Reflections on Police Shootings and Race

PPCC supports courageous conversations about these powerful topics. STUDENTS & EMPLOYEES: Join the Black Student Union and the Colorado Springs Police Department for a conversation: “De’Von Bailey: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Wednesday, February 19 2:00 pm — 4:00 pm Centennial Campus Atrium

by Joe Barton, PPCC Alumni

NOTE: This article originally appeared in Fall 2019; we are republishing for the 6-month mark of the case.

While I was writing my piece on Promise Lee, my phone started going off. I had set an alarm for a story I have been following for a year.

Off-duty Police Officer Amanda Guyger entered the wrong apartment, shot and killed 26-year-old black Harding University graduate Botham Jean while he was sitting on his couch eating ice cream.

This case hit me and many members of the black community hard. Jean was not on a city street, nor was he pulled over. He was alone in his own home — a home where he thought was safe.

As if people of color in this country need more to fear, it now appears that we are aren’t safe in our homes.

This situation is nothing new and has become too common in our communities. When the story originally broke, my first thought was that no justice is going to be had. But as I looked at my phone and saw the breaking news alert, I was a little surprised. Guyger was found guilty and was sentenced to 10 years. Wow!

Many were happy, and many were not. I posted the article and added a laughing emoji, which received many angry comments. One commentator asked why was this funny to me.

I replied: The criminal justice system is a joke to people of color in this country. So, I am justified in my laughter because I have shed enough tears.

I should be happy that some justice is being served, but I just couldn’t help to think that if the skin colors were reversed? Would Jean be sentenced to 10 years for entering a random apartment and shooting and killing Guyger while she was on her couch?

But we don’t even get the time to process those questions, because we have another police shooting that shows us how little the system has evolved.

On Wednesday, August 28 the PPCC community was visited by community leader and pastor of Relevant World Christian Cultural Center, Promise Lee. Lee updated the students and faculty on the tragic police shooting of 19-year-old De’Von Bailey and the protest efforts to have outside investigators investigate the Colorado Springs Police Department part in the shooting.

Bailey was shot four times in the back and killed by two COS uniformed Policemen responding to a reported armed robbery. Bailey was with his cousin, Lawrence Stoker when they were both stopped and questioned by two officers on Preuss Road near Adams Elementary. Police were responding to 911 caller, Antony Love’s report of being robbed by two black men, one of whom had a gun. Police said that both Bailey and Stoker matched the description.

 Lee, the appointed spokesmen of the Bailey family spoke to the PPCC community and cleared up many misconceptions and little-known facts about the case.

Lee appeared to be tired, both physically and emotionally. I knew the feeling all too well. As a black man, I was tired of the unfortunate black police victim of the week. This shared frustration was evident in the room.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the attorney’s office,” Lee said after watching the Bailey bodycam footage with Bailey’s family.

Lee shared that Bailey’s father screamed and cried out.

Originally, I asked several questions, but they were all becoming redundant. I simply asked Promise Lee how to do we stay hopeful? Lee could not answer.

I know I need to keep what little hope I have so I could build. One way to build up hope is by getting involved with local elections and city lawmakers. Another way to build is by getting out going to lower-income areas and get to know all your neighbors.

PPCC supports courageous conversations about these powerful topics. Join the Black Student Union and the Colorado Springs Police Department for a conversation: “De’Von Bailey: Where Do We Go From Here?”

Wednesday, February 19 2:00 pm — 4:00 pm Centennial Campus Atrium