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Is Blue Privilege at Work in Texas Police Killings?

by Betty Nelander

Demonstrators who protested the police killings of black men in north Texas are crying blue privilege as the officers involved remained free in mid-September. In fact, nine of them who were exercising their First Amendment right to demonstrate outside AT&T Stadium were placed behind bars while officers involved in the deaths of O’Shae Terry and Botham Jean were not.

In the first case, Terry was fatally shot after being stopped for an expired registration tag September 1, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. Bodycam footage shows Terry and friend Terrance Harmon being pulled over. The officer, and a backup officer, smelled marijuana inside the SUV. When one of the men started to roll up the windows and Terry started the car, an officer was heard saying, “Stop.” The officer “stepped onto the SUV’s running board and grabbed the top of the partially-rolled up window as Terry began to drive away,” reports. “Once the vehicle appeared to be in motion, the officer pulled his gun and fired five shots into the SUV, striking Terry” before falling off the running board and being treated for minor injuries. The officer who killed Terry has not been identified and has returned to light duty, but should be fired and criminal charges filed, said attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing the families of Terry and Jean.

In the second case, Amber Guyger fatally shot neighbor Botham Jean in his own apartment Sept. 6, 2018, after she mistook his place for her own. The off-duty, uniformed Dallas police officer was later allowed to turn herself in, then freed on $300,000 bond around an hour later. She has been charged with manslaughter.

However, “despite admitting to killing an innocent man and having her initial statement contradicted by witness testimony, Guyger has been treated as more of a victim than a killer,” says “In fact, Guyger’s apartment was never even searched for evidence, and she was allowed to ‘vacate’ the premises without any type of search.”

“Meanwhile, Botham Jean, the actual victim, had his house searched immediately. Police claim to have found a very small amount of marijuana, which they attempted to use to smear his name and somehow justify the killing.”

Protesters are getting attention. Nine of the estimated 100 people who peacefully protested the killings in a mock funeral procession September 16, 2018, were arrested on traffic obstruction charges and locked up in jail for two days. Minister Dominique Alexander, president of the Next Generation Action Network, sought bail money for arrestees.

The arrests came toward the end of the demonstration. “They were walking away when officers approached them,” he said of the protesters. “It was pretty much already over with, yet they detained them.”

The irony that the protesters were detained longer than Guyger was not lost on Alexander. He told the Star-Telegram: “It just shows that in America, officers’ lives are more valuable,” he said. “She got all kinds of special treatment, and still is. It’s not about black or blue, it’s people understanding that they’re being treated differently ... She was able to go in and out, and these protesters are sitting there 12 hours on a class B misdemeanor, not even for a felony.” 


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