The NYPD was on full alert after several of its officers were allegedly targeted separately by the same gunmen in what the police commissioner described as “assassination attempts” over the weekend. A 45-year-old man named Robert Williams was arrested for allegedly walking up to an NYPD van and shooting inside of it on Saturday night, hitting one of the two officers inside.
Williams was also accused of walking into a police precinct on Sunday morning and firing his weapon before officers were able to subdue him and take him into custody. Fortunately, no one suffered any life-threatening injuries in the shootings.
CNN reported that an unidentified “law enforcement official” said that Williams “hates cops.”
The entire episode got the police-sympathizing Twitter hashtag #BlueLivesMatter trending on Sunday.
Before this article moves forward, it needs to be said that neither this writer nor NewsOne wishes any harm on anyone, let alone police officers who have taken an oath to protect and serve communities they are charged with keeping safe. The types of accusations that Williams faces are indeed the act of a “coward,” as NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said.
That much is undeniable.
However, Shea’s attribution of the shootings to “anti-police rhetoric advocating violence against our protectors” could be seen as misguided, if not hasty, considering the deep levels of documented mistrust between the NYPD and the Black communities it polices.
Whether it applies to Williams or not, to only mention “anti-police rhetoric advocating violence against our protectors” without acknowledging the very real implicit and explicit biases that police officers possess — especially when it comes to Black people — is to only tell half of the story.
If people are going to be completely honest, it would be naive to deny the harsh truth that — especially recently — the aforementioned roles have been polar oppositely reversed with the NYPD and countless other American police departments being the ones on the receiving end of accusations of executing innocent and unarmed Black people.
Of course, officers of the law are not the same as civilians. But civilians still have rights. But many times those rights are ignored in favor of cops’ licenses to kill that typically seem to be employed against Black and brown people out of purported fear — the same type of fear that Black and brown people have said they feel when they see police.
Williams’ “assassination attempts” were similar to a number of high-profile police shootings of unarmed and nonviolent Black people in recent years. In fact, it was just last week when were it not for the level-headedness of a nonviolent Black teenager being shoved repeatedly by an NYPD officer for suspicion of not paying transit fare, the young student could have been another victim of the NYPD’s violent treatment toward Black live. (The NYPD defended the cop’s use of force against the unarmed teenager that could have easily escalated to become deadly.)
In October, Atatiana Jefferson was shot down in her own home by Fort Worth Police Officer Aaron Dean, who never even identified himself when he shot through her bedroom window and killed her instantly in front of her 8-year-old nephew. The two of them were simply playing video games when she was shot.
Before that, Botham Jean was killed in his own apartment in 2018 while eating ice cream and watching football — all because a white police officer barged into his apartment under the purported misconception that he was a burglar in her apartment. The officer, Amber Guyger, said during her murder trial that she feared for her life even though he was relaxing in his own apartment.
There was also the recent case of NYPD Officer Michael Reynolds, who was allowed to resign with what remained of his dignity after he broke into a Black woman’s home in Tennessee, called her and her sons the N-word and threatened to hurt them. “Try to shoot me, and I’ll break every f—ing bone in your f—ing neck,” a drunken Reynolds said before calling them “fucking niggers.” Despite the clear and unprovoked death threats, Reynolds was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years’ probation after pleading no contest to four misdemeanors.
Going back a bit farther, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo used an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner for the nonviolent crime of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes in 2014. Pantaleo improbably also said he feared for his life. It would take more than five years for him to lose his job, but no one was ever held accountable for the brazen killing. Garner is far from the only example of the NYPD killing unarmed Black men. See Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and Ramarley Graham, among others, for more.
The weekend shootings in New York also brought attention to the statistics tracking police shootings this year. At least 90 people were shot and killed by police in America in the first two months of the year, according to a database maintained by the Killed By Police website. That was in comparison to the number of police officers killed in 2020: 15. Of that number, just six died from “gunfire,” according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website.
Those statistics suggest it is actually civilians and not police who might want to worry most about each other.
A betting man would probably jump at the chance to place a wager on the odds that a police officer would shoot and kill a civilian before the opposite was true.
Beyond that, that data paints a different picture than one of police under attack, showing that Williams’ shootings were much more of an anomaly than anything else — especially seeing that the last time something like that happened in New York City was in 2014 when the gunman said he did it out of revenge for Garner’s killing.