The full picture hasn’t been painted yet of what exactly happened when the free-agent cornerback was taken into custody by officers with the Redmond Police Department, but what has been reported so far suggests he may have been suffering from a mental health crisis or depression.
Sherman was allegedly trying to break into the home of his wife’s parents following a reported single-vehicle accident in which he was involved that may have been caused because he was drunk. But been before that, according to a 911 call from his wife, Sherman was acting suicidal and threatening to harm himself verbally as well as in text messages to friends. Police have said Sherman resisted arrest when they arrived at his in-laws’ home, prompting them to sic a police dog on him.
The bottom line is that Richard Sherman is lucky the police didn’t kill him.
As we’ve seen too many times now, even the most innocent of police encounters can turn deadly in a split second. The chances of that happening increase exponentially when the suspect is Black.
The 911 call from Sherman’s wife was released Wednesday afternoon and suggests the NFL star was going through a personal crisis. Ignoring for a moment how rude the 911 dispatcher was to Sherman’s wife, who was pleading for help despite being repeatedly interrupted during a frantic moment, the contents of the call are disturbing.
Ashley Moss told the 911 dispatcher that her husband was “drunk and belligerent” and that he was fighting her uncle. At one point she said Sherman was threatening to kill himself.
“He has sent text messages to people saying he’s going to hang himself, and he’s saying that if the police show up that he’ll try to fight them,” Moss told the dispatcher, who seemed to be confrontational with the caller.
“This is Richard Sherman,” Moss implores the dispatcher. “This is a fucking emergency!”
She can be heard repeatedly pleading with her husband, “Richard, please stop!”
While the 911 dispatcher acted as if she didn’t know who the Pro Bowl NFL star is, one of the police officers who responded to the call sure did, according to the Associated Press.
One of the state troopers on the scene told Sherman he once parked his car while working as a valet attendant as a teenager. But that tactic failed once Sherman was informed he would be arrested, prompting him to start “walking away rapidly and fought as police tried to take him into custody.”
Amazingly, no guns were pulled, let alone fired, and the worst that happened was Sherman suffered minor lacerations to his lower leg and ankle from the police dog. An officer also claimed he was injured, though the extent of his reported injury was not immediately clear.
Imagine if the cops had not recognized Sherman.
Usually, scenarios similar to all of the above amount not only to a fatal police shooting, but also one for which police would likely be able to validate and avoid criminal prosecution. Instead, Sherman — a celebrity in Washington because of his many years starring for the Seattle Seahawks — is still alive probably because he was recognized by law enforcement, a privilege typically not afforded to Black criminal suspects.
Moss told the Seattle Times that her husband did not hurt anyone.
“At this time, we’re going to make no statements, except he didn’t harm anybody,” she said. “My kids were not harmed in the incident. He’s a good person and this is not his character. We’re doing all right, just trying to get him out. I want people to know no one was injured.”
Sherman was arrested for domestic-violence burglary. There are also pending charges for drunken driving and a hit-and-run. He is expected to be arraigned in court on Thursday.
On the flip side, too many Black people who have police encounters don’t live to see their day in court.
To be sure, the Redmond Police Department is not above responding with deadly violence to a 911 call. That was the case last September when Andrea Thomas Churna, a white woman, called 911 suspecting a burglar was trying to break into her luxury condo, local news outlet KUOW reported. “I think someone’s trying to kill me at my apartment,” Churna told the dispatcher. While there is much more to the story than that, the bottom line is that Churna was dead 30 minutes later in her own home after police responded to her 911 call by shooting her multiple times.
If the Redmond Police Department would do that to a white woman…
Ironically, Sherman said about five years ago that “all lives matter,” a phrase that has often been used as a counter to the rallying call that “Black lives matter.” Two months later that same year, Sherman changed his tune on police brutality.
The Compton, California native, responding to the spate of police killings of Black people, said he believes that the message from Colin Kaepernick — whose silent kneeling protest during the playing of the national anthem to bring attention to police violence against Black people got him blacklisted from the NFL — has been “ignored.”
“The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together to make people aware that this is not right,” Sherman said at the time. “It’s not right for people to get killed in the street.”
He later added: “When you tell a kid, ‘When you’re dealing with police, just put your hands up and comply with everything,’ and there’s still a chance of them getting shot and no repercussions for anyone, that’s an unfortunate time to be living. It’s an unfortunate place to be in. There’s not a lot you can tell a kid.”
I repeat: Richard Sherman is lucky the police didn’t kill him, and it is apparent that he must surely know that, as well.