Eighteen-year-old Brandon Jones was a thug; his grieving mother admitted as much and his being shot twice in as many years proves it. Now Brandon Jones is a dead thug, shot and killed by a cop as he was exiting a convenience store he had broken into at 2 am to steal whatever he could get his hands on.
When he was confronted by two cops near the front door — according to police version of events — a struggle ensued and one of the cops fired his weapon once at close range; Jones, who was unarmed, died at MetroHealth Medical Center later that morning.
His mother, Tanya Brown asked, “If he’s unarmed, and there’s two of you all and one of him, why is my baby dead?”
A good question, but one that you can bet city officials (who are afraid of a lawsuit), and police union representatives (who are only interested in protecting their membership, no matter the facts of the case) are busily crafting an answer to. From afar it appears as if good ‘ol standby answer Number 3 — “he was about to grab my gun” — will suffice to maneuver this killing around any accountability hurdles raised by the family or the community.
After all, Brandon was breaking into a convenience store, which any upstanding law-and-order type knows can be a capital offense here in Cleveland. No need to arrest, charge, try and sentence to prison stupid, ill-raised and out-of-control teenagers for petty non-violent crimes, just hold court in the street where a cop can serve as judge, jury and executioner. Cases swiftly closed.
If the cops were equipped with body cameras in this latest incident (that might shed light on the killing), no one from the police department has yet to say so. If they didn’t have cameras, or if they were not activated, why not? As it now stands, the investigation of the killing is playing out just like law enforcement wants: The only witnesses to the killing are both cops.
The problem is, our city is populated with hundreds — if not thousands — of poor, ill-raised, borderline developmentally disabled high school dropouts … teens and young men who, not having any knowledge of the past or sense of a future, will commit all kinds of petty dumb crimes in the present; but the question is, should they lose their lives over their stupidity?
For too many protectors of the status quo, those self-appointed guardians of the racist system that, for as long as we’ve been a nation, has attempted to exclude persons of color from the prosperity others feel it’s their exclusive birthright to enjoy, the answer to that question is a resounding “YES!”
The real surprise is not that there are so many Brandon Jones’ roaming the streets of America’s inner-cities; the real surprise is, that there are not more Brandon Jones’ out there … that so many persons of color have managed to surmount the racist hurdles that hardliners on the right have attempted to place in the way of our advancement at every juncture and turn, and still have prospered … gone on to live good, honest, productive lives while virtually remaining strangers in a strange land — in spite of a black man occupying the White House, which, in the end, has — in the minds of some blacks — amounted to only mere symbolism.
The challenge for America in these early years of the 21st century is twofold: To correct how policing is carried out so that lethal force is used by cops as the absolute last resort, not the first option — and to demand that those blacks who have escaped poverty and are now on the higher rungs of the ladder that leads to solid middle class status do more reaching back, and, in the words of W.E.B. Dubois “[to] lift his poorer and duller brethren up to his vantage ground.”
Failing in either one of these critical endeavors will only ensure that we’ll have many more dead thugs like Brandon Jones in lying in our streets in the years to come.
My god, when will we say (and mean it) “Enough is a goddamn enough!”?
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.