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Tray Martin and 7 Dead Black Males Who Should Be Alive

Take a wannabe cop and a kid on a snack run to 7-Eleven and what do you get? Listen to the 911 calls here.

“This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something,” said George Zimmerman.” Are you following him,” the 911 dispatcher asks. “Yeah,” says cop wanna-be and self appointed busybody “watchman” Zimmerman. “OK you don’t need to do that,” the dispatcher tells him.  Zimmerman did anyway.

The 911 tapes of Zimmerman’s call to police shortly before he killed teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26 have been released.  Zimmerman had phoned police 46 times in the last 13 months. Anyone surprised?  He told the dispatcher that 17 year-old high school student Trayvon Martin, who he murdered, may have had a gun saying he had “something in his waistband,” and “he’s got something in his hands.” The teenager had gone for a snack to a 7-Eleven during halftime of the NBA All-Star game. What he had was an Arizona Iced Tea.

Funny how people see things that don’t exist time and time again. Problem is: It would only seem to happen when the suspected person is a Black male in the United States.  Martin had no gun and no criminal record. The Martin incident indicates that to some, a Black male doesn’t have to actually be doing anything unlawful to be murdered.  A Black male need only be walking while carrying an iced tea and a pack of Skittles to become the subject of attention.

“These a**holes always get away,” Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher.  Self defense? A listen to Zimmerman’s call to 911 reveals that he chased Martin.

With that, we find that in Sanford, Fla., a self appointed “watchman” with no police powers and zero law enforcement training walks free after murdering a teenager.  But incidents of suspicious killing of Black males in America followed by no punishment is not new.  The status of Black males in American society remains clear: Expendable.  Did the nation pause in June 2010 after ten Black males were shot dead and 51 wounded in just 3 days in Chicago? Does anyone believe there would be no national outcry if the victims were from any other group? The famous incidents are met with justifications — even in cases where the victims were completely innocent.

In 1984, it was Bernie Goetz.  Goetz shot four Black males on a New York City subway after one asked for five dollars.  All were unarmed. There was no physical altercation.  Goetz shot all four, paralyzing one, saying he feared he’d be mugged. Eighteen months before Goetz said, “the only way we’re going to clean up this street is to get rid of the spics and niggers.” Goetz and his defenders said the shootings were justified because of fear.

In 1999, it was Amadou Diallo, 23. Diallo had no criminal record and no weapon.  New York Police mistook Diallo for a rape suspect.  An officer at the scene yelled “gun” and 41 shots were fired by four plain clothes officers. Diallo had no gun, only his wallet.  All were acquitted.

In 2000, it was Patrick Dorismond, 26. Dorismond, a security guard, was shot and killed by a NYPD plain clothes police officer after being approached by undercover officers who asked where they could buy marijuana. An argument ensued and Dorismond was shot and killed.  No one was charged.  A grand jury found the shooting was an accident.

In 2003, it was Ousmane Zongo, 24.  Zongo was shot and killed by an undercover police officer dressed as a mailman during a raid for counterfeit goods.  He was unarmed and had no criminal record.  The officer was convicted of criminally negligent homicide but served no jail time.

In 2004, it was Tim Stansbury, 19. Stansbury was shot in a rooftop stairwell by a police officer who admitted he was startled and pulled the trigger accidentally.  Stansbury had no gun and no criminal record.  A grand jury found the shooting was accidental. “There appears to be no justification for the shooting,” Chief Ray Kelly said at the time.

In 2006, it was Sean Bell, 23.  Once again, a cop at the scene yelled “gun” but no gun was found. Plain clothes NY City Police fired 50 rounds at three males: Two Black, one Hispanic. Bell was shot four times and died on his wedding day.  He had no criminal record. No one was found guilty.

In 2009, it was Oscar Grant, 23.  Grant was shot in the back and killed by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle.  Mehserle feared Grant was reaching for a weapon as he held him face down on a subway platform.  Grant had no weapon.  Grant had previously served time for drug possession.  The Justice Department opened a case against Mehserle. He would serve less than a year in jail.

Last month, Ramarley Graham, 18, was shot to death in the bathroom of his mother’s house after NY police gave chase.  A plain clothes narcotics officer believed Graham had a gun.  No gun was found. Graham had been previously arrested for marijuana possession and burglary.

The combined jail time after seven incidents?  Seven dead = 23 months.  In every incident, the absence of police involvement would have meant seven people would be alive today.  What do all the cases have in common? The victims: All Black males.  All unarmed.  As the City of New York continues to pay out millions in wrongful death suits one wonders: Does our society care when innocent people who also happen to be Black are killed for doing nothing? Diallo, Bell, Dorismond, Stansbury, Zongo were not engaged in unlawful activity.

Add another the list: Tray Martin.  This time by a pretend-cop with too much time on his hands.

Sanford, Fla. Police Chief Bill Lee Jr., like so many before him, defended the handling of the Martin case. “The hysteria, the media circus, it’s just crazy.  It’s the craziest damn thing I’ve ever seen, and it’s sad. It’s sad for the city of Sanford, the police department, because I know in my heart we did a good job.”

It’s sad alright.  The Justice Department should be in touch with Chief Lee soon.  Rev. Al Sharpton is set to have another march regarding a case of an unarmed innocent Black male who is dead for no reason.

LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus.  She is heard every Tuesday on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WHUR and WPFW in Washington DC. You can follow her on twitter at @crewof42