Police in St. Louis County, MO are apologizing for beating up and handcuffing a 22-year-old student who they mistook for a suspect in a car chase Thursday afternoon. But the college junior, Joseph Swink, has been left with severe damage to his ear and a totaled car, according to KMOV St. Louis.
Swink reportedly crashed his car when he was trying to get out of the way of a police chase. When the car started filling with smoke, he ran away, prompting police to come after him thinking he was the suspect they were chasing. Photographs show Swink’s face brutally beaten and bloodied after his encounter with the cops.
According to St. Ann Police Chief Aaron Jimenez, “All the sirens and lights were going off. It was very loud and they couldn’t hear anything the citizen was saying.” Eventually, they got a radio call saying the real suspect was in custody.
While the St. Ann Police Department is apologizing, they say the mistaken identity has “zero to do about race.” Swink feels differently, telling Fox 2 News he feared for his life. “There was nobody black on the scene, just a lot of white cops. I didn’t feel safe around them,” he said. “I think they probably felt they could get away with it because I was and they can do this.”
He had reason to be afraid. Young black men like Swink are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than white men, often because police use vague racial profiles that make every black man a potential threat.
It could have been worse if the officers had not gotten the radio call when they did. The now infamous police in nearby Ferguson, MO mistakenly arrested one man in 2009, beat him, and then charged him with destruction of property for getting his blood on their uniforms.
Swink had no criminal record and is studying accounting in school. His grandmother told Fox 2, “This is all we ask of our young men, to do the right thing, become productive citizens in this country and he’s not being given that opportunity because someone has mistaken him for a criminal and that upsets me very much.”