Two St. Paul police officers shot and killed William Hughes, a Native American, on Sunday, August 5, 2018, on the 900 block of St. Anthony just two blocks from the mayor’s house. For too long, silence was the first response because, as one of the cops was Black, it seems it didn’t fit the “narrative” of White cops shooting Black citizens.
The initial accounts by media and St. Paul officials left a lot to be desired. From my onsite visits and multiple phone calls since that Sunday, I learned that Hughes had a gun, which he shot from his home at the intruders and he then called 911. When two squad cars responded to Mr. Hughes’ 911 call, he opened his door to them and was immediately shot to death – without a word or question. Hughes still had his gun in his hand, at his side.
The police transmission, “shots fired, person down,” followed and was played on the 10 o’clock news. It provided limited insight, but a statement by one of the officers implies they realized they had shot the innocent 911 homeowner caller on his own property.
The absence all day Sunday of any statement from civil rights leadership, except for John Thompson, an African American activist, continued to cause a sense of uneasiness regarding the circumstances and the facts. The case was turned over to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). BCA gives off the same sense: that they cannot be trusted.
The BCA has friends within the Twin Cities’ civil rights leadership and has said that it can keep segments of the Black communities under control when officer-involved incidents take place.
The following day, on Monday, August 6, as they do in such cases, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called for the immediate release of the name of the man shot and the names of the police officers that shot him. I only learned the names early Tuesday, August 7.
We agree that to defuse any suspicion of an absence of the pursuit of justice, that St. Paul Mayor Carter should immediately order the release of the full transcripts of the 911 call, the police officers’ communications, body cams, and dash cams in order to get the best answers to questions raised about whether Hughes’ death was due to a lack of a “best practices” focus, as seen in mismanagement and incomplete training of police procedures and protocols in both the city of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
We see two types of killing in the cases we have commented on in earlier MSR editions. One is shooting first and asking questions afterwards, as in the cases of:
William Hughes, shot August 2018 in St. Paul
Justine Damond, shot July 2017 in Minneapolis
The second type is “easy pickings” killing of those that offer no defense:
Thurman Blevins, shot while mourning a family death in June 2018 in Minneapolis
George Edward Washington, beaten to death in in his Kandiyohi County jail cell in Wilmar, MN in January 2018
Terrance Terrell Franklin, shot while being subdued by a SWAT team in a corner basement in Minneapolis in May 2013
In each case, the officers (White and non-white) seem to lack an understanding of the techniques for lowering their own anxiety and fear and staying calm in order to make split-second decisions with pistols in hand. These are the kind of techniques dealing with stress training that SWAT officers are supposed to receive.
Too many believe there is a dangerous buildup in the state of Minnesota, with police unnecessarily taking the lives of Minnesotans of color and gender. Better training is cheaper than wrongful death lawsuits.