With the nation a racial tinderbox in the wake of 18-year-old Michael Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer, a California firefighter threw out what could have been an incendiary spark by accusing a cop of treating him differently because he’s black.
Little did Oakland firefighter Keith Jones know that the officer was wearing a body-cam video recorder when their tense encounter unfolded. And the video didn’t quite match the complaint Jones filed with the Oakland Police Department.
The encounter began last month when Jones and his sons, aged 9 and 12, were leaving a Oakland Raiders football game and walked past an open bay door at a nearby fire station, according to the CBS affiliate, KPIX5.
Watch the story Jones first told the local news and how they portrayed him and his kids as victims:
Apparently, the fire crew had responded to a call and forgot to close the door.
Jones decided to check things out, not knowing that one of the firefighters already realized the mistake and called the police to go secure the building.
When an unarmed police department employee arrived, he saw Jones’ two sons and called for officers to respond.
“Don’t move, put your hands up,” the first responding officer told Jones and his boys as they attempted to leave the dark building.
“And his hand is on his gun,” Jones told KPIX5. “He was crouched, he was low, and he was basically in a shooting stance. I’m pretty much thinking he’s going to shoot me.”
Even when Jones asked the officer to assure the kids that everything was OK and to let them lower their hands, the officer refused, insisting the trio not move for several minutes, Jones said.
The video released by Oakland police does not support that description of events. Instead, it shows that, within the first minute of his arrival, the officer told the dispatcher to slow down other responding units and even tried to comfort the children, telling them, “Sorry about that.”
Jones told KPIX5 that the incident traumatized his kids and changed how they view police officers, suggesting his race influenced the responding officer’s behavior.
“I think they [police] view black males as a threat,” he said.
Watch the video and decide for yourself if the officer acted inappropriately, or whether the incident shows that when you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
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