by Shaun King @shaunking
Senior Justice Writer for the New York Daily News. Husband and father of 5.
Morehouse alum. #BlackLivesMatter
On this past Monday evening, Austin Harrouff, a 19-year-old Florida man, walked into the home of John Stevens III and Michelle Mishcon and allegedly butchered them. Using a switchblade he was known to carry, and several other blunt household objects, he slashed and bludgeoned the couple to death. Police said it appeared the husband tried to fight back before succumbing to his injuries. A neighbor, Jeff Fisher, called 911 and tried to fight Harrouff himself, but was stabbed as well.
According to reports, Harrouff then began biting chunks off of Stevens’ face.
Let’s pause and recap for a moment.
A man known to carry a switchblade brutally murders a beloved couple, stabs their neighbor, and begins to eat one of them.
Here’s how you know Austin Harrouff is white.
When police arrived, they had jaw-dropping patience. With blood, bodies, flesh and weapons everywhere, they saw Austin Harrouff and did not think to shoot and kill the bloody man hovering over the dead couple, but took their time. First, it appears the police assessed the situation. Then, they demanded Harrouff stop eating the bodies.
When he didn’t listen, instead of shooting and killing him, they Tasered him. When that didn’t work, they Tasered him again.
Still unable to stop Harrouff, police methodically worked their way up a use-of-force continuum and decided to unleash a dog on the man. When even the dog didn’t work, the police did something absolutely amazing to intervene.
Four different officers — in spite of the clear and obvious crimes that had taken place, in spite of the risks to their own safety — decided to surround Austin Harrouff and forcefully remove him, so that they could arrest him without shooting and killing him.
Not a single gunshot was fired by Martin County deputies. It was a moment of good policing. Sheriff William Snyder said the deputies were afraid to shoot, fearing their bullets would wound the victim.
What I know, and what many of you know too, is that had Austin Harrouff been black, he would’ve been shot and killed on sight.
For young black men, the use-of-force continuum is regularly thrown right out the window as police start blazing their guns with ferocity and quickness.
In fact, in 2012, a young black man named Rudy Eugene was found on a Florida causeway, eating the face of a man he had mauled. Photos and videos of the attack went viral and people wondered aloud if a zombie virus was causing people to act out. At first the attack was blamed on “bath salts,” a drug people speculated Eugene must’ve used, but toxicology reports actually found no such evidence.
When police neared Eugene, seeing that he would not get off of the man he mauled, they shot him repeatedly, killing him. No Tasers, no dogs, no squads of officers surrounding the man and pulling him off — just gunshots.
While it appears Austin Harrouff was taken into custody and later sedated in a hospital, Rudy Eugene died right there on the causeway. His mother struggled to even find a place to host his funeral.
What happened to Rudy Eugene, who appeared to be having a psychotic episode when he mauled a man, happens often when police are called on African-Americans suffering a mental health crisis.
Christian Taylor, like Austin Harrouf, was a 19 year old college student and beloved football player when he was discovered having some type of mental health episode. Unlike Harrouf, Taylor was black and hadn’t harmed a soul. Instead, he was found aimlessly meandering after hours through an auto dealership. He was unarmed. He hadn’t bludgeoned or mauled anyone. He wasn’t threatening anyone, but when police confronted him, he was shot and killed on contact. He didn’t fight the officer. They never even touched each other.
That officer, who was white, saw Christian Taylor and decided that the best option was lethal force. Young black men in crisis are never given the deference and opportunities to survive that were afforded Austin Harrouf.
Lavall Hall had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. His mother called 911 for medical help. When the police arrived, they shot and killed Hall. He hadn’t harmed anyone that night. Police said they feared for their lives because of the broomstick in Hall’s hands.
Are you following me?
A black man with a broomstick in a mental health crisis, or a young black student athlete who appeared confused and lost, are shot and killed by police — while a gruesome killer is given chance after chance after chance to make it out alive.
A part of the definition of white privilege is having options unique to you because of your skin. Clearly, those benefits even extend to a rampaging cannibal.
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