Nobody has to say it, but the timing couldn't have been worse.
Two days after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of all charges in the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, with black America boiling over with frustration about the justice system, a Little Rock police officer shot and killed 26-year-old Deon Williams near the corner of 12th and Jefferson.
According to a LRPD release, just before noon on Monday, Officers Grant Humphries and Terry McDaniel saw a Chevy Suburban on 12th Street that they believed to be stolen. (Officials would later confirm that the truck was, in fact, not stolen.)
When the officers pulled the SUV over, police say, the driver jumped out and fled. McDaniel pursued on foot, while Humphries took off in the squad car, trying to cut Williams off. As McDaniel chased Deon Williams into the backyard of a house on Adams Street, a gun fell out of Williams' waistband, according to the police. When Williams stopped to pick up the gun and turned toward McDaniel, the police narrative says, McDaniel feared for his life, and fired three times. Williams, who was paroled in May after serving two years in prison on charges of possession of a controlled substance and robbery, was pronounced dead at UAMS at 12:17 p.m.
McDaniel, a black officer, has used deadly force at least once before. He fatally shot a man who pulled a gun on him when interrupted during a daytime home burglary on Thayer Street last year. The burglar had earlier fatally shot one man and wounded another at the home.
Information about the shooting spread through social media. At 1 p.m., someone tweeted that the person killed by the police had been an 11-year-old boy, shot nine times in the back. A crowd of angry people began to gather at the Hess gas station on 12th street, just across from the crime scene.
Instant protest after fatal police shooting
Hundreds gathered in South Little Rock in the wake of a fatal police shooting.
By 1:30 p.m., the biggest swell of the crowd had grown to at least 200, simmering under the July sun. Dozens more watched from the parking lots of businesses and the yards of nearby houses. Several of the protestors closest to the sidewalk, where the police soon lined up in a black wall of uniforms, held signs that called for justice for Bobby Moore, the teenage burglar who was shot by LRPD officer Josh Hastings in August 2012 as Moore tried to flee a West Little Rock apartment complex. Hastings' manslaughter trial in the case ended in a hung jury last month.
As the protest grew, crowding into the rectangle of shade under the awning of the gas station, the clerk at the station came to the door, ushered the last customers out, then locked it behind them, followed by a set of heavy steel bars. Soon, the neon beer signs in the windows went out, along with the lights inside. A man came to the doors and tugged on them. Another splashed ice tea against the glass, then threw the can against the doors. Kids with cell phones filmed him, waiting for something worthy of YouTube to happen, but instead he just walked away in disgust, disappearing back into the crowd.
Overhead, a state police chopper circled the intersection of 12th and Jefferson at 300 feet. At the edge of the crowd, people cursed it, many of them screaming obscenities at the sky and flipping the bird with both hands, trying to telegraph their anger and frustration to the pilot.
Ernest Franklin, president of Say Stop the Violence, was there, sweating into a suit coat as he walked among the crowds of angry young people in tank tops and shorts. He said he had talked to police on the scene, asking them to close 12th Street to keep curious drivers from driving by. Soon after we spoke, the street was blocked to most traffic.
The public has spoken. Get over it!
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