APTP statement on OPD shooting of white supremacist terror suspect Jesse Enjaian
Compared with their protocol for profiling, harassing - and occasionally murdering - Black and Brown civilians in Oakland, the Oakland Police Department’s shooting of white supremacist gunman Jesse Enjaian illustrates the depth of officers’ conscious and unconscious biases and unwavering ability to humanize a white suspect to a fault, even after the person has demonstrated a clear capability for violence and disregard for human life.
OPD had the opportunity to prevent this expensive, dangerous and chaotic scenario by arresting Enjaian last week when neighbors reported him for shooting cars and throwing a Molotov cocktail. The East Bay Express reports that the way OPD handled the prior shootings - one of which rose to the level of a hate crime due to slurs used, was "unusual", noting that, "No evidence technicians were called to the scene, nor was an evidence canvas conducted." Enjaian ordered them to leave his property, so they did, despite reports and evidence of his committing a felony.
Disturbingly, local media coverage of OPD’s accidental killing (they elected not to shoot to hit center mass) of Enjaian parallels that of the convicted rapist who happened to attend Stanford University and of the many white men who have used firearms to commit terror attacks on communities of color in recent history. The assumption is that past academic or sports achievements somehow negate a propensity for predatory behavior. Examples and research demonstrating the very consistent profile of mass shooters in the United States show us that this is an intellectually lazy assertion. SFGate reports that Enjaian’s prior stalking victim in Michigan, “submitted a complaint that Enjaian had a gun and had expressed interest in using it in an “act of mass homicide.”” However, due to the reality of white supremacist thinking in our society, the media was initially hesitant to profile the shooter in this case in the way they typically do with Black or Brown "suspects".
Remember, live footage showed that Enjaian was actively shooting a rifle at police, civilians and even a news helicopter from various positions. He was still given a fairly wide berth to move around the neighborhood with his rifle and scope, again, despite the fact that the police had been warned about him shooting cars and throwing a Molotov cocktail the week before. He made extremely racist comments, including the n-word, on Twitter, he had military training, and he was in a predominantly Black ZIP code terrorizing residents by shooting at them and again, yelling the n-word.
“Sniper” is a woefully inadequate term for this guy.
Meanwhile, with Black and Brown “suspects”, both the media and the police immediately assume ill intent and justify a violent, militarized response to contain even a mere potential threat implied to be inherent in the existence of a Black body.
- OPD follows a different protocol depending on the race of “suspect” they are confronting. Two cases of passive individuals being shot without warning illustrate this point:
- When, without any commands, a sergeant and three officers simultaneously pumped dozens of bullets into the body of Richard Perkins (video shows his hands were in the air), the department was quick to justify the murder with false accusations that he pointed a gun. This was later found to be an airsoft rifle tucked into his waistband that he notified them about.
- Demouria Hogg was sleeping in his car and awake for under a minute when rookie Officer Nicole Rhodes, who admits she couldn’t see clearly, panicked, broke training protocol, and pulled the trigger twice to end his life. The city has since paid out a $1.2 million settlement to his family.
Make no mistake, Oakland Police Department does not want to, cannot and will not keep our communities safe. Oakland needs to defund OPD and invest that money into programs and services that address the real drivers of public safety: housing, education, jobs, mental health care outside of a jail setting, and restorative justice programs. Our local media needs to adopt basic ethics when writing headlines and copy to avoid dehumanizing and vilifying Black and Brown victims of police terror. The Advancement Project's "Best Practices for Journalists Reporting on Police Killings of Black and Brown People" is a great place to start.