Rob Kerchner | Is Equal Justice Possible?

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Now that Derek Chauvin has been investigated and convicted as justice for George Floyd, is it time for equal treatment in the case of Ashli Babbitt? Or was the bullet that killed her all the justice our country needs?

Both died at the hands of police as private citizens committing minor offenses: Floyd passed counterfeit bills and resisted arrest, while Babbitt smashed a window and trespassed in the Capitol riot. Floyd outweighed each of his arresting officers, but was already handcuffed and subdued when he died. Babbitt was far less of a physical threat, but was killed in the heat of the riot instead of being taken into custody. Floyd had been convicted seven times prior, including two violent offenses. Babbitt was a decorated 14-year Air Force veteran with no criminal record. She was a wife and a mother of three. Floyd was familiar with arrests and given many chances to cooperate. Babbitt was shot dead and unarmed on Jan. 6 so unexpectedly it visibly shocked the armed Capitol policeman standing next to her.

Floyd was clearly in distress, fearful of being shot, and already saying he couldn’t breathe as he was escorted to the police car. Babbitt clearly had no idea someone would start firing into her mob. Floyd had ingested a triple-lethal dose of respiratory-inhibiting drugs while sitting with a man identified as his drug dealer. He then died of respiratory arrest while being held handcuffed on the ground under Derek Chauvin’s infamous knee. In fact, Floyd had nearly died a few months earlier from the same sort of overdose.

As a result of the incident, Floyd’s police officer was immediately identified, then fired, then incarcerated, and then convicted of murder with a potential 40-year sentence. Babbitt’s police officer has not been formally identified, let alone reprimanded, let alone arrested or charged or convicted. He’s reportedly still working in the same job, four months later.

Floyd’s police officer was accused of bias, even though there was no evidence of it introduced at trial. Babbitt’s police officer (if internet sleuths are correct) is a vocal anti-Trumper. Floyd’s police officer based his actions on his department’s trained tactics, as shown in photographs from his training manual. In contrast, there is no trained basis for Babbitt’s police officer to fire on an unarmed woman in the company of fellow police officer, particularly with many alternative options available.

Democrat leaders have made Floyd into a hero, sponsoring legislation in his name. Republican leaders rarely if ever talk about Babbitt, even as a “tragedy.” Floyd’s family has already been paid $20 million by the government for his death. Babbitt’s husband and children have received nothing from the authorities for hers. As a result of his filmed death, Floyd supporters have rioted, looted, vandalized, assaulted, trespassed and caused the deaths of at least a dozen people in protests that have raged all across our nation for months. 

Babbitt supporters have done none of those things as a result of her filmed death.

Is this contrast in reactions due to the fact that Floyd is Black and his cop was white, while Babbitt is white and her cop was Black? Does such data contradict the popular narrative? After all, the typical viewpoint holds Black Lives Matter up as the good guys who are fighting police brutality, rather than participating in it. Or is the difference political?  Would BLM be in the streets if someone  — even someone violent and threatening — were shot dead storming a federal building in Portland from the political left, rather than a federal building in D.C. from the political right? What are the chances we’d never hear the officer’s name if a BLM supporter was killed by a right winger, rather than the other way around?

It seems equal justice is not a standard that its most vocal proponents actually desire.

Rob Kerchner


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