Just how numb I’ve become to the police-involved shootings of unarmed African American men was brought home Sunday morning. Rachelle Nigro, an advisory neighborhood commissioner here in Washington, saw me leaving home and posed a simple question: “Why haven’t you written about the shooting of Terrence Sterling?”
The query was and remains relevant because the shooting of Sterling in the early morning hours of Sept. 11 happened one block from my apartment.
The Post reported that police said a call came in at about 4:20 a.m. that day about “a motorcycle driving erratically” in another neighborhood. A little time later, the motorcycle was spotted by law enforcement. The officer who shot and killed Sterling “was trying to exit the passenger’s side of a marked cruiser to stop Sterling,” The Post reported. “But at that point, according to police, Sterling drove the motorcycle into the passenger door.” The aftermath of the fatal encounter — the police tape, the blocked street, the motorcycle — were still visible when I left the apartment later that morning.
The protests that started in the wee hours of the morning and stopped rush-hour traffic didn’t move me to write. Nor did the demands that the shooting officer be identified and that body camera video be released. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) authorized both last week. The police officer is Brian Trainer, a four-year veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department. Because Trainer did not turn on his camera until after the shooting, the video shows what happened in the subsequent moments. As a result, police regulations were changed to require cops to confirm they have activated their cameras when they respond to calls. That’s good, as was Bowser’s decision to release the video and break the unaccountable custom of not releasing the name of the officer. The medical examiner announced Friday that Sterling suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and back and ruled his death a homicide.
Nigro follows my writing. That I had not written anything about the Sterling shooting surprised her, she said. But it really shouldn’t have. As I wrote after the opening of the National Museum for African American History and Culture, I have grown weary of the weekly cavalcade of videos documenting the last moments of a black life or the moments after it was extinguished. So, no. I haven’t watched Trainer’s body cam video. Nor do I plan to. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I care too much.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj