spray,” Goolsby said. “I feared for my life. I didn’t want to die.”
Goolsby, a musician, was just standing at the ATM, contemplating whether or not to withdraw money for a studio session. But the student and his friend “were taught that when police cars drive up on black men, they have good reason to be afraid,” DCist reports. So the only logical thing for the University of the District of Columbia student to do was run.
And that’s what he did. But had the White woman who he opened the door for at the bank not felt “uncomfortable” at his mere presence, the incident might not have happened in the first place.
According to DCist:
As the 18-year-old UDC student decided whether he still wanted to take out the cash, he saw a white couple headed toward the ATM with their baby, Grenier said. Instinctively, Goolsby opened the door for them to make it easier to get the stroller through.
Once they were inside, he didn’t exchange any words with the family. Be he did think it was strange when the woman said she had forgotten something in the car and headed out without doing their clearly intended errand of taking out money.
D.C. Police said in a statement that they got a call “for a suspicious person, three subjects may be trying to rob people at the ATM.” The Washington Post reports that the 911 caller told the operator: “We just left but we felt like if we had taken money out we might’ve gotten robbed.”
Unaware of the call, Gooslby then left himself and was heading toward a 90 bus stop to visit his brother at Howard University when a fast-moving police SUV headed straight toward him, his lawyer said. Thinking that the car was about to run him over, he quickly jumped on the curb and was both scared and bewildered when the white police officer driving the car demanded he get on the ground.
The incident, Goolsby’s lawyer suggested, was indeed about race.
“Being black is not probable cause for being arrested or detained,” Grenier said, adding that they would consider filing a lawsuit after their investigation into the incident was complete. “I have zero doubt that if these young men were white, none of this would have happened,” he said.
Grenier is currently reviewing whether the civil rights of Goolsby and the friend who videotaped the incident, Michael Brown, were violated after being profiled, detained for two hours, and then released.
For Goolsby, whose shoulder was injured in the melee, he just wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“I want to see justice,” he said at the conference.