Why has there been no media interest in the police shooting of an apparently unarmed suspect in Salt Lake City?
Just two days after the shooting death of Michael Brown, an officer with the Salt Lake City Police Department shot and killed an unarmed 20-year-old. The Salt Lake City Police Department equips some of its officers with cameras. The department confirmed the officer who shot had a camera and that footage of the confrontation and shooting was captured, but they would not elaborate further, and the video of the encounter has yet to be released publicly. As with the Michael Brown case, this “lack of transparency” has caused some family members of the deceased to raise questions.
But what of the race of the decedent and of the cop?
The local newspaper, the Salt Lake City Tribune, reported the story this way:
“A wanted fugitive fatally shot by Salt Lake City police, who were looking for a man reportedly brandishing a handgun outside a convenience store, was unarmed and trying to comply with police orders when he was killed, his brother claims.
“Investigators, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation and need to protect evidence, remained mum on whether a gun was found at the scene of the Monday night shooting at a 7-Eleven store. … Police also would not discuss conflicting witness reports that Dillon Delbert Taylor, 20, appeared to have reached toward his waistband during the confrontation. …
“Taylor was facing a felony arrest warrant when police challenged him outside the store, court records confirm. But Taylor’s brother, 22-year-old Jerrail Pete Taylor — who court records show served time on a 2009 second-degree felony robbery count himself — insists that police did not mention the warrant when they approached him, his brother and a third man outside the store.
“‘We’re walking out of the 7-Eleven with a drink, when the cops show up and start harassing us with guns,’ Jerrail Taylor told The Salt Lake Tribune. … South Salt Lake police, who are investigating the shooting, said Salt Lake City police were answering a 911 call reporting a man there was waving a handgun; Dillon Taylor purportedly matched the description of the armed man.
“Dillon Taylor was wearing headphones and didn’t respond to the three officers until they surrounded him, Jerrail Taylor said.
“‘He couldn’t hear them, so he just kept walking. Then … they had guns pointed at his face. That’s when he turned off the music,’ he said. ‘I saw them point guns at my brother’s face, and I knew what was going to happen.’
“One officer told Dillon Taylor to get on the ground, while another told him to put his hands on his head.
‘He got confused, he went to pull up his pants to get on the ground, and they shot him,’ Jerrail Taylor said.
“Witnesses said they heard two shots. Taylor died at the scene; his brother and cousin were detained for questioning.”
Notice anything missing? No mention of the race of the police officer or the man killed?
Local newspapers, when they describe the officer’s race at all, ID him as “not white.” The police chief would only say the firing officer “is not a white officer.” As for the decedent, most newspapers’ accounts say nothing, but local bloggers say he is “white” or “white and Hispanic.” Some family members say he is “Hispanic.”
As with Ferguson, some family members have taking to the streets in protest. But, unlike Ferguson, they protest without the glare of CNN or Al Sharpton yelling, “No justice, no peace” or President Barack Obama offering his “deepest condolences” as he did to the Michael Brown family.
The officer, whose name has not been released, has been removed from active duty during the investigation. The Salt Lake City police chief, Chris Burbank, said, “You will see on camera … the actions of everyone involved, including up to the point where our officer utilizes deadly force and his response thereafter.” The Tribune reported: “Burbank indicated that if Taylor’s shooting is found to have been unjustified, the officer involved would be held accountable. In the past five years, the chief noted, two officers have been dismissed for using excessive force with a firearm.”
There has also been little national media attention about the shooting death of a 9-year-old in Chicago, shot twice in an apparent targeted shooting. Repeat: 9 years old. The crime remains unsolved, and one local writer called it an “assassination.” Other locals, including at least one clergyman, call it an “execution.”
How about a little perspective?
Being a cop is a difficult job, which requires making decisions in a split second with life and death hanging in the balance. And bad guys don’t care about your race or your gender. What happened in Ferguson, an unarmed black killed by police, is rare. What happened in Chicago to the 9-year-old boy, an urban black person shot and killed, is all too common.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host.