Apparently, a Boston police officer couldn’t even chase down a white suspect without racially profiling a Black man—imagine that.
Meet 20-year-old Donovan Johnson.
According to the Associated Press, Johnson was minutes away from home after leaving work in February 2021 when a white officer ran up to him, drew his gun, and threw him face first on the ground, which was covered in snow, according to a lawsuit filed against the town of Arlington, Massachusetts, and three of its officers. The officers, by the way, were chasing a white suspect at the time.
Police were initially called to an Arlington hotel about a man seen there who the staff believed was previously involved in the theft of televisions, the lawsuit says. The white man was “known to police” for “prior criminal acts” and when officers arrived at the hotel, officer Steven Conroy showed a photo of the man to the front desk clerk, who said it appeared to be the same person.
Police went to the room to investigate, but the man escaped and they began to chase him, according to the lawsuit. Johnson, who was almost to his Somerville home, saw the man jog past him before Conroy approached and yelled at both men to “get the (expletive) on the floor.”
The white suspect got on his knees, but Johnson stayed standing, the lawsuit says. After that, Johnson says Conroy drew his gun, threw him to the ground, and pinned him down with a knee on his neck.
Johnson likely remained standing because—oh, I don’t know—he was just walking home and knew he had nothing to do with why the cops were there. The real question is: Do cops just have default settings that cause them to pounce on the first Black person in sight once they’re in action? I mean, according to the suit, the cops literally had a photo of a white man. They were chasing a white man. Conroy saw the white man he was chasing, but there was also a random Black man on the public street so, hey, might as well violate his civil rights while he’s there, amirite?
The lawsuit also alleges that Conroy placed his knee on Johnson’s neck and Johnson yelled “I can’t breathe!”(Sound familiar?)
And of course, the officer allegedly ignored Johnson’s cries and “continued to pin Mr. Johnson to the ground with his knee,” while the white suspect “was left unattended,” the suit says.
After Johnson was taken to the ground, another officer pulled up recognized the white man, and put him in handcuffs. That officer allegedly told the first cop he didn’t recognize Johnson. Still, a third cop arrived and “immediately jumped on” Johnson to help Conroy hold him down, according to the complaint. Johnson was eventually released at the hotel after staff members also told the cops they didn’t recognize him.
“All people should feel safe in their own communities,” Mirian Albert, one of the attorneys representing Johnson, said in a statement. “Mr. Johnson’s rights were violated within view of his home and this is exactly the type of police misconduct that fuels the mistrust between communities of color and law enforcement.”
The lawsuit also states that “nothing in the investigation indicated that there was more than one male suspect involved.” So, again, why was Johnson even targeted?
I mean, we already know the likely answer to that. Our skin never really stops being a magnet for police aggression and violence.
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