Faced with an officer’s gun, a black man chose his best option: Show his hands and hit record

With his weapon cocked to the side, the Arkansas police officer repeatedly gives Ed Truitt a simple command: “shut your car off.”

An apprehensive Truitt, using his left hand to live-stream the early Sunday encounter on Facebook, begins to move his right arm.

“He’s got a gun!” the officer yells before repeating the last word. “Gun!”

“Where? My hand’s in the air!” Truitt replies, panning the camera to his empty hand. “Come shut the car off, I ain’t moving my hands. He’s trying to shoot me.”

Video of the incident, which took place outside a convenience store in the eastern Arkansas city of Helena-West Helena, has garnered thousands of views online and raised questions about the officer’s intentions. For some, Truitt’s experience illustrated the painstaking steps people of color feel they must take to survive run-ins with law enforcement.

“Given the history of these types of videos, I heard ‘gun’ and I flinched,” said Phillip Atiba Goff, whose advocacy group, Center for Policing Equity, promotes police transparency and accountability. “I thought I knew what was going to happen next.”

Truitt argues he survived by ignoring the officer’s instructions, telling WREG that he “played it safe” by keeping his hands visible and refusing to move.

“[The officer] was like, ‘That’s a failure to comply,’” Truitt told the Memphis-based CBS affiliate. “But if I would have complied, I would have got killed.”

Reached Wednesday, he referred questions to his attorney, who did not return multiple requests for comment.

Helena-West Helena police told WREG the convenience store’s parking lot was a hotbed of criminal activity. Police are seen in the background of the video talking with others at the scene.

According to Truitt, several police officers arrived Sunday morning and ordered everyone to clear out, causing another car to block him in. In the video, the officer claims Truitt didn’t leave the premises when asked. In an apparent change of course, he then alleges Truitt had “come back.”

“I’m not going to shoot you, but you’re not going to move those hands,” the officer says.

“My hands in the air,” Truitt replies. “You’re telling me to shut my car off so you can shoot me. C’mon now.”

As the video circulated on Twitter and Instagram, where it was reposted by comedian D.L. Hughley and others with large followings, commenters accused the officer of looking for reasons to shoot Truitt. Others questioned why the officer involved, who has not been named by the department, would yell out “gun” when Truitt’s hands were shown to be empty.

Helena-West Helena Police Chief James Smith, who did not return multiple requests for comment from The Washington Post, told WREG that officers found a rifle inside the vehicle. Truitt appears to say in the video the weapon is registered in his name. Under Arkansas law, rifles do not require registration.

Body camera footage published by the network Wednesday shows police holding a rifle after placing Truitt in handcuffs. Truitt has indicated the gun was not easily accessible from where he sat in the vehicle.

Smith said the department was working to determine if the officer responded properly. The chief sought the facts, he said, including whether the officer felt “imminent danger” before pulling out his weapon.

“We don’t want this to be a racial thing,” he added. “We want to make sure this officer did the right thing and that he is accountable for his actions.”

Goff said it’s important to note the officer’s finger was not placed on the trigger during the encounter, and that he remained calm after initially reacting to the rifle. He attempted to explain the reactions of those who may think the officer responded with appropriate urgency after spotting the weapon, and others who see an armed policeman needlessly escalating the situation.

“Hero cop or hero bystander? Ridiculous citizens or unnecessarily goonish officer?” Goff said. “Very quickly, these become characters that are written in historical stereotypes. That’s part of the toxins in how we handle race and law enforcement today.”

Since 2015, The Post has kept a database of fatal officer-involved shootings in the United States, which has shown that black men are shot at disproportionately high rates.

In 2017, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile as he sat in his vehicle was acquitted on all charges. A year prior, the officer had opened fire on Castile within seven seconds of learning the man had a weapon in the car. That incident — the aftermath of which was posted to Facebook Live by Castile’s girlfriend — sparked protests across the country.

The woman said Castile was simply reaching for his gun permit and driver’s license.

For many discussing Truitt on social media, he was the clear hero. They commended his demeanor as he stared down the barrel of a police officer’s gun.

“Way to keep your cool, brother. You didn’t get emotional,” one woman commented on his Facebook video. “That takes you off your game. You stayed rational.”

According to WREG, Truitt was arrested for loitering and disregarding an official order. Police also told the network Truitt was charged with having a gun in his vehicle. The Post was unable to confirm any charges late Wednesday.

In the video’s waning moments the officer is seen forcibly removing Truitt from the car, sending the phone he recorded with tumbling to the ground. Grateful to be alive, Truitt said he has no regrets about how he handled the interaction.

“What I did saved my life,” he told WREG. “That’s why I’m here talking to y’all. If not, y’all would be covering a story about how I got shot.”

Sandra Bland, It Turns Out, Filmed Traffic Stop Confrontation Herself

Cannon Lambert, a lawyer who represents the Bland family, said the video, by showing Ms. Bland with a cellphone in her hand, seriously undercut the trooper’s claim that he feared for his safety as he approached the woman’s vehicle.

“What the video shows is that Encinia had no reason to be in fear of his safety,” Mr. Lambert, who represented the family in a $1.9 million legal settlement, said in a telephone interview. “The video shows that he wasn’t in fear of his safety. You could see that it was a cellphone, He was looking right at it.”

Mr. Encinia said during internal interviews with Department of Public Safety officials that he had been worried about his safety. “My safety was in jeopardy at more than one time,” he told department interviewers.

The prosecuting team concluded that Mr. Encinia’s permanent ban from law enforcement was the best option because there was no certainty of obtaining a conviction on the perjury charge, one of the prosecutors said at the time.
.. Ms. Bland’s death in a largely rural part of southeast Texas unified African-American leaders throughout the state, leading to the enactment of the Sandra Bland Act in 2017, which requires training in de-escalation techniques for all police officers, sets up protections in custody for people with mental health and substance abuse issues and requires that independent law enforcement agencies investigate jail deaths.
.. “Get out of the car,” the officer shouts as he thrusts a Taser toward her. “I will light you up. Get out. Now.”
.. Ms. Bland was pulled over near the campus of Prairie View A & M University in Waller County, where she had been planning to begin a new job, after the trooper said she failed to signal a turn. But the traffic stop became heated, and Mr. Encinia ordered Ms. Bland out of the car.

After the trooper told her to “get off the phone,” Ms. Bland responded: “I’m not on the phone. I have a right to record. This is my property.”

.. The video was released by WFAA in partnership with the nonprofit Investigative Network. Its chief reporter, Brian Collister, said the video had been in the hands of law investigators until it was obtained by his news organization. Members of Ms. Bland’s family called on Texas officials to re-examine the case after Mr. Collister showed them the video, according to the WFAA report.

.. Mr. Lambert, the family’s lawyer, told The Times that the release of the video raised questions about prosecutors’ decision not to press ahead with the perjury case, saying the recording undercut Mr. Encinia’s claim that he feared for his safety.

“So if the video showed that he had no basis of being in fear of his safety, and he lied about that, then you would think they would be using that video,” he said, calling prosecutors’ decision not pursue the case “extremely troubling.”

A team of five special prosecutors was assigned to the grand jury investigation. One of the team members Shawn McDonald, a Houston lawyer, said on Monday that he was not involved in the decision to drop the charges and pushed back at Mr. Lambert’s criticism of the team’s performance.

“For him to come back three years later is frankly quite ridiculous,” said Mr. McDonald, who added that he was “proud” of the investigation into the case.

Mr. McDonald said he first saw Ms. Bland’s video more than three years ago. “It was her cellphone so it was taken as evidence when we investigated the case,” he said.

Evidence typically was not released, he said, though a decision was made to release the trooper’s video shortly after the case began unfolding in an effort “to be transparent because of the concern everyone had with her arrest and subsequent suicide.”

Chip Lewis, a Houston lawyer who represented Mr. Encinia in the investigation, said his client was in a new career “wholly unrelated” to law enforcement, but he offered few details. “He’s working in the private sector, supporting his wife and family and living a quiet life,” Mr. Lewis said.

 

Gang Leader for a Day: Don’t Call the Police

From television shows and movies, we know housing projects are rife with crime: women raped, children shot, men beaten.

But no matter how bad it gets, if you live in the projects, you don’t call the cops. Why?

For one, a 911 call from the projects is seldom answered. Emergency calls from housing estates known for trouble are not handled like calls from other neighborhoods; that is, they’re ignored.

This means that if you live in the projects, you learn to handle emergencies yourself, and dial 911 only in the most extreme emergencies.

In one example that the author witnessed, a man was physically assaulting a woman. Residents got together and beat up the man, instead of calling the police. And because a call for an ambulance probably wouldn’t be answered either, residents drove the woman to the hospital themselves.

That said, even if the police did show up, they probably wouldn’t be welcomed in the projects.

Residents often throw bottles at cops when they respond to a call; worse, they can be shot at, too.

The police aren’t entirely innocent, either. Some officers of the law have been seen abusing residents, as part of a blackmail scheme.

“Officer Jerry,” for example, runs a protection racket. The author once witnessed him and three other police officers enter an apartment, handcuff a teenager and then brutally beat the teen’s father while demanding money.

Once the father revealed the location of his cash, the officers stopped, uncuffed the teen, grabbed a paper bag the father pointed out and left.

The author was even warned against writing about corrupt cops by other honest police officers, who were concerned about his safety. They even told him that some of the corrupt officers broke into the author’s car, intending to steal his notebook.

Supreme Court Rules Against Excessive State Fines

The ruling potentially jeopardizes asset-forfeiture programs that help fund police programs

WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that states may not impose excessive fines, extending a bedrock constitutional protection but potentially jeopardizing asset-forfeiture programs that help fund police operations with property seized from criminal suspects.

“For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court. “Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies,” she continued, citing examples from English history tracing to the Magna Carta.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment protection from excessive fines applied only to the federal government not the states. That initially was so after the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, but the U.S. Supreme Court long has held that the 14th Amendment, adopted after the Civil War to prevent states from infringing on individual rights, extended nearly all its protections to all levels of government.

Wednesday’s decision confirmed that the Eighth Amendment contained no exceptions. “The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming,” Justice Ginsburg wrote.