|They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.|
Jeremiah 6:14 (NRSV)
Washington, D.C., August 26, 2020—Another shooting. Another video. More trauma for a community and our nation. It is hard to believe that we are in the position to have to issue another statement on police shootings. Yet, here we are. This past weekend our nation again witnessed Black men being shot by police – one is paralyzed and fighting for his life; the other died.
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) is again outraged by the shooting of Jacob Blake, III, who was shot by Kenosha, WI, police on Sunday, Aug. 23. Video evidence seems to show clearly that Blake was unarmed and walking away from white police officers when he was shot multiple times in the back at point blank range in front of his three young children. A part of NCC’s extended family, Blake is the grandson of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Pastor Rev. Jacob Blake, Sr., who served in Evanston, IL at Ebenezer AME Church during the 1960s and 70s and was an activist for fair housing in the affluent Chicago suburb.
In addition, the NCC is further outraged by the killing of Trayford Pellerin by police in Lafayette, LA on Saturday, Aug. 22. Like Mr. Blake, Mr. Pellerin was walking away from police. His family has suggested that a mental health crisis may have prompted calls to 911 about a “disturbance” that ended with Mr. Pellerin being shot and killed.
The news of these tragic events are disheartening and cause us to ask the question, when will it end? We’re weary but not too tired to continue working for change and fighting for justice.
These incidents also highlight the need for police reform and increased de-escalation training. Therefore, we repeat our call for full, transparent, and independent investigations of the conduct of the officers involved in both of these terrible shootings. We repeat our call for the use of body cameras to be used by every sworn officer in the Kenosha Police Department – as well as in police departments across the country—and we urge the Lafayette Police Department to immediately release body camera footage of the incident with Mr. Pellerin. These basic first steps, while not the entire solution, help to provide accountability in horrific situations such as these and reduce the likelihood that they occur in the first place.
Moreover, the case with Mr. Pellerin reinforces the need for communities to have greater investments in mental health services and not to use police as first responders when a mental health professional will be more effective and have a better chance of saving lives.
For these injustices to continue after months of robust protests following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery as well as too many others, is indicative of how deeply broken our systems are and how much work is yet to be done to end racism, white supremacy and unconscious bias.
We pray for Mr. Blake’s complete physical and emotional healing from the multiple gunshot wounds and the horror of this situation. We pray that his three young children and family as well as the community will heal from the trauma caused by the shooting. We pray for the family and friends of Mr. Pellerin who mourn his unnecessary killing.
And, we pray for our nation to heal and to move swiftly and decisively toward justice. We must end the racism that infests our institutions and perpetuates the myth that Black lives are expendable. Black lives matter.