From Jordan Edwards to Alton Sterling, what will it take for justice to be served?

From Jordan Edwards to Alton Sterling, what will it take for justice to be served?
Source: AP
Source: AP
opinion
Mic invites contributors and staff to offer commentary and context about news and timely issues.

Jordan Edwards should be alive. The 15-year-old honor roll student was leaving a house party in Balch Springs, Texas, when he was shot and killed by an officer responding to a call about "drunk teens." His two brothers were arrested while Jordan lay dying in the front seat of the car, his family said in a statement.

Edwards' family responded to news that the officer who shot him, Roy Oliver, had been fired on Tuesday night. "The magnitude of his horrible actions cannot be overstated," the family said in a statement. "We fully expect an equivalent response from those responsible for investigating and punishing the crime."

Jordan Edwards
Source: 
Merit Law/Twitter

We can only hope that the family's hopes and expectations for justice won't be in vain. But if we look to recent developments in police shooting cases, for too long, families of victims of police brutality have waited months — and even years — for answers. Too often, officers are not held accountable for their actions. 

Take this week for example. On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, officers involved in the shooting of Alton Sterling would not face federal charges. In July 2016, cell phone footage showed the 37-year-old's arrest and shooting and sparked civil unrest across the nation.

"We are unable to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the precise location of Mr. Sterling's hand at the moment at which the officer states on the recording that Mr. Sterling was 'going for a gun,'" acting U.S. attorney Corey Amundson said at the press conference.

Sterling was a man of size who couldn't be handcuffed, Amundson said of the department's investigation. 

"Officer [Blane] Salamoni then pulled a gun and point it at Mr. Sterling's head, prompting Mr. Sterling, who appears confused at this point, to put his hands on the hood," he said. "Mr. Sterling's size, 6'3" and over 300 pounds, made it difficult for officers to control, much less handcuff, Mr. Sterling at that point."

Of course, this isn't the first time we've been here. It's the latest incident where a police officer won't be held accountable for their use of excessive force. Tamir Rice, just 12 years old, looked "big for his age," prosecutors said, and was holding a toy gun that posed a threat. In December 2015, a grand jury decided not to indict officers. Michael Brown "looked like a demon," Darren Wilson said, and a grand jury cleared him of criminal wrongdoing in November 2014. The Justice Department later decided not to bring federal charges against him.

Even when charges are made against an officer, the path toward justice isn't necessarily clearer. On Tuesday, Michael Slager, the South Carolina officer who shot and killed Walter Scott, pleaded guilty to civil rights charges, thus avoiding a federal civil rights trial as well as a retrial on state murder charges. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, just 7 years old, was killed during a police raid in Detroit in 2010. Two jury trials ended without a verdict on a reckless gun charge before a judge dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge.

These are just a few miscarriages of justice when it comes to police use of excessive force. There are dozens of other cases that have rocked communities, from Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where decisions are yet to be made about the officers' fate. Here's hoping that in these cases and others, that justice for black lives is not out of reach.

(Editor's note: The following video contains graphic footage. View with discretion.)

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Erin E. Evans

Erin E. Evans is a senior editor of The Movement at Mic.

MORE FROM

Man spends five months on Rikers Island without knowing his bail was $2

Now Aitabdel Salem is suing both the city and his Legal Aid lawyers.

FBI agent indicted in LaVoy Finicum shooting as police evade punishment for killing black people

Finicum was killed during the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."

Man spends five months on Rikers Island without knowing his bail was $2

Now Aitabdel Salem is suing both the city and his Legal Aid lawyers.

FBI agent indicted in LaVoy Finicum shooting as police evade punishment for killing black people

Finicum was killed during the 2016 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Alton Sterling’s children sue Baton Rouge over shooting, alleging racism and excessive force

The Sterling family alleges that police officers sent racist text messages about people who protested the black man's shooting death.

3 Chicago officers charged with conspiracy in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald

The three Chicago police officers allegedly conspired to prevent an independent investigation and prosecution against Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Video shows officer threatening black man for jaywalking without an ID

The officer is not currently under investigation.

Black teens handcuffed for selling water on National Mall are now getting job offers

"I feel like it was a bad situation turned into a good situation."