Cellphone footage of deadly police encounters may not end in as many convictions as some might like to see, but there is no denying that the presence of someone recording those situations has prevented the killing of unarmed Black people. That last part was especially true after a new video recently made the rounds on social media showing more than a dozen police officers in Southern California aiming their guns at an unarmed Black man who had already seemed to surrender for whatever crime cops suspected him as.
The video, filmed by a woman who identified herself in part as Sky, can be heard asking the police why they have so many guns aimed at the man, who claimed that he was actually the victim of violence.
The man, who identified himself only as William, can be seen on his knees with his hands raised on the corner of an intersection in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne. All the while, Sky was panning her camera from left to right, showing the extent of the police response to what appeared to be a non-threatening situation.
“Prairie and El Segundo, and they have their guns drawn on this young black man right here,” the video opens up with Sky naming the intersection in Hawthorne loud enough for the police to hear. “Why are your guns pulled on this young man?”
William said he wasn’t armed.
“I ain’t got no weapons,” he yelled out said as Sky confirmed to both police and William that she was filming live.
“Are you gonna shoot him?” Sky yelled at the police, whose response seemed to grow exponentially within seconds with squad cars and SUVs arriving nonstop. “Because they will shoot you,” Sky warns William.
Sky explained that she was speaking from experience.
“They killed my boyfriend, in 2015,” she said to William before her strong demeanor collapsed from the heavy strain of having experienced a police shooting.
“I don’t understand why y’all got guns drawn on him right now. Are y’all about to kill this man? Like, look at these big ass guns they got on this man right now,” Sky says in disbelief as her voice breaks down into emotional sobbing.
Watch the video below.
The situation bore all the hallmarks of a deadly police encounter. But perhaps Sky’s intervention — and cellphone — prevented William from being shot to death even though he was complying. Such was the case for Edrick Truitt, who nearly lost his life when he was pulled over by a white cop who had a gun to his face in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. Truitt filmed the entire encounter that showed the police giving conflicting orders that could have resulted in his death. Chances are that police didn’t shoot since Truitt announced he was filming live.
Whether innocent or not, William and Truitt’s separate situations served as a reminder about the PTSD that police encounters, deadly or not, can inflict upon suspects and their loved ones, especially Black people.
“Police killings of unarmed black Americans negatively affect the mental health of black adults in the states where the fatal incidents occur,” PBS wrote about a study in 2018 that “focused on the mental well-being of black adults who are not directly involved in acts of police violence, adding to a body of research that suggests the killings are ‘a public health issue.’”