Get Outraged: Police brutality in McKinney, Texas

Content Advisory: For those of you who did not choose to watch the video of the events in McKinney, Texas this past Friday, be aware that I have provided a description of two portions of the video that could be upsetting to some. I will include a warning before detailing those portions of the video.

I am saying this mostly because I know so many people for whom this is too close to their hearts to speak. I am going to try to articulate events as clearly as possible.

Over the weekend a video surfaced of police officers descending upon a pool party attended by a group of teenagers. In the video, the police attempt to gain control of the situation by brutalizing, belittling, terrorizing, and manhandling a crowd of local teens.

Here is what I have been able to glean from the numerous articles that have been published over the weekend. It appears that the original altercation occurred because several white members of the community began hurling racial slurs at the teens who were having a pool party. The girl who was throwing the party, identified as Tatiana Rhodes, 19, is a member at the pool. According to Tatiana in the video linked above, all of the teens who were attending are members of the surrounding community. Additional video has surfaced of two adult white women locked in a physical altercation with Tatiana before the police arrived.

I, like many of you, resisted watching the video at first. I knew that what I would see would be terrible just from reading the comments I had seen on my social media outlets. Do not watch the video if you think that you would be upset by watching this type of brutality. For those of you who have opted to avoid watching what transpired this Friday in McKinney, Texas, I will summarize, Having finally watched it this morning.

[CA: Do not read the next two paragraphs if you think you would be upset by reading about the brutality in the video.]

The video shows a police officer (who has since been placed on administrative leave) bullying and shouting at teenagers. You can see several cop cars and what I believe can safely be called an overwhelming police presence. At one point, the officer around whom the video centers pulls his gun and runs off screen. He returns dragging a 15 year old girl, who he swings around and manhandles to the ground like a rag doll. He then proceeds to kneel on her back. The girl is sobbing and screaming for those around her to “Call my mama! Oh my god!” One of her friends is standing by with a cell phone and does just that.

While the officer threatens and chases after the young people who have gathered around the girl on the ground, two more officers drag into the frame a young man, handcuffed and dazed. The camera man immediately responds to the young man being brought onto the scene by asking him if he is all right. Adrian (or maybe Andrew?) is placed on the ground on his back. He is breathing heavily and appears to be in respiratory distress. His face appears slack in the video and it is hard to discern whether or not there is blood on his mouth and chin. The camera man repeatedly asks him whether or not he is all right, telling bystanders that he is his cousin, but the young man appears unable to respond.

The rage that I felt watching this video was overwhelming. And there was one person in particular at whom my rage was directed.

Of course I hated the police officer sitting on the sobbing girl in her bikini. I hated him for whipping his gun out and threatening these children. I hated the officers responding to the scene for not directing their authority at the women who had attacked a teenage girl before they arrived. I hated the officers dragging Adrian helpless and limp to the scene. I hated these officers for the pain and fear that I saw in the faces of these kids. I hated them for their failure as police officers to represent themselves and the uniforms they wore with dignity and honor. Overall I despised them for their actions as people in a position of learning and authority who chose not to employ empathy or direct their authority in a helpful and non-violent way.

But there was someone I hated more.

Roaming back and forth and creating a perimeter for the police officer is an older white man. During the course of the video, he actively takes a stance between the officer and the teenagers at one point when the cop is wrestling the girl to the ground. He stands by. He lurks. He ensures that the cop is not interrupted. His white presence being allowed to wander the scene freely is a really strong counterpoint to the bodies of black teenagers as they are corralled and shouted at to leave the vicinity or handcuffed and forced to lay down on their faces.

Watching this video I wanted to leap through my computer screen and shake that man. I wanted to push him down and yell at him. I wanted to say “How can you let this happen to children? How can you be a bystander and allow this kind of abuse to continue? What the fuck is wrong with you?”

I wanted to shout him into allyhood. I wanted to ignite him with my rage and turn him back against the men he was smugly and separately observing. It kills me to see people with so much privilege squander it in support of such odious behavior. Being a white male in that situation put this man in a unique position to challenge the officers involved with little to no fear of violent reciprocation. And for that, I hated him.

It should be noted that he was not the only white male taking this position in the video, just the most active. There were several more men milling around on the scene. And their presence was no more positive than his. I spent the entire video waiting for a single white person to walk up to the police and tell them that they were in the wrong. Instead, videos from various angles show these men walking up to the young people trying to defend their friends and telling them to leave.

With everything I have just said, I feel that it must be said that I am deeply ashamed of the behavior of white people in these videos. I feel overwhelming shame that people who look like me could not muster the strength or sanity to stand up for the children in their community against the obviously racist system they were up against this past Friday.

We should do better. We can do better. We need to do more.

There are a lot of things that are still unclear about this story, as it is still developing.

With all of that said, I have the following questions:

  • Why were the women who attacked the young girl who was throwing the party not arrested?
  • Why, when the police were called to deal with an altercation between a teenage girl and an adult woman, was more than one police car sent to the scene?
  • Why did every child at the pool need to be harassed and corralled to deal with an altercation between two older women and a young girl?
  • Why did a 15 year old girl need to be chased down and sat on by a fully grown police officer?
  • What happened to Adrian? Why was he detained at all? Will the police responsible for his treatment be penalized?

More than anything, I will never understand why the police who showed up on the scene in such great numbers were unable to utilize their considerable training in order to deal with an altercation between a small number of people without terrorizing and brutalizing the teens in the vicinity. The fact that this entire altercation began because of the hurling of racial slurs that escalated to racially-motivated violence by adults against teenagers feeds my fury on behalf of these kids and their families.

I hope against all recent evidence that this event will end in punishment being meted out against the officers involved. Their behavior was egregious and unacceptable.

7:00PM EDIT: The officer involved in the incident has been identified as Corporal Eric Casebolt. Cpl Casebolt has previously been charged with profiling, harassment, failure to render aid and sexual assault back in 2008.