One person's thoughts may change the world
In the first of this series, I explained what a positive influence that officer Duncan had done for me in shaping my respect for police. That respect began to get challenged, once I became the age of about 14. One of my first incidents was with the rogue cop in Hamtramck, where I lived. I’m not going to put them in the exact order, but in an order that gives you a sense of what an “average” black young man has to deal with at times. Mind you, I was never arrested in these incidence, neither was I doing anything to provoke the officer to pull his weapon. This particular incident happened on the campus of Wayne State University, a school of 35,000 students located in Detroit’s midtown.
I was hanging out with a long time friend, and afterwards took her home and we sat and talked over a cup of tea in her mother’s kitchen. It was late, about 1:00am, and it was time for me to head back to my apartment on campus. I drove straight down Woodward avenue, the dividing line of Detroit, and a direct path back to school. As I neared Wayne State, I circled the block on Ferry street, first on the west side of the street, where my apartment was, then I decided to park on the east side, where I could find a space. Parking down there was tough because of all the tickets they would give out starting at 8:00am. So I found a spot on East Ferry, in front of some historical homes, and began my walk towards Woodward, and eventually, my apartment. As I walked I noticed a car traveling on the street, driving unusually slow, and as it approached, I saw it was the police. I was walking on the right side of the street, I didn’t turn around completely, I did not want to startle them, I only slightly turned my head as they slowed to pace me.
I continued to walk, and they continued to pace me, to which didn’t bother me, I wasn’t doing anything wrong but walking back to my place. When I got near the corner, I stopped, turned directly towards the officers in the car and said the following, “Good evening officers, putting up my right hand in a gesture of waving, but to make sure they saw I had nothing in my right hand, which was not in their view.
Both officers were white. The officer riding shotgun had his window fully down, and already had his gun out, below the door, which I could not see. As soon as I finished my sentence, he raised his weapon up, and said the following, “Get on the ground!!!!! Get on the ground right now!!!!!”. He was notably excited, but, at the same time, seemed experience in doing this, I was taken back that he had his weapon already out below the door. Several things went through my mind. First, I raised both of my hands now. Second, I did not take my eyes off of them, third, I didn’t say anything, and I immediately remembered what happened to Marvin. He was shot in the back.
I complied, got on the ground, and laid their. He placed his weapon on my spine, and asked me a question,
“Why didn’t you run, so I could shoot you?”.
I said to myself, “What the fuck are you talking about?”.
I then said to him, “I wasn’t doing anything, I was just walking back to my apartment”.
Then he asked me another question, “Do you want to die? I can put a bullet in your back anytime I want, what are you doing down here”.
I then said, “I’m a student at Wayne State, and I just came back from a friend’s house”. The other officer searched me, got my wallet, saw my license, then said the following:
“Your license says you’re from Hamtramck, and you don’t look Polish boy, what are you doing around here?”.
For those of you who don’t know, Hamtramck was a Polish community. Actually, Polish, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian, Arminian, Black, and Native American. Then he pulled out my student ID card, and then he said, “Oh, I guess you do go to Wayne State University”.
The cowboy who had his gun in my back holstered his weapon, and I got up. Then they explained their actions to me.
There was a description of a black guy with a white T-shirt who had robbed a white woman around here, have you seen any suspicious characters. I then turned to the officer who held his gun to my back and said the following:
“Is it procedure for you to threaten to shoot any black person who’s walking and minding their own business?”
His answer was the following, “We were looking for a guy who fits the description of a robbery of a white woman around the corner from here”. Just then, another police car pulled up.
I then said to myself, “Am I in a fucking movie, a white woman being robbed, are you fucking kidding me?”
I then said the following, “I don’t fit your description, and you could have asked me a question instead of pulling your weapon on me, then threatening my life. Where did this robbery occur anyway?
I knew the area well, the homes on the street was either owned by the Center for Creative studies, an art school adjacent to Wayne State, or owned by Wayne State. The cowboy replied, “ Around the corner”. To which I knew was a lie at that point. The spot was in an urban community, no white people lived in that area. I smirked at him, letting him know I knew he was lying.
“Can I go now?”, I sheepishly asked
He then said, “yes, if you see anyone who fits that description let us know, have a nice night Timothy”. I didn’t say anything and continued my walk. But I have a keen sense of hearing, and I heard an officer in the second car ask, “What was that about?”, and the officer who pulled his gun on me said, “Just rattling the native’s cage”.
Needless to say I was pissed, angry, and got no sleep that night. But it did one thing to me after that. I would never be afraid of a policeman pulling his weapon on me ever again, and my trust for police faded regardless of color.
Thank God for officer Duncan…