Here in Columbus white police kill Black and Brown teenagers without any fear of accountability
Davud Harewood

It seems Columbus’ policing unfortunately follows national trends, incident by incident. Columbus Police actions have become a regressive, dark-mirror version of the country: a week after a jury in Atlanta convicted three men on hate crimes charges for chasing down and murdering 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery while he was going for a jog, Columbus officer Ricky Anderson shot 20-year-old Donovan Lewis in the stomach while serving the near-juvenile a warrant in the middle of the night. Twenty minutes after news broke that Derek Chauvin had een found guilty of the long, slow murder of 48-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Columbus officer Nicholas Reardon shot and killed 15-year-old Ma’khia Bryant in response to that juvenile’s having called the police to help de-escalate the very situation officer Reardon walked into.

The three men who lynched Arbery were found guilty of murder and hate crimes. In a subsequent trial in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin plead guilty to having violated Floyd’s civil rights for kneeling on his neck and back for nine minutes while Floyd took his last breaths.

However, locally, Officer Reardon was cleared of wrongdoing by a federal grand jury. While calls for Officer Anderson’s arrest have grown in the community, as of this writing, the officer is only been put on administrative leave by the Columbus Division of Police.

The two main takeaways I get from these cases: Minneapolis and Atlanta proved to the rest of the country that it’s unacceptable to lynch grown Black men in 21st century America. Here in Columbus, not only can white police kill Black and Brown teenagers without any fear of accountability, 36-year-old Kraig Butler’s October murder of 13-year-old Sinzae Reed proves that you don’t need a badge to get away with murder in this city – so long as the victim is of African descent and ineligible to buy alcohol or rent a car.

This week, our city’s pattern of regression showed itself again after the beating death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers. The Memphis officers were fired soon after Tyre died in the hospital. In contrast on Thursday, a federal jury found that Columbus Officer Bryan Mason did not, in fact, violate the civil rights of 13-year-old Tyre King, whom he shot in the back in 2016 after the juvenile had been involved in a robbery of $10 with a BB gun.

I learned of both of these outcomes on Thursday. I was initially at once unsurprisingly disappointed in the judicial system as it operates in Ohio and impressed by the swiftness of the justice system in Memphis where, less than 100 years ago, election officials made Black voters count jelly beans in a jar in order to exercise the right to vote and quietly cheered on terrorists who murdered our leaders from hotel balconies.

Then a friend of mine pointed out a glaring fact: the five officers who were fired from the Memphis police force and swiftly arrested and charged for Tyre Nichols’ death are all Black. That Tyre was 29 when a traffic stop culminated in his death. 

The other Tyre was 13. Officer Mason is white. Mason shot a child who might not even have had his first kiss before he shot him in the back. 

On closer examination then, these outcomes are equally unsurprisingly disappointing: on the one hand, the justice system in Memphis works when police terrorize Black people, but only if those officers are also Black. While I’m hardly advocating that rogue Black officers should receive preferential treatment when they do the same things rogue white officers do, I do find it disturbing that the officers involved in robbing 29-year-old Tyre of growing old will probably receive just sentencing while the one officer who robbed 13-year-old Tyre of every milestone in his life past the onset of puberty will get to retire with a full pension.

While I’m fully cognizant of Columbus’ pattern, there’s still hope for Columbus to prove itself worthy of the “unity city” our majority-minority city government always says we are, evidence notwithstanding: 

On December 4, 2020, Franklin County Deputy Sherriff M. Jason Meade shot 23-year-old Casey Goodson, Jr. five times in the back and once in the buttock as the walking into his home. As of this writing, Meade’s murder trial date has yet to be finalized.  

On December 22nd, 2020, Columbus Police Officer Adam Coy shot 47-year-old Andre Hill while approaching the victim in his friend’s garage. As of this writing, Coy’s murder trial has also been delayed.

There’s also the case of 36-year-old Butler killing 13-year-old Sinzae Reed outside of the Wedgewood Apartments in Columbus last October. As of this writing, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office has dropped murder charges against Butler as the latter invoked Stand Your Ground to get out of jail.

Lastly, there’s the case of former vice officer Andrew Mitchell, scheduled for a re-trial in the death of Donna Dalton Castleberry in 2018.

Of the people who lived in this list, only former Officer Mitchell is Black; of the deceased, only Ms. Castleberry was white. With Butler’s exception, all killers are in their forties. Donna and Casey were each 23; Andre was 47.

If past is precedent, the only trial that will result in any modicum of justice will be that of Mitchell’s fate.

If we’re to be the city we say we are, all of these see full trials and convictions.

If we’re to be the city we’ve continued to be, nothing changes.

If we’re to be the city we can be, everything does.

Only the people can determine which we’ll be, and that’s wholly dependent upon whether we’re as active as we need to be to do so.