Twenty-seven-year-old Antwan Gilmore was asleep in his car on Wednesday when he was approached by Washington D.C. police officers, one of whom proved once again that cops—who are celebrated in “back the blue” circles for their bravery and willingness to put their lives on the line—often open fire at the faintest sign of perceived danger, and it’s actually civilians, particularly Black civilians, whose lives end up on the line and in the line of fire.
An edited “community briefing” video taken from the body camera of an officer, which was released last Thursday, according to NBC 4 Washington, shows the part of the incident, but it doesn’t produce much clarity as to why the shooting started. Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Robert Contee said Gilmore was “awake at some point,” but the ballistic shield being held by the shooter makes it difficult to determine why the currently unidentified officer felt the need to fire.
“It’s very difficult to see through the lens of the officer, the one officer in this case that fired,” Contee said, according to NBC. “It’s very difficult to see what that officer is seeing. What did he perceive to be the threat at that point?”
So, as is often the case in use-of-force incidents involving cops and Black people, most of what we have to go on so far hinges on the word of police officers.
The Metropolitan Police Department said in its statement last week that officers arrived at Florida Avenue and New York Avenue NE in response to a call about an unconscious driver in his car blocking traffic. The officers found Gilmore in his car “unresponsive” with his foot on the brake while the car was running. They also said they could see a gun in his waistband.
More officers were called to the scene, and “a ballistic shield was deployed.” Officers said Gilmore “reacted” at some point while they were trying to talk to him and that he began to move the car forward until they ordered him to stop. They said Gilmore did stop, but “then proceeded forward as an MPD member discharged their service weapon multiple times, striking the driver inside the vehicle.”
In the video, one officer can be heard saying, “I can’t see his hands.”
When the car begins to move forward, officers can be heard shouting “Don’t move!” and “Police!” just before the shots were fired—10 shots to be exact, according to Contee.
After the shooting, the gun police said they observed on Gilmore’s person was still in his waistband.
According to Contee, opening fire on a moving vehicle goes against MPD policy.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser vowed that district officials will conduct a “thorough investigation to determine if the officers acted lawfully and within their training.”
It’s really hard to imagine a scenario where this is a justified shooting, but, unfortunately, we have a justice system that often bends over backward to give cops the benefit of the doubt. On Twitter, many people, some of whom said they knew Gilmore, have already made it clear they’re not buying any story that calls this a clean shoot.
And, of course, protesters took to the streets of D.C. last week to call for justice for Gilmore.
It often appears that no matter how much we protest and call for an end to unnecessary police violence against Black people, there’s always a fresh incident waiting to show us cops are not getting the message. It’s exhausting, but all we can do is continue our fight.