There have been many incidents of police brutality in the past few years that appears to be racially motivated. Unfortunately, little has been done to stop this, despite a massive amount of public outcry. Recently released footage from the death of 18 year old Paul O’Neal has sparked yet another round of protests. The gruesome video shows that not only was the unarmed teenager shot in the back, but he was also taunted, mocked, and handcuffed by the police as he lay dying.
This latest incident of police officers overstepping their bounds occurred on July 28, and it ended in O’Neal’s death after he allegedly stole a car. In footage from body cameras and dashboard cameras, you can see O’Neal speeding between two police vehicles in a Jaguar at a road block. When this happens, two officers immediately begin firing at the car. Footage then shows O’Neal getting out of the black vehicle and running on foot towards two houses.
O’Neal jumps the fence between the two houses in an attempt to flee, which almost succeeds because a few of the officers cannot climb over the fence. As they run around the other side of the house, shots can be heard from the officers who were actually able to climb the fence. However, no footage is available of this because somehow the body cameras of the officer actually present at the shooting supposedly happened to malfunction briefly.
When the officers who could not climb the fence finally arrive at the scene, O’Neal has been shot in the back and he is laying down on his face in a pool of blood. At this point it is unclear if he is still alive. On the camera, you can hear officers calling the unarmed teenager a “b*tch a*s motherf*cker.” O’Neal is unresponsive and continues to bleed out as the officers harangue him for supposedly shooting at them and handcuff him.
As they wait on medical responders to arrive, you can hear the officers in the video saying, “they shot at us too, right?” Another officer responds, “dude, I heard shots and f*cking shot at him.” While O’Neal lies there dying, the officers continue to try to figure out what actually happened, and several of them insist that he was shooting at them. One officer complains that they will most likely get “f*cking desk duty for 30 days now” after the shooting.
Later investigations report that O’Neal was unarmed and no shots were ever fired at the police officers. Though he was being chased for stealing a car, Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson confirms that it was against police policy to ever shoot at him in the first place. Officers are not supposed to fire into a moving vehicle unless the suspect is firing at them. They are also not supposed to shoot at a fleeing suspect who poses no imminent threat. The officers are currently under investigation, but a police department spokesman claims that so far, there is no evidence of intentional misconduct.
This shooting highlights several issues that are currently causing a lot of protests and marches against police brutality. Even though O’Neal may have committed a crime, police officers are supposed to arrest suspects who have the right to a fair trial instead of shooting them in the back. There is also an unsavory element of racism, since studies have found that police officers tend to assume that black males are a threat and overreact. Some of the protesters are hopeful that O’Neal’s death will help to change laws, but others sadly point out that even completely unprovoked shootings of law-abiding black men by police have not resulted in any change.