Where are Black people safe from the police? Certainly not out in public where cops racially profile us and get trigger-happy if they feel even the slightest bit threatened. Atatiana Jefferson, Stephon Clark, Kathryn Johnston, and Breonna Tayor remind us that we’re not necessarily safe in our homes, relatives’ homes, or in our beds either. So where can we exist where we don’t have to worry about police harassment, police aggression, and police violence?
And when will our fear of police be granted the same understanding as their fear of us?
Just after midnight on February 12, 29-year-old Black man Jajuan R. Henderson was getting iced tea from a car parked right outside his home in Trenton, New Jersey, according to a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday in Mercer County.
NBC News reported that the suit alleges Henderson was sitting in the car with the beverage when a group of plainclothes police officers, who he had no reason to think were police officers, approached the vehicle and began shouting at Henderson, who then attempted to use his phone to call for help. The altercation ended in one officer smashing the driver’s side window and Henderson being shot four times, which resulted in him being paralyzed from the chest down.
“This group of men, appearing as any other group of dangerous criminals from a horror movie, turned out to be from the Trenton Police Department,” the lawsuit states. “A Black man sitting in a car at midnight while on a cell phone was all the unidentified police needed to smash the driver’s side window. Despite being unarmed, nonthreatening, and minding his own business, the police proceeded to use lethal force and shoot Jajuan in the neck. It is a miracle Jajuan survived.”
Henderson is suing the city of Trenton, the director of Trenton police, Steve E. Wilson, and the four officers on the scene, who have only been identified by their initials.
According to the lawsuit, there is body camera footage related to the incident that has not been released to the public. As NJ.com noted, an NJ attorney general directive was established in 2018 that says video footage should be released publicly when requested once the initial use-of-force investigation is complete, which usually happens within 20 days. Trenton spokesperson Tim Carroll said the investigation is still ongoing and that the city “has fully complied with the required Attorney General’s review of the February 12 incident, and await the findings.” Henderson’s attorney, Derek Demeri, doesn’t appear to be buying it.
“It’s very frustrating. The family has a right to transparency in this process,” Demeri said.
So, here’s what the police said happened, according to an affidavit provided by Mercer prosecutors, as reported by NBC News:
The affidavit said that Trenton police’s street crime units, 511 and 513, attempted to conduct a motor vehicle stop on the Saturn the night of the incident.
Henderson, the affidavit said, refused to cooperate with detectives’ orders to roll down the window and then exit the vehicle. He also could not provide a driver’s license or proof of the Saturn’s registration and insurance, the affidavit said.
Henderson’s lawsuit said the car belonged to the mother of his child.
Henderson also refused orders to stop reaching under the backseat, which prompted an officer to break the driver’s window, the affidavit said. Henderson then, according to the affidavit, turned on the ignition and attempted to flee, striking two parked cars while officers were in close proximity.
It’s unclear whether the plainclothes detectives announced themselves as police, but it is clear that Henderson wasn’t armed, and if anyone is stretching themselves to argue that cops were justified for opening fire when they never so much as saw a gun on the victim, those people are bootlickers who, once again, only belive blue fear matters.
Following the incident, the man who was shot up and paralyzed was charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice, according to Henderson’s attorney. The four counts of aggravated assault were eventually dropped by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Demeri said. A spokesperson with the prosecutor’s office confirmed Friday Henderson is still being prosecuted for resisting arrest and obstruction, but did not comment on why the other charges were dropped.
As for the cops involved in the shooting, it’s unclear whether they will face any charges. As of now, they’re all on administrative leave pending the investigation.
Demri said Henderson, who is currently undergoing physical rehabilitation with hopes of gaining mobility, acted as any frightened person would in that situation.
“Anyone in that situation would be very frightened for their life,” he said.
But we don’t get to use that excuse. For that, one apparently needs a badge, training, and the backing of a legal system that goes out of its way to give cops the benefit of the doubt.
At least Henderson lived to tell his side of the story.
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