“They’re done. They are 6-7, dude.”
In today’s episode of “Who do you actually protect and serve?” shocking new video footage has emerged from a police cruiser dash cam showing sheriff’s deputies deliberately making no attempt to save three drowning Florida teenage girls who drove into a cemetery pond after stealing a car last month.
To be clear: Stealing a car is wrong, but it doesn’t warrant a death sentence and even though they very well might have died regardless, the lack of any effort whatsoever from the officers is astonishingly shameful.
16-year-old Dominique Battle, 15-year-old Ashaunti Butler, and 15-year-old Laniya Miller all died on March 31 after stealing a vehicle and pursued by Pinellas County deputies.
Following their death, the official statement from local sheriff Bob Gualtieri was that officers on the scene “dropped their gun belts and waded into the water trying to save the screaming teens.”
“Once the car filled up with water it went down pretty quickly,” Gualtieri said, “There was nothing deputies could do. As thick as that muck is in the pond, it is almost like a carpet. The doors were closed, the windows were up and unfortunately it just became a death chamber.”
Footage, however, tells a vastly different story, as one Pinellas County deputy can be heard saying “I hear them yelling, I think.”
“They’re done. They are 6-7, dude,” another officer retorts.
In typical fashion that has come to define the law enforcement post-mortem playbook as it pertains to fatal victims of color, Gualtieri opted to dehumanize them first, and then surmise a tragic loss of life later.
“Between the three, they had been arrested seven times in the last year, just for grand theft auto alone,” Gualtieri said, “This situation is very frustrating because three young lives have been needlessly lost. It is also very frustrating because it is yet one more example of what’s becoming an epidemic in Pinellas County, specifically in the city of St. Petersburg.”
Let us also be clear: statements that seek to dehumanize black youth as career criminals are not only dangerous in upholding age-old stereotypes that encourage white communities of all demographics to associate blackness with criminality, they are also irrelevant in the moment.
They are dead, their parents will never see them again, and making it known on the record that they were criminals – knowingly or unintentionally – seeks to imply that the world isn’t losing much from their death anyway.
You can internally direct initiatives to your officers to combat grand theft auto in your communities without making statements that casually – or in many cases outwardly – racist people will use to sway their own piece of public opinion about why harsher policing is needed and why racial biases should continue to be maintained.