By Alex Segura Lozano
Minneapolis/Los Angeles, Mar 26 (efe-epa).- George Floyd, whose accused killer is set to go on trial next week in Minneapolis, was neither the first nor the last Black man to die at the hands of police in the United States.
“This isn’t the only case: there are thousands of George Floyds. He just brought exposure worldwide,” Tushana Howard told Efe. “My dad was before George Floyd, 2012. So like I said, there are thousands, and it hurts.”
Vachel Howard, a 56-year-old man with a history of schizophrenia, died in June 2012 in the custody of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) after being stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Police said Howard became agitated while handcuffed to a bench at the LAPD’s 77th Street Station Jail and that he moved toward a nurse in the jail’s dispensary moments later.
In his final moments, captured on video, Howard is seen being subdued by several officers, one of whom applied a chokehold as the prisoner lay on the floor.
Because of the similarities between her father’s case and that of Floyd, who died on March 29, 2020, after then-police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, Tushana will be closely following the trial in Minneapolis.
The principal demand from families of African-Americans killed by police is for the officers involved to be held accountable.
The only punishment imposed on the officer who applied the chokehold to Vachel Howard in 2012 was an 11-day suspension without pay, though the City of Los Angeles ultimately paid the victim’s family $2.86 million to settle their lawsuit.
“Eleven days suspension doesn’t bring back my father, or no amount of money. And at the end of the day, I think they need to be held accountable in some other kind of way because I’m a taxpayer, so basically me suing the city for my father’s death, I pay for it because I’m a taxpayer,” Tushana told Efe.
The attorney who represented the Howard family in the civil suit, James DeSimone, said that officers who violate the law need to face “more consistent consequences,” adding that he is “hopeful” a guilty verdict in Chauvin’s trial will mark a sea-change in the way the US judiciary deals with police violence against minorities.
In the same year as Vachel Howard’s death, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by vigilante George Zimmerman during a confrontation in Sanford, Florida, near Orlando.
Zimmerman, who is white, was acquitted at trial.
Nearly three decades after the brutal beating of Black motorist Rodney King by LAPD officers at the end of a high-speed chase was caught on a video by an onlooker, many police retain an antagonist approach to African-Americans, according to Baba Akili, an activist with Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
Black people have been “criminalized” since the founding of the country, he told Efe, recounting the outrage, disgust and rage he felt about George Floyd’s death. EFE asl/dr