The year was 1859 and Charles Dickens was writing about the French Revolution…
The year was 2020 and Culture Honey was writing about inequity in policing…
The “best of times” and the “worst of times” were mentioned at the beginning of the article we published in November of that year and the worst of times were described. It had been six months since a high profile murder of a Black man at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May, and it was after that Covid-drenched summer yielded a bumper crop of national and even global protests about the treatment of Black men at the hands of police.
What about the “best” of times? The best of times, the article concluded, will be when all people living in Pasadena (and by inference, all people everywhere) receive equal protection and equal treatment by the police departments and in all city services no matter what neighborhood, what zip code, or what district they live in.
The year is 2022 and Culture Honey is writing about two runners…
This is a tale of two runners. You may have guessed it – one is white, and one is Black. But that’s not the only difference. The other difference is that one runner possesses a police badge and one runner does not. Both men are the protagonists in a story in which they run.
The White Runner
He was in his mid-40’s in July of 2020 when a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer pulled behind his car which was idling beside a lonely stretch of road in the desert north of LA. When the officer let him know that he was calling for support and that a Field Sobriety Test would need to be administered, the man resisted the idea and gave him a stack of miscellaneous cards and ID instead. The man handing over the cards and ID was a sergeant with the Pasadena Police Department. The CHP officer also asked if the man was armed, and although the man said yes and showed the officer the gun, the man with the ID cards wouldn’t give the weapon to the officer. Instead the man with the ID cards took it upon himself to walk the gun to the passenger side of his car and place the gun in the front passenger seat. The gun at that point became accessible to the other two passengers in the car, one of which was a minor.
As the man with the ID cards started drinking from a water bottle, the CHP officer pointed out that drinking water wasn’t going to “burn down” the alcohol content in his blood. Saying, “this is crazy”, the man with the ID cards walked again toward the passenger side of the car and then… just simply began to run away.
The man with the ID cards was never found that night, even by the additional officers called to the scene. The search for him was called off after about 20 minutes. They had his ID, they knew who he was.
Ultimately, this man received an admonition from a courtroom judge to “do better”. The white man with the ID cards kept his job, his position, and most valuable of all, kept his life.
The Black Runner
This Black man was 32 years old when he ran away from two police officers in a Pasadena neighborhood. It was August of 2020. He ran so fast, he ran right out of his shoes. He ran for just over 10 seconds before the first bullet grazed his shoulder. Not even another second went by before the second bullet pierced his back and traveled through his lung. That was the bullet that killed him.
The Black man had been in Pasadena hitching a ride from a friend who had just purchased a car. The car didn’t have the front license plate affixed yet. A Pasadena patrol car headed in the opposite direction noticed the lack of license plate and promptly flipped a u-turn to pull the pair over. Once asked to exit the passenger’s side of the car, the Black man began to run. The officer that chased and shot the man said he saw a gun in the man’s hand as they ran and that the officer feared for his life.
Lying on the median as his lifeblood seeped out onto the dirt and grass, the Black man can be heard in a video saying, “I’m passing out” and “Come on, I can’t breathe”. As his white T-shirt shows more and more red, an officer asks, “Where’s the gun?” and the Black man replies, “I don’t have no gun.” The officer handcuffs him before applying pressure to his wound.
This Black man never got to go home.
This article is dedicated to the memory of a Black man who was out for a run when he was gunned down by a group of white men in February of 2020. The perpetrators are all in prison convicted of his murder, awaiting trail on Federal Hate Crime charges. The video below is an artistic piece, also in his memory: