On his first day as a senior at Hoover High School, Keyshawn found himself in a struggle with a Fresno Police officer who put his hands around the student’s neck, slammed him to the ground, and then employed a controversial chokehold — similar to that which killed Eric Garner — while his friend Johnny recorded the incident. His ‘crime’ was jaywalking.
Although video uploaded to Facebook shows no evidence of weapons, much less violence or significant resistance against the cop who choked Keyshawn or other officers arriving on scene, both were arrested.
What precipitated this scuffle and the arrests of two juveniles? Jaywalking and filming the police — two nonviolent, victimless acts. The latter such a minor infraction that it remains enforceable at all seriously stretches the limits of logic; and the former, a constitutional right, if not — amid this epidemic of police violence and brutality — an imperative civilian duty.
According to the description posted with footage to Facebook, the two students attempted to cross the street, but Keyshawn (who goes by ‘KC’) jay-walked, “so this cop from Fresno PD started disrespecting him and grabbed him” — just for crossing the street outside the State’s designated pedestrian pathway.
In the video, the as-yet unidentified officer alternately places his hands and KC’s backpack around the student’s neck because he refuses to sit down, given a physical response to jaywalking is highly disproportionate. KC and Johnny repeatedly tell the cop to let him go.
This lopsided tussle continues for a minute and a half — during which KC’s only physical responses are to place his hands between the backpack strap and his neck to avoid being choked and similar defensive moves disproportional to the officer’s force.
“Get on the ground!” the officer yells several times, completely ignoring their requests.
“You’re under arrest,” the cop declares.
Apparently considering the question for a moment, the officer responds, “Right now, for battery on an officer.”
Battery on an officer is largely a catchall term, akin to ‘I feared for my life,’ used to effect an arrest when no other reason exists to do so — as in this case, where KC’s only physical contact with the cop is to defend himself from being choked, even then, only in reflexively grasping the officer’s wrist, not violently, and decisively not in any way that could be considered battery.
“I didn’t do nothing wrong!” KC yells in perplexed response. “I didn’t do nothing wrong!”
Shortly after declaring this farcical cause for arrest, the officer brings KC to the ground, where he immediately performs the controversial chokehold that, as noted by Fresno People’s Media, “[m]ost departments have banned their officers from using … due to the likelihood of permanent injury or death.”
“I can’t breathe!” KC says.
Clearly drunk with the arrogance of power and control, the officer doesn’t release KC or even loosen his potentially deadly grip on the student’s neck.
“He’s not resisting!” Johnny screams, gravely concerned for his friend’s safety. “He can’t breathe!”
A motorcycle cop then appears on the scene, nearly running Johnny over.
“Back up,” the first officer bellows at the student videographer, as the second approaches to put KC in handcuffs.
“He’s a high school student and you’re fucking with him,” Johnny reiterates the absurdity of police response in this situation.
After the second cop successfully cuffs KC, the first officer immediately approaches Johnny and the video lurches and then stops.
Again, to reiterate, this incident only occurred because Keyshawn tried to cross the street outside the state-sanctioned pedestrian crosswalk — neither he nor the student filming produced weapons — nor did Keyshawn resist the officer beyond the minimum necessary to protect his safety, and not with violence at any point.
Further, to head off any ‘if you can speak you can breathe’ naysayers, that argument is patently false — in fact, science and biology proves precisely the opposite to be true: You can speak even if you cannot breathe, right up until the point the last air in your lungs expires.
Besides lung “capacities” and “volumes,” a person’s physical condition and state of health also play a role. Though the reasons are too detailed for this article to delve into, one decent summary of many can be found here.
While some will predictably side with police in this incident, they should consider extenuating circumstances. Keyshawn did nothing wrong of import — he committed no crime; he did not resist the officer with violence; he did not steal the property of another; he committed no act of violence against any person.
He stepped outside a line.
Similarly, Johnny did nothing wrong — he filmed the incident without interfering, despite serious concern for his friend’s safety; he maintained an appropriate distance from police action while doing so; he committed no act that should have resulted in any contact with police.
He filmed the police.
Such a disproportionately brutal response to an infraction of no consequence illustrates everything wrong with policing in the United States. These students committed no act of harm against anyone or anything. What they did, instead, was bruise the ego of a control-intoxicated cop, whose worship of the letter of the law upstaged logic and thus performed an arrest wholly incommensurate to the infraction.