Jayson Negron did not stop when police pulled up behind him.
It was about 5 PM on Tuesday night when the teenager allegedly decided to turn a stolen car the wrong way on a one-way street, rather than obeying police commands. According to cops in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the teen hit several vehicles, stopped, and then eventually reversed into an officer, forcing him to the ground.
Now Negron is dead––at least the second American teen in as many weeks to be fatally shot by cops in a car. (His 21-year-old passenger, local Julian Fyffe, was also injured.)
In some ways, this story is a familiar one. First, there's the disturbingly common narrative of a cop shooting a young man of color and ensuing protests. But there's a second way of thinking about what happened: Both Negron and Jordan Edwards––the 15-year-old who was shot while leaving a Texas house party on April 29––were killed because, officers claimed, they were threatened by the possibility of vehicles being used weapons. The fact that the officer who shot Edwards in Dallas has now been charged with murder points to the ongoing debate over how cops should handle situations in which they're pursuing someone on the move.
Part of why this is still such a murky area of policing has to do with how widely the rules on it vary from department to department. There's also the fact that what's in a local PD's rule book is sometimes different from what's against local law. Former NYPD sergeant Joseph Giacalone told me that shooting at a car is not necessarily illegal in New York, but it's still banned by his old employer in a place with so many pedestrians.
"The reason NYC is so strict with this is that we have 9 million people," said Giacalone. "If you shoot at the car and hit the driver, the car can crash into a street corner with dozens of people. The same goes for shooting out tires––it's not allowable. Here's an opportunity for the Department of Justice to draft nationwide guidelines on what police departments should recommend in these situations. Some departments are way behind the times based on the current environment."
Of course, it's not very likely that a DOJ headed up by Jeff Sessions will make reining in police violence much of a priority. So far in his tenure, he's already alluded to pulling back from civil rights incases involving local police, which means the only people putting pressure on local prosecutors (and the cops they work with) may often be protestors in the street.
For what it's worth, the website Blue Lives Matter has already disputed how the shooting is being portrayed by activists and the media. The site calls call the director of the Connecticut ALCU "an asshole" in a piece about the Bridgeport shooting, though they do assert correctly hat we don't fully know what happened yet.
Edris Lomax, the mother of the passenger who survived, told a local NBC affiliate the two men were trying to surrender when the shot was fired.
"The door just wouldn't open. He was trying. Then they're still yelling, 'Get out the car, put your hands up,' and he was like, 'What do you want me to do, put my hands up or get out of the car?" she said.
As was the case after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, some community members expressed outrage that the teenager's corpse was left open, prompting a swift response from local elected officials.
"It bothers me, as I know it bothers people here…. to have a body of a deceased young person, someone's child, remain out and open for six hours or seven hours I've heard," said Mayor Joe Ganim. "It's unacceptable from a community perspective."
A state's attorney is working with state police to probe the incident, which comes after another local teenager was shot—albeit not fatally—in March.
Meanwhile, about 300 people gathered to pay tribute to Negron on Wednesday night. They lit candles, shed tears, and released balloons, with some growing vocally angry at city officials for not yet releasing the name of the rookie cop who pulled the trigger.
"We're all struggling," Ganim said at the rally. "It's a tragedy. All emotions are welcome tonight."
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