Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 12:53 PM

Supporters of Stephon Clark Beware: Prosecutor Says No Charge for Police Killing Alton Sterling. And He’s Right

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Frankly, I’ve been preaching about the spectre of police killing black men so much that I’m beginning to feel like John the Baptist. Except that I fear there will never be a Jesus-like messenger to make my message more palatable.

My ‘golden rule’ is that black men would survive 99 percent of these encounters if they just obey police commands. Unfortunately, far too many choose instead to resist arrest — pursuant to some misguided (black) badge of courage. When a police is placing you under arrest (no matter how unwarranted you might think that is), it should not take him (and others) wrestling you to the ground to get handcuffs on you.

Mind you, I readily concede that, in one percent of these encounters, obeying commands would not guarantee survival. The viral video of the killing of Philando Castile demonstrated this … in black and white. But this is the exception, not the rule. Which is why it’s plainly foolhardy to resist arrest because obeying commands only offers a 99 percent chance of survival.

(“Three White Cops Kill Two Black Men…,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 3, 2017)

As it happens, nobody can deny that resisting arrest led to the death of Stephon Clark just last week:

Sacramento police officers shot and killed a black man in his grandmother’s backyard because they believed he was pointing a gun at them. …

The videos show a brief encounter between police and Clark, lasting less than a minute, from the moment one of the officers spotted him in the driveway and yelled, ‘Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop … Gun, gun, gun.’

(CNN, March 22, 2018)

Pow, pow, pow they went … until two officers (one white, one black) unloaded a fusillade of 20 bullets between them.

Yet it’s debatable whether the police are more to blame because Clark was holding a cellphone, not a gun; or whether Clark is because he resisted arrest. Never mind that most reporters never bother to mention that Clark was the prime suspect in a spree of vandalism and theft.

The incident that ended Clark’s life began when Sacramento officers responded around 9:15 p.m. to a call that a 6-foot-1 man wearing a black hoodie and dark pants was breaking into vehicles, authorities said. The caller said the man had broken car windows and was hiding in a backyard, according to the Sacramento Police Department. …

Officers ordered the man to stop and show his hands, but that he ran [eventually seeking refuge in his grandmother’s backyard].

(The Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2018)

Apportioning blame will be critical in determining whether this police killing was justified. But it could prove incriminating that the police betrayed (some kind of) consciousness of guilt when they muted their bodycams upon realizing that Clark was unarmed.

Whatever the case, I am frustrated and dismayed that more people aren’t preaching to black men about the tragic folly of resisting arrest. After all, this clearly makes more sense than preaching to the police about the presumed fairness of holding fire, especially in what they perceive as life-and-death situations.

Which brings me to Alton Sterling.

A pair of white police officers in Baton Rouge, La., will not be prosecuted by the state authorities in a fatal shooting of a black man there almost two years ago.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced his conclusion on Tuesday, almost 11 months after the United States Department of Justice declined to bring charges in the death of the man, Alton B. Sterling.

(New York Times, March 27, 2018)

With the futility of preaching in the wilderness firmly in mind, I shall suffice to reprise a little of what I wrote two years ago in “Alton Sterling Latest Black Man Shot Dead While (or for?) Resisting Arrest,” July 7, 2016.


I’ve seen the video. And, like the infamous Eric Garner video, it shows Alton Sterling resisting lawful police commands pursuant to an arrest.

Of course, black activists will blame a trigger-happy cop without mentioning Sterling’s role in triggering his own death. And, as it was in the killing of Michael Brown, his defenders will blithely ignore the crime Sterling allegedly perpetrated, which caused someone to call the police in the first place.

But the video shows enough for me to assert that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be hard-pressed to file charges for a clear violation of Sterling’s civil rights.


Further, here in part is what I wrote two years before that in “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.


Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

  1. Do not run.
  2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman).
  3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have.
  4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word.
  5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board, which is the only time and place to resist arrest.


Sure enough, despite all the indignant protests it triggered, both state and federal prosecutors found no just cause to charge the officer involved in the killing of Michael Brown.

Of course, I have great sympathy for the loved ones of black men like Brown, Sterling and Clark.

I have nothing but contempt, however, for lawyers and activists who rush in to make dubious martyrs of them. This, instead of admonishing other black men to do the right things to avoid ending up like them. Nobody wanted Clark dead. But I’m sure none of the (black) people whose cars he vandalized and burglarized considers him a martyr for any worthy cause.

Not to mention that, for those lawyers and activists, justice is more about getting their cut from civil settlements than getting any cop thrown in jail. And that’s not me just being my cynical self:

Al Sharpton is all about the Benjamins, a daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner claims in a bombshell videotape.

(New York Post, February 24, 2015)

Related commentaries:
Three white cops kill two blacks

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