An Alabama cop, pistol-whipped over the head by a black suspect, said he didn’t remove or fire his service weapon at the man because he feared losing his job and becoming “the next Darren Wilson.” Instead, the unnamed plainclothes officer suffered multiple head lacerations after the routine traffic stop turned into a vicious one-sided assault.
Writes the Alabama Media Group: “The pistol-whipping of a Birmingham police detective, and a series of social media photos that followed with some people celebrating the attack, has made its way to national news.”
The officer said he feared facing racist allegations and being branded as a “Darren Wilson” – the former Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. One year later, Wilson said he cannot find employment and still receives death threats.
Heath Boackle, a sergeant with the Birmingham Police Department and president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, said the 6-year detective was driving to investigate a robbery report when he noticed a GMC Yukon driving erratically in the 9100 block of Parkway East in the Roebuck Plaza area. He approached the vehicle, ordering 34-year-old Jenard Shamar Cunningham to stay inside, but the suspect got out and accosted the officer, pulling his gun out of the detective’s holster and beating him bloody.
Boackle said the officer didn’t remove his weapon when Cunningham came at him because he was afraid of the potential consequences. “If the officer would have shot him, then he would have shot an ‘unarmed man,’” Boackle said. “Instead, he took the gun from the officer. The officer had every right to shoot him. We’re lucky we’re not talking about him killing the officer.”
If the roles were reversed, there would be demonstrations and an outcry from the public. – Heath Boackle, a sergeant with the Birmingham Police Department
According to police reports, Cunningham and another man in the vehicle then fled the scene, leaving the officer knocked out on the side of the road. The men were caught a few miles away and remain in custody; Cunningham was charged with attempted murder and assault. The detective was treated and UAB hospital in Birmingham and is recovering at home.
Individuals took photos of the bloodied cop and posted them to social media – rather than helping the man, says Boackle – and comments largely contained remarks from people reveling in the fact that the tables were turned involving a black suspect and a white cop.
“The biggest issue is this officer has a wife and kids that saw this before the department was ever able to notify the family that it had taken place,” Boackle said, adding that the climate that started with the Michael Brown shooting last year has cops nationwide fearing using necessary force on black suspects.
“There is a saying that ‘he who hesitates is lost’ and that’s why (the detective) lost, because he hesitated,” Boackle said. “If the officers on the streets were not in fear of losing their jobs, it wouldn’t have gotten to the point it did yesterday. Officers are second-guessing every move because they’re afraid they’re going to be judged, by the media and by the public.”
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