Episode 84 - The Police Murder of De’Von Bailey

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.


Earlier this month, in Colorado Springs, police shot and killed a young Black teenager named De’Von Bailey. He was shot in the back three times as he ran away from them — the bullets tore up his spine, his heart, his lungs, his spleen, his diaphragm, and he had a zero percent chance of survival. And if this shooting happened in 2014 or 2015, you’d probably know his name by now, but Trump has sucked the wind out of the entire news cycle.

I’m going to talk about the two relevant Supreme Court cases that police are using to defend acts of violence like this. And I want us to have a very difficult conversation about guns, police, and how we keep ourselves and our kids safe from both of them.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!


On the afternoon of Saturday, August 3 I was in Kansas City, about to speak at a banquet for a brilliant organization that helps women transition back into society after incarceration. And before I spoke, I got a chance to have some BBQ, then visit a place I’ve always wanted to see — the Negro League Baseball Museum. I loved it.

At that exact same time, a young man in Colorado Springs called 911 and said that he had just been robbed at gunpoint. He said he knew the two teenagers who did it, that they walked up on him, knocked him down, pulled a gun on him, and took his wallet. According to his 911 call, after he was robbed, he walked into a random nursing home nearby to call the police. Here’s a short clip from the call.

(911 Audio Clip)

Minutes later, police were dispatched to the location of the robbery. Driving all through the neighborhood, they found two young Black teenagers, De’Von Bailey and his cousin Lawrence, and stopped them. De’Von and Lawrence put their hands up, answered some basic questions from the police, and within seconds, De’Von panics and runs for it.

Now the day after the shooting, and for several straight days, police said something publicly that was damning. They said that when De’Von ran, that he reached for a gun, and that Sgt. Alan Van’t Land and Officer Blake Evenson fired 8 shots, striking De’Von repeatedly in the back.

Let me play you the audio of the police confronting the teenagers, of De’Von running, then of the shooting. I’d rather you hear it — than see it — because it’s awful.

(Audio plays)

That audio is from body camera footage that was released two weeks after the shooting. I’ve studied it and watched it a hundred times. And what I wanna do is break down for you what I see, what I don’t see, and what I think it all means. Let me break it down.

(Break it down music)

I’ve found a dozen different articles where police said De’Von Bailey reached for a gun. I can say with absolute certainty that that never happened. In fact, after the police shot De’Von, you can hear them, over and over again, asking themselves if he had a gun. They didn’t know. But I can say, for sure that De’Von never touched a gun, never reached for a gun, never pulled one out. It never happened. When the police began searching De’Von, who was literally bleeding to death on the concrete, they literally had to cut his pants off, and they found one.

He had a gun. And what we know in this country is that being Black with a gun, in any type of confrontation with police — even if they’ve just pulled you over as police did Philando Castile — if you even have a gun near you and are Black, you are in grave danger when an American police officer confronts you.

Now, as we’ve seen in case after case, when a white supremacist shoots up a church, or a Walmart, and slaughters dozens of people — and is heavily armed, sometimes with assault rifles — somehow, those white men always get taken in alive.

But De’Von Bailey is dead. Police shot to kill him. That’s how they’re trained. A lot of kids listen to this podcast. A lot of parents listen to this podcast. And for a few moments, I have to have a painful conversation about being Black and being confronted by police.

First, let me say that De’Von Bailey should be alive right now. He did not deserve to die. And I have to fight back against this narrative of the perfect Black victim — where we only give sympathy or advocacy to people who check every box when the most horrible white men survive police encounters every day. All of that is true.

But let me tell you something that I learned all the way back in 2003 from a mentor of mine when I worked at a place called The Wholistic Stress Control Institute. One of the brothers I worked there with was a wise sage of a man named Nadim Ali. We traveled to jails and prisons all over Georgia as special teachers — and Nadim taught me about something he called Mind Movies — and I’ve never forgotten it. What Nadim says is that when we find ourselves in the worst possible moments, say being confronted by police — say being confronted by police when we have a gun — Nadim taught me that in those moments, we’re unable to think clearly. Studies have shown, over and over again, that when Black folk — and it doesn’t matter if you are a Fortune 500 CEO or just an everyday person — when Black folk are pulled over by police, blood pressure shoots through the roof, breathing patterns get abnormal, and some even stop breathing properly. Flashes and images of being framed or killed by police flash through our minds, and all of a sudden, it makes it VERY hard to think clearly.

What Nadim taught me, and what he taught thousands of people, is that we should play movies in our mind, where we rehearse what we’ll do in every possible scenario, and rehearse them in our minds, over and over and over again. So that when that scenario happens in real life, you don’t have to think through it so much — you just have to act out what you’ve already rehearsed.

When police pull you over in a car, do not speed off. You will have committed a series of new crimes, you will not get away, and it could very well end in your death or the death of others.

When police confront you and you are out of a car, like they did in this case with De’Von, do not run. I don’t care how fast you are. I don’t care how well you know the community. I don’t care how afraid you are of the consequences of staying, do not run, because let me tell you about mind movies.

The police have played this movie in their mind, not dozens, not even hundreds, but thousands of times. They’ve rehearsed it. They’ve trained for it. And if you run, armed or unarmed, having committed a crime, or not, it is highly likely that these officers will shoot and kill you.

Ever since I met Nadim nearly 20 years ago, I’ve played over so many scenarios in my mind so that if I find myself in an emergency, I can rely on what I’ve rehearsed.

Now this isn’t me saying De’Von Bailey deserved to be shot. Never that.

But I want you to please go back and listen to episodes 12, 13, and 14 of The Breakdown — where I unpack two Supreme Court cases, Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor, that deal directly with police violence. They are three of the most important episodes we’ve ever had.

When Tennessee v. Garner was first decided, it was widely hailed as a victory for civil rights leaders, because it literally says that police are NOT allowed to shoot someone who runs from them, even if they are armed, even if they just committed a crime, even if that crime was a murder. The law says police cannot shoot someone just to apprehend them, but as I break down in episodes 12 through 14, the law then says a word: EXCEPT when the officer fears for their safety or that of the community.

And what we see here is that police academies are teaching police to always be afraid, always assume someone is going to harm you. But in real life, how that works out is that police appear to always fear Black men but just don’t seem to have that corresponding fear with white men.

When we launched The Action PAC, and if you don’t know about our work, you can go now to TheActionPAC.com, we said that we are looking for a case to actually overturn the worst parts of Tennessee v. Garner, and I don’t know, but this is the type of case that might be worth using as a challenge.

De’Von Bailey faced judge, jury, and executioner on August 3. He deserved a day in court, he deserved due process, he deserved a chance to make his case, but the way things are stacked up right now, those things apply to some people a helluva lot more than they do others.


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Produced by Willis Polk II