THE OTHER KIMANI GRAYS: Twenty-five-year-old Manuel Diaz was hanging out in Anaheim, California, on a sunny Saturday last July when two police officers began to approach. Diaz ran off, and Officers Nick Bennallack and Brett Heitmann pursued him. Moments later, Bennallack shot and killed Diaz—who was unarmed—on an apartment complex lawn. On March 20, the Orange County District Attorney’s office announced that the shooting was justified.
Video taken immediately after the shooting is chilling. One bystander screams, “He’s still alive! Call the cops!” Officers on the scene appear confused and frantic, and eager to push back the growing crowd—but never once do they check on Diaz’s vital signs. Another bystander, speaking in Spanish, encourages people to capture what’s happening on video by reminding them that “the law allows you to tape” the police.
That video sparked outrage last year, as residents took to the streets in protest. Those demonstrations were met with increasing violence by the Anaheim police—who used dogs and fired beanbag bullets at dangerously short ranges not only against men and women, but toddlers as well.
Anaheim is not alone. In Brooklyn, 16-year-old Kimani Gray was buried on March 23 after being killed by plainclothes New York Police Department officers in East Flatbush. Writing for Ebony, Rosa Clemente wondered whether we’re using the right terms when we talk about this specific kind of violence: “Kimani’s killing is not just a case of police brutality, it is yet another example of the ongoing human rights violations against mostly Black and Latino/a young people in New York and cities across the country.” She’s right—“brutality” hardly begins to capture this violation of the fundamental entitlement to life that we should all enjoy.
We’ve largely come to accept that some young people of color will be shot and killed with impunity, and that a community’s outrage will be quelled with unbelievable force. In Anaheim, camouflage-clad SWAT teams paraded the streets and intimidated protesters, while police in Brooklyn reportedly declared a “frozen zone,” which essentially freezes First Amendment rights.
Back in Anaheim, an essentially segregated city is grappling with the fact that another white officer has killed another unarmed Latino man and will not be held accountable for doing so. Sadly, it won’t be the last time. AURA BOGADO
WAR IS PERSONAL: On March 18, on the eve of the ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, paralyzed Iraq War veteran Tomas Young published an open letter on Truthdig, addressed to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, calling for accountability for their crimes. Titled “The Last Letter,” it is written in the name of Iraqis and Americans alike, “on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.” Nearly a decade after the Sadr City ambush that left him paralyzed, Young has decided to cease medical treatment. “My life is coming to an end,” he wrote. “I am living under hospice care.” Truthdig editor in chief Robert Scheer called his letter “the defining obituary on the Iraq War.”