Violent protest over police-involved shooting a warning shot

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Previously-released footage shows a Chicago Police officer fatally shooting Harith Augustus in the South Shore neighborhood. | Chicago Police


It will take lots of it to sort out what led to a Chicago police officer fatally shooting Harith Augustus, a South Shore resident, on Saturday afternoon.

But time is up on the oft-repeated narrative that a black man was fatally shot by police because he either drew a weapon or the officer thought he was about to draw a weapon.

In this instance, police allege the 37-year-old barber was “exhibiting characteristics of an armed person” in the 2000 block of East 71st Street when police confronted him.


That sounds like a lame excuse from the get-go. Illinois has a concealed carry law on the books, and Augustus wasn’t a criminal suspect.

He lived and worked in the area, and there appears to have been no reason for the police to hassle the man.

After the police-involved shooting, people poured onto 71st Street where there were several violent confrontations with police. Four people were arrested. One was charged with a felony assault of a police officer.

Although similar police-involved shootings across the country have sparked violent protests, the Chicago Police Department seemed unprepared for the eruption.

This latest upset shows that the city is still a long way from healing the tensions between the cops and the black community as a result of the Laquan McDonald police-involved shooting in 2014.

The teenager was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, even though the teen was walking away from the police officer.

In this case, it doesn’t help the police narrative that some community residents claim Augustus had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and it was not immediately refuted.

Although police said Sunday that Augustus did not have a concealed carry permit, he did have a Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID).

But questions remain about why police confronted the man in the first place.

The Illinois State Police could have immediately confirmed or refuted the truthfulness of the claim about the permit.

But because the law enforcement community either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about how fed up black people are with the police shooting narrative, they take their time about responding to these kinds of concerns.

More important, this shooting once again raises questions about how police officers are engaging the communities they police.

Did the officers who confronted Augustus even have a clue that he was known in the community as a barber, not a troublemaker? Maybe if that were the case, their approach would have been less confrontational.

I live in the neighborhood, and I rarely see police officers interacting with anyone on the street even though there is a lot of loitering on street corners.

In fact, the biggest complaint from my neighbors is police aren’t doing enough to clear the corners at 71st and Jeffery where scores of people are bartering everything from loose cigarettes to cold water.

On Sunday morning, the streets where the melee over the police-involved shooting broke out were eerily silent, although another protest was scheduled for later in the day.

By afternoon, the Chicago Police Department decided to release body camera footage showing the confrontation between Augustus and the cops.

The video shows police officers trying to detain Augustus in front of a grocery store. As Augustus breaks away and runs into the street, he appears to be struggling to withdraw something from his waistband.

Although it is likely that lawyers and prosecutors and police accountability boards will conclude police were justified in using deadly force, the video isn’t likely to convince protesters.

Because the question at the heart of this deadly encounter is this:

Why can’t a black man, who isn’t bothering anyone, walk down the street in his own neighborhood without being accosted by police?

Police are supposed to serve and protect all of the city’s citizens. But too often, black men end up dead at the hands of police.

Saturday’s violent protest says time is up on trying to figure out why.


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