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Cops and Native Americans

23 Feb

Black folks aren’t the only ones who get shot in disproportionate numbers by cops.

Melissa Goodblanket with a portrait of her family at her home in Clinton, Oklahoma, Feb. 13, 2016, with Ma-hi-vist in the rear of the photo.

In Oklahoma, killings of Native Americans raise questions

Noami Barron burst out of her boyfriend Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket’s home and fell to her knees.

“They shot Bird!”

She started to throw up.

Mah-hi-vist, 18, whose name in English translates to Red Bird, has oppositional defiant disorder, a little-understood condition that he controlled with the help of therapy and medication. He’d been in the midst of a mental episode when his father, Wilbur Goodblanket, called 911, worried that his boy was going to hurt himself – but no one else.

The family wanted help from medical personnel and law enforcement calming down Mah-hi-vist. But it did not work out that way. Instead, lawmen shot and killed Red Bird. The young man’s tragic fate highlights a series of deadly Oklahoma incidents in which mentally ill Native Americans encountered law enforcement officers who, campaigners and relatives say, are not trained properly in how to deal with them.

That night Wilbur and Melissa Goodblanket, Mah-hi-vist’s mom, couldn’t believe what they heard.

“Is my son OK? Is he alive?” thought Melissa.

She jumped out of the red Dodge pickup truck where she was keeping warm with her husband and younger son and the family’s German shepherd. She wanted to take a coat to Barron, who was wearing just black stretch pants and a pink pullover on that freezing December night, Dec. 21, 2013, in Custer County, Oklahoma.

Lawmen order Melissa back into the pickup.

From inside the truck, parked in front of the home’s picture window twinkling with white Christmas lights, family members saw officers moving around inside the well-lit living room. They couldn’t see Bird.

Someone started wrapping the front yard in yellow tape. An officer tapped on the hood of the truck and motioned for the family to come out. “Sorry. Your son didn’t make it,” he said.

The Custer County district attorney later ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide.

The Goodblankets call it something else. “Murder,” Melissa said. “They murdered our son.”

At a time law enforcement agencies are re-examining training procedures and policies and outfitting officers with body cameras to address questionable police shooting and in-custody deaths in urban areas like Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, the Goodblankets believe their son’s death is a glaring example of inadequate training in rural Oklahoma law enforcement agencies that routinely encounter the mentally ill.

In their search for answers, the Goodblankets discovered their ordeal was not unique to Custer County, whose namesake, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, carried out the slaughter of a peaceful band of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal members only 60 miles west of the Goodblanket home. Nor is it unique to Oklahoma, home to 39 federally recognized tribes.

Benjamin Whiteshield, 34, was in the midst of a delusional episode and convinced he was being followed when his grandmother and mother drove him to the Clinton Police Department on June 27, 2012. He had a condition that caused seizures, and he sometimes had a paranoid or delusional episode before one occurred, Sara Whiteshield, his sister, said. When he got out of the family’s vehicle, he had a wrench in his hand. A Clinton police officer shot him in the mouth. He later died.

Similar scenarios have played out elsewhere in western Oklahoma.

Ninety miles south of Clinton, in Lawton, Christina Tahhahwah, 37, was staying with her grandparents on Nov. 13, 2014, when her relatives called 911. She was bipolar and was in the middle of a mental episode, throwing objects around the house. Her family members wanted help getting her back on her medication and to a hospital for a medical assessment.

Police instead arrested her for trespassing and took her to jail, according to an account in The Lawton Constitution. On Nov. 14, she was found unresponsive in her cell. Family members attended a Lawton City Council meeting at which, they said, witnesses reported officers repeatedly used a stun gun on her after she refused to stop singing in jail. She died at a hospital on Nov. 17….Read the Rest Here

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in American Genocide, BlackLivesMatter

 

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