Much of the United States is divided over the issue of the Black Lives Matter protests, which demand justice for black individuals who are killed unlawfully by police officers. Others believe the majority of police shootings are justified. But one of the arguments put forward by those who support the Black Lives Matter movement is that black men are much more likely to get shot by police than white men, regardless of how similar the situations are. An event that took place this week in Raleigh, North Carolina, may provide some perspective on that claim.
According to local news WRAL, 62-year-old William Bruce Ray was arrested on Tuesday after standing intoxicated in the middle of a road and waving a shotgun around. When police arrived to confront Ray, he allegedly shot a pistol at them. Despite the shockingly dangerous actions of this white individual, police did not see the need to open fire on the man.
Fortunately, nobody was harmed during the incident and William Bruce Ray was charged with assault against a law enforcement officer with a firearm. He may later face attempted murder charges. And though police most often want any potentially deadly encounter to end peacefully with the suspect being brought into custody, this example has raised questions within the Black Lives Matter movement about why some police officers are quick to shoot black individuals in considerably less dire situations than a white man firing directly at them.
The most recent police shootings that prompted protests from the Black Lives Matter movement were the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both adult black males who had weapons with them but reportedly made no attempt to draw them when confronted by police. The story goes that Alton Sterling was fatally shot six times after being pinned down by police officers, while Philando Castile was shot four times in his car with his daughter in the back seat, having already informed the officer that he had a legally registered weapon with him.
Though every situation is full of unanswered question and complicated factors that nobody can understand fully, these fatal shootings protested by the Black Lives Matter movements do seem to stand in stark contrast to the arrest of William Bruce Ray.
According to the Huffington Post, after Raleigh police received a complaint that a white male was brandishing a shotgun in public, Wake County deputy D.R. Farmer drove to the scene. Once he came face to face with the suspect, Ray aimed the shotgun directly at the police officer. Farmer was able to grab the barrel of the weapon and retrieve it from Ray. But the suspect had a second firearm on his person.
“The man says, ‘I got something for you’ and reached in his pocket and came back with a pistol,” explained sheriff Donnie Harrison.
Farmer then attempted to grab the pistol off of William Bruce Ray. Miraculously, the officer was once again able to make it out of the conflict unharmed, but Ray did allegedly manage to shoot off a single bullet during the fight. Farmer claimed he could “almost feel” the bullet zipping by him. Harrison attributed the deputy’s police training to his success in apprehending Ray.
“I applaud the deputy for what he did. He did a great job. His training kicked in and he did exactly what he was supposed to. Nobody got hurt and that’s a good thing.”
But members of the Black Lives Matter movement have responded to this story with troubling questions. If an officer as well trained as D.R. Farmer was able to make it through such a life-threatening situation without anyone getting hurt, why did black individuals like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile lose their lives without even reaching for their weapons?
What do you think? Does the North Carolina story prove what the Black Lives Matter protesters have been saying all along?
For more on the Black Lives Matter protests, read about the recent shootings of police officers during a peaceful protest that some have attributed to the Black Lives Matter movement.
[Photo via the Wake County Sheriff’s Department]