With shock, anger, and sadness, we at BLM Chicago and The People’s Response Team, watched the Chicago police body video cam, where Harith Augustus aka “Snoop” is having a conversation with one police officer, as two other officers quickly approach the scene. Initially, the video reveals a calm interaction between Snoop and one officer. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) Officers on scene are depicted as unthreatened. Within 3 seconds of the 45 second video, a white, female officer places her right hand on her gun and, as Snoop is showing his identification to the first officer, the two approaching officers quickly surround him and attempt to grab him.
This initial use of force was unreasonable. No justification.
The officer who killed Harith Augustus is a male officer who has been on the force less than two years, Anthony Guglielmi, a CPD spokesman says. The officer is still in his probation period, meaning he’s been out of the police academy less than a year.
Before multiple officers escalated the interaction, Harith was calmly speaking to an officer. The law requires reasonableness to include consideration of the offense under investigation. At the time of the shooting, officers did not know whether Harith had a Firearm Owners Identification card (FOID) or a concealed carrying permit. After changing their official narrative of events, CPD then reported he did, in fact, have a FOID but not a permit to carry.
Whether or not Harith was in possession of a permit to carry a firearm does not justify his murder, especially in a state that allows individuals to conceal and carry firearms. The officers’ escalations and initial uses of force during the interaction with Harith reveal how these laws are selectively applied by law enforcement against predominantly poor Black communities where criminality is always already assumed.
- Without any reasonable suspicion of criminality, any police encounter must be consensual.
- As a citizen, we have a fundamental right to walk away from any consensual police encounter.
All of these rights that Harith Augustus possessed were violated by CPD.
Several community members who witnessed the interaction reported the police stating he was selling loose squares, which is not an executionable offense. However, a witness told the Chicago Sun-Times the incident started when Augustus gave cigarettes to his aunt. Nevertheless, the responding officers’ escalations reveal how Black community-members engaged in non-violent interactions are assumed to be violent and are policed as such. Furthermore, the video depicts an elderly gentleman walking with a cane toward the scene, and it is reported that Harith was shot 6 or 7 seven times. In addition to the racist presumption of criminal activity against Harith, these circumstances illustrate the complete disregard for the general safety of the surrounding communities in which these police forces occupy, where consideration for the safety of bystanders is nonexistent.
These behaviors were clearly an intentional escalation on part of the police.
Returning back to the video, after officers assaulted Harith by grabbing his arm, he is thrown against a police parked car. His T-shirt rides up and his concealed gun is visible. At this point, the body-cam footage plays in slow motion, implying that it is somehow unlawful to have a concealed weapon in a concealed firearm state. Again, officers’ selective application of the law toward Harith reveal the erroneous assumption that Black bodies are inherently criminal and dangerous. The video then depicts Harith attempting to escape danger, turning away from the officers until noticing another police car is blocking his path. As he turns away from the approaching police car with his arms flailing, he is still shown holding onto his identification in his left hand.
As Harith is spinning away from a police squad car, the body-cam footage is, again, slowed down to punctuate their narrative that he showed “characteristics of an armed individual” as reported by CPD in their media tweet, despite the fact that he was previously surrounded and assaulted by numerous police officers moments prior without just cause.
Amidst the crisis of Harith’s murder, Mayor Rahm Emanuel claims to be committed to transparency. However, these benign utterings reflect convenient political catch-phrases that lack any real commitment to being forthright, honest, democratic and fair to Chicago Black and brown citizens.
Within the past 2 weeks in chicago, three other Black men have been shot and two killed by the Police, yet only one video has been released thus far.
These actions show how Rahm and the CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson pick and choose when they are committed to “transparency,” as was done in the LaQuan McDonald murder. When they believe footage exonerates their police officers, footage is released, whereas all other footage is kept far away from the public eye.
News footage revealed CPD rushing past their own barricades and brutalizing peaceful demonstrators with batons in the wake of Harith’s death. These videos clearly illustrate the true nature of CPD’s tactics in Black neighborhoods, where excessive force and brutality is the norm.
The Chicago Police Department continues to be one of the biggest, taxpayer-sanctioned gangs perpetuating crimes across the City. Chicago spends approximately four million dollars per day on policing which comes to over 1.5 Billion annually. These deadly police shootings reflect the disturbing reality of policing and surveillance with accompanying urban development policies designed at gentrifying poor Black and brown neighborhoods, overall divestment from Black economic and social communities, divestment from education and mental health care systems nationwide. A recent report by USA today documents this growing nationwide phenomenon. Chicago has recorded more police shootings over a 5 year period ending in 2015 than Los Angeles, New York, Houston or Philadelphia. Thanks to Rahm Emanuel, Chicago also holds the record for conducting the largest mass public school closing in United States history. Rahm, with full support of City Council, also closed half of the City’s existing public mental health clinics. What we are living in is created poverty, intentional divestment with increased policing to suppress the anger and frustration of living in these unfair and unjust conditions. Police are ready at all times to brutalize, maim, terrorize and kill us. Harith “Snoop” Augustus was killed in complete compliance with this existing political order. This must end now.
– We demand the name the officer who murdered Harith “Snoop” Augustus
– We demand immediate charges filed against this officer
– We demand immediate firing of this officer
– We demand charges for cops who brutalized protesters
– We demand all charges be immediately dropped against protesters
–We demand the release of all video and audio footage from all officers and vehicles at the scene of the murder*
*Since publication of this statement, the investigative journalism of The Root exposed that CPD lied when stating that the absence of sound in the police released and edited body cam video of the murder, was a result of the audio requiring 30 seconds to turn on.
Black Lives Matter: Chicago is an intersectional vehicle that values Black people and their right to self-determination, by fighting for justice with families most impacted while working to create just and equitable systems.
The People’s Response Team works toward centering and uplifting the narratives of families affected by police violence amidst a common, biased alignment of mainstream media and law enforcement narratives.