When it comes to De’Von Bailey’s death, we have more questions than answers.
Witnesses told The Gazette they didn’t see Bailey with a gun Sunday when he was shot and killed by police. His cousin, Lawrence Stoker, says Bailey had a gun, but didn’t pull it out. In a news release, police said Bailey reached for a gun. Witnesses, including Stoker, dispute the police account.
The questions, regardless of final answers, will not depart. The questions will haunt our city if we fail to wrestle with them.
Could Bailey, a 19-year-old African-American, have been stopped from fleeing without being killed? Was Bailey, while defenseless, shot in the back?
These are troubling, valid questions for anyone who dwells in Colorado Springs. Yes, anyone. I don’t care how old you are, what you look like, where you live, how you vote. Discussion of the questions has veered toward cruelty and simplicity on social media. I’m hoping, maybe against hope, we can do better.
Juanita Martin grew up in Colorado Springs, attending Bristol and Steele elementary schools. She returned to her hometown in 1959. She hosts “Black Beat Productions” on Comcast.
“I’m thinking that sometimes the reactions are extreme and the situation doesn’t warrant it,” Martin says of police shootings. Five people have been killed by Springs police in 2019.
On Monday, 60 marchers gathered outside police headquarters to protest the Bailey shooting while chanting, “Black lives matter.” Two white bail bondsmen brandishing guns invaded the protest and were peacefully arrested.
The vast difference between the conclusion of the police confrontation with Bailey and the police confrontation with the armed bondsmen troubles Martin.
“Those two men on motorcycles brandishing guns were arrested in normal fashion,” Martin says.
“Thrown on the ground and hands behind their back and everything you see in police shows. There seems to be a different manner of execution of justice.”
“As a matter of fact, it becomes execution. The police involvement becomes execution in many cases and any case is too much, in my opinion.
“The police have the same kind of cultural influences as anyone in our culture. The influence of Caucasian domination. In the exhibition of power and overuse of power, they know when to turn it off and it might be in their subconscious but they operate on two different forms of arresting people. On Caucasians they may take the path that they are taught in police training.”
Martin noticed protesters who marched Tuesday were primarily white. She was not surprised.
“That’s been the way of things,” she says. “My people don’t get involved. They’re jaded, intimidated, don’t believe it will do any good to march. They’re angry, afraid of what would happen if they march in front of police.”
Willie Breazell led the effort to name the stretch of U.S. 24 from Peterson Air Force Base to Manitou Springs the “Buffalo Soldiers Memorial Highway,” in honor of African-American soldiers who served on the Western frontier after the Civil War.
“Well, I’m kind of erring on the side of let’s wait and see what the evidence shows,’ Breazell says. “But it appears the police shot a kid in the back who was running away from them. I’m not sure if it was legal, but it wasn’t the ethical thing to do. ... I’m totally opposed to our kids being shot in the back.”
Breazell emphasizes that he understands police perform a dangerous task in society.
“There are some serious weapons on the street,” he says.
His nephew, Malik, works for the New Mexico State Police, and Breazell worries about him “every day.” Malik, like other officers, risks his life on each shift.
“But,” Breazell says, “if this is an unjustified shooting, I’m going to be on the bandwagon that the police officer responsible should be brought to justice. He should receive justice.
“Whatever justice is.”