How does one “comply?”
When confronted by a man armed with a badge, a gun, the full authority of the state and the immunity bestowed upon the thousands of law enforcement officers who have pumped police-issued bullets into black bodies with impunity, should one obey the words of a pistol-wielding police officer? Should one comply with a cop’s commands, even if they are conflicting, or—at the very least—confusing?
Or, should one just comply with death?
This was the dilemma faced by Edrick Truitt on Sunday night when he was confronted at gunpoint by an Arkansas police officer who seemingly did everything in his power to make sure Truitt recycled the overused hashtag used by deceased compliers like #RekiaBoyd, #PhilandoCastile, #OscarGrant, #BothamJean, #DontaDawson, #Rumain Brisbon, #AmadouDiallo, #JohnCrawford and #JerrySmith.
According to WREG, Truitt was parked at a convenience store waiting to meet up with family before heading back to his home in Jonesboro, Ark., when cops from the Helena-West Helena Police Department came to clear the parking lot. As Truitt was leaving the parking lot, he was reportedly blocked in by another car. That’s when a police officer approached Truitt and pointed a gun in Truitt’s face and Truitt immediately started streaming the encounter on Facebook Live.
The video shows the officer repeatedly screaming at Truitt to “shut your car off!” as the befuddled driver asks what he did wrong. When Truitt tells the cop that he is afraid to turn the car off because “you gon’ shoot me,” the officer yells “he’s got a gun!” followed by: “Gun!”
“Where? Truitt responds. “My hands [are] in the air.”
Truitt tells someone out of frame to shut the car off, explaining: “I ain’t moving my hands. He’s trying to shoot me,” repeatedly assuring the officer: “My hands are in the air.” The cop calls for backup while still pointing the firearm at Truitt, whose hands are still showing. After instructing Truitt numerous times to “shut the car off,” the cop tells Truitt, that he failed to comply with a “lawful order.”
The policeman assures Truitt: “I’m not gon’ shoot you, but you ain’t gon’ move those hands,” still not explaining how Truitt could have turned the car off without moving his hands.
First, the officer says that Truitt “came back” to the parking lot, then says Truitt “never left the parking lot.” When he spots Truitt’s camera, the cop announces, “I’m filming too,” before handcuffing Truitt through the window and wrestling him to the ground. Authorities now say they found a gun in the back seat, which Truitt doesn’t deny. On the video, he can be heard calmly telling the officers about the gun.
“It’s in my name. It’s registered,” Truitt explains, even though Arkansas law (pdf) allows for open-carry without a permit. A recent Arkansas Supreme Court ruling also affirmed the fact that Arkansas citizens are allowed to carry firearms in a vehicle without a permit…
Unless you’re black, apparently.
Helena-West Helena Police Chief James Smith told WHBQ that the department is reviewing the body camera footage to determine if the officer broke any rules. Truitt admits that he was “really scared,” during the incident and still doesn’t understand what he did wrong.
“He was like, ‘That’s a failure to comply,’ but if I would have complied, I would have got killed,” Truitt told WREG.
Police did not charge Truitt with any gun-related charges. They also have not released the officer’s name because, of course, that whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing.
Good thing he didn’t comply.