#CultofCompliance – Bessemer, AL – Intersection of race and disability.

Donald Ray “Hambone” Wilson, an African-American man has schizophrenia. This fact was known to the police. He was shot in the chest.

In this video, he is surrounded by police as he holds a steak knife. He is clearly in mental health crisis and as the police engage into close proximity, they become in danger of being stabbed. Until the police got so close, no one was in danger.

At one point he makes a little fake lunge, then stands still. He is then shot.

As I have written about before (Milton Hall in Detroit, Kajieme Powell in St. Louis), a psychiatrically disabled person with a knife presents intense complications for the police. Shooting the individual, however, has to be an absolutely last-ditch response.

The first response should be to keep distance and employ patience.

The second response should be to use non-lethal force: takedowns, tasers, beanbag rounds. To me, these are a DISTANT second. To a law enforcement professional whose opinion I respect, they are a closer second. Either way, they come LONG before shooting someone in the chest.

I see these stories every week, sometimes multiple times a week. They frequently, though not exclusively, involve people of color, and I do not want to erase that. These are stories about the deadly (or near deadly in this case) intersections of race and disability. They need to be put together so that the patterns emerge, rather than the individual cases standing out as aberrations.

That’s my plan for the next 6 months. Put these stories together. More to come soon.

3 Replies to “#CultofCompliance – Bessemer, AL – Intersection of race and disability.”

  1. Mel says:

    Thanks for your writing. I've been thinking about this a lot myself.
    My grandad was an Irish immigrant and a mounted policeman in Queens.
    I'm reflecting a lot on mental health issues, racism and law enforcement and how to help create specific changes to be implemented in future police protocals.
    In the area where I live, a Native Alaskan carver was shot and killed because he was walking down the street carving with his knife on wood. He was deaf and didn't hear the officer telling him to 'drop the knife' and was shot dead. I was trained in video case analysis when I worked in mental health. Watching the video of Powell who was killed in St. Louis made me see clearly how much a lack of appropriate training of police officers and lack of skill in how to relate appropriately to a diversity of persons while 'on the job' is resulting in unnecessary deaths.

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