The lack of accountability is just one of the vehicles that drive the needless killings of black and brown people. Last month,
Leonard Shand answered with his life.
We must say his name: Leonard Shand.
Ten officers with the Prince George’s County, Mount Rainier and Hyattsville police departments surrounded 49-year-old Shand and shot and killed him in front of college and high school students, several of whom recorded the killing.
The police said they spent about 30 minutes trying to contain Shand and using “less than lethal force.” Their “less than lethal force” strategy included screaming at the disoriented man, using pepper spray and tasers and throwing a flashbang grenade, all of which escalated the situation. The use of the flashbang grenade undoubtedly led to Shand’s death. Who wouldn’t run from an exploding flashbang grenade? As the ACLU of Maryland said in a statement, “The police created a more dangerous situation, causing an armed man to run towards them, and then used the inevitable result of their actions as the justification to shoot him.”
Based on information provided at a Prince George’s County Police Department news conference, a health professional was not called to peacefully de-escalate the situation. Instead, officers followed Shand with their guns pointed. They shot multiple times while he lay motionless on the ground. Officers not only left numerous bullet holes in the victim’s body but also holes in nearby buildings.
In the aftermath of Shand’s death, the police department has tried to paint a deceptive narrative by using selective characterization of facts. This was exemplified when the PGPD Twitter account chose to release photos of bloody knives that the victim was alleged to have been carrying instead of the vast footage that the department claims to have of the incident. Bystanders, however, took numerous videos of what happened.
In the footage released, nobody was seen to be stabbed. The blood on the knives most likely came from Shand after he had been shot multiple times. These videos also show that far from “charging” at them as police have alleged, Shand was fleeing the grenade police had flung at him. This tactic of dehumanizing the victim remains the first line of defense by law enforcement, which gets its narrative out first.
There is a clear pattern with Maryland law enforcement officers gunning down black and brown people. The officers’ official narrative, as the ACLU of Maryland put it, “continues to paint victims as threats while wiping their hands clean of any wrongdoing.”
We regularly see police officers peacefully arresting armed white mass shooters alive, including the shooters in El Paso and at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Yet black people too often do not survive police encounters and are seen as more “dangerous” because of their skin color.
Systemic racism and unconscious bias cannot be excuses for Maryland law enforcement officers to kill black and brown people with little or no accountability.
As Marylanders, we should demand the truth. We cannot be silent. We cannot afford another unjust killing, another life taken like this.