To-day in Auburn there was a protest in front of the Auburn Police Department headquarters. About 40-50 of us gathered at the intersection of Glenn and Ross to call for justice for Melissa Boarts, to call for a serious investigation into the police’s role in the death of Recco Cobb, to protest police brutality and the unchecked use of force by Auburn police. The Boarts family was there; the family of other victims of police shootings were there; Bishop Arthur Dowdell was there. I heard about it from my wife who saw the beginnings of the protest around 3:00; I headed down and picked up a sign and we protested until about 5:30.
We want the unedited bodycam and dashcam footage released. We want the names of the cops who shot Melissa Boarts released. We want cops held accountable and an end to the culture of secrecy and impunity around the police’s use of force.
The headline is more predictable than Dog Bites Man. If you programmed a Police Shooting Response robot that took police shooting reports as input and produced a claim of justification 100% of the time, only filling in the blanks with facts taken from the input and not adjusting the template in the slightest, you’d get the same headlines that you actually get from local police statements. Based on the extremely limited information that has been released so far, it’s possible that the police went overboard even by their own standards; it’s also perfectly possible that when the dash cam and body cam footage is released, it will turn out that the killing meets the police’s internal standards for justification — but if so, the police standards themselves are the problem. We don’t know how much police officers knew about how she was armed. The weapon that La Jura keeps talking about, always as a quote-unquote weapon without further clarification, was actually a small knife. Melissa’s parents and their lawyer say that they told the 911 dispatch that she had a knife; police claim that when she got out of the car they didn’t know what weapon she had in her hand. It may be that she brandished the knife in a way that would meet the police’s policies for using lethal force against her. But if so, then morally I think the problem with police procedures is that they take no real account of who initiated the confrontation, who escalated it, what other less-forceful options were available. We have here a case in which police pursued a woman who had committed no crime, followed her car for miles out of their own jurisdiction and into Macon County, cornered her when they were told she was upset and panicked and lightly armed, and then shot her to death when, they claim, she charged them. For ordinary people like you or me, a claim of self-defense requires that someone else is the aggressor; but police standards never take that into account.
Stories on the police shooting, what the police claim they knew, and what the family says they know about what happened, have appeared in the Huntsville Times (April 4), the Montgomery Advertiser (April 5), and The World According to Vladimir Putin (April 5). According to the Opelika-Auburn News (April 7), the family was desperately trying to reach Melissa’s car on the highway but the police cornered her and shot her before they could arrive; the OA News story also reports that there is both dash cam footage and body cam footage of the confrontation and the shooting. But the footage was given to the Alabama SBI, so that state police can investigate local police, and will not be released to the public until or unless the Macon County District Attorney decides that it should be. (The Macon County DA is putatively in charge of this decision because Auburn police followed her out of Auburn and pursued her on the highway into Macon County, where they shot her.)
Auburn police shot and killed a woman yesterday afternoon just off of I-85. Her name was Melissa Boarts; she was a 36 year old woman from Montgomery. They were chasing her because they got vague reports over the wire that she might be suicidal. So they chased her car for miles, followed her out into Macon County. Then when she stopped they got out and confonted her, and then they killed her.
Auburn police disclosed today that two cops shot at her; they claim that she had a gun and she charged the officers in a threatening manner when the cops came out to confront her.