Police Shootings:
Smoke & Mirrors?

On November 22, 2016, 34-year-old Frank Nathaniel Clark aka “Scooter Bug” was shot by police in MacDougal Terrace in Durham.  The Police have issued a statement saying that Scooter was reaching for a pistol when they opened fire.  This narrative is in dispute.

special to the Clarion Content

by: Solomon Burnette

photo courtesy of OpenDurham.org

MacDougal Terrace in Durham photo courtesy of OpenDurham.org

Reketa Bagley, the mother of Clark’s daughter, stated that the fatal altercation occurred in front of her apartment.  She’s gone on record to say that Scooter was running away when officers opened fire, hitting him in the head and back. Reketa also went on record to say that Scooter had an exceptionally tense relationship with one of his killers who had arrested him years before on drug charges.  “…He was harassing him before he killed him,” she said. The family has called for an independent autopsy out of fear of forensic doctoring.

All parties involved in this unfortunate occurrence were African-American.  Popular racialized commentaries regarding white cops and black kids don’t have the same place in this situation.  This tragedy, so close to home, in concert with Reketa’s narrative, brings to light some crucial points.  It further raises some critical questions not only for Durham, but for the state and the nation.

What if some police shootings are targeted killings?  What if some police shootings are targeted killings hiding behind race talk, Internal Affairs cosigns, fraternal silences, inept lawyers, and the gimmicks of professional protest commentators? If a private citizen shoots another private citizen, the first question asked by investigators is, “What is the preexisting relationship between victim and the shooter? What’s the motive?”  This question goes largely unraised by lawyers representing the families of victims, and/or in national discussions led by professional protesters against police violence (Black Lives Matter).  This question should have been asked when Amadou Diallo was (over) killed by NY police, who were later acquitted, for firing 41 times, leaving bullet holes even in the bottom of his feet.

Reketa’s chronicle of Scooter’s history with police makes the pertinence of such questions obvious.  Do we ever ask if officers have personal vendettas against victims in police shootings? Or do we more often have a knee jerk activist response that instantly racializes most perspectives?  Instead, why don’t we ask, in the wake of police shootings, if any of the victims have been confidential informants?  If there may be more, or less, to some police shootings than systemic repression of African-Americans and Latinos via state violence?

This is not a commentary on whether Scooter was this or that. GOD rest his soul.  Scooter and Reketa’s narrative is being used to raise critical consciousness on issues of local and national import.  This writing is not an accusation against the Durham Police Department.  These questions should be asked ANY TIME someone is victimized by police violence, be they white, black, brown, Arab, rich or poor, green or purple.  Discussions of this sort should be had in any locality scarred by police shootings.

Police shootings’ designations as justified or criminal are largely decided by an occult Internal Affairs review that citizens are disallowed access to.  Police Department Citizen Review Boards are great for PR.  Usually Citizen Review Boards are defanged paper tigers with minimal power to impact investigation and or prosecution.  Citizens are missing ways to make internal affairs’ investigations more robust, transparent, and open to the public.  Also needed are assurances that Officers of the Court are doing their due diligence in police violence investigations and (potential) prosecutions.  Activist lawyers and advocate judges should be at the vanguard of this discussion. The media is a critical player to call all parties to account.


Discussions of this sort call forth different sets of queries.  They can lead to investigations being taken out of the hands of suspect local law enforcement and placed into the hands of federal investigators.  That is not to say that federal investigation in police violence situations would produce different results than local Internal Affairs investigations. The added scrutiny would likely be greatly appreciated by all concerned citizens, though.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness and scream, “Fuck the Police!” which seems to be only getting folks so far.  Communities need be more organized, more educated, more empowered, and more intelligently advocated for.  GOD bless all the families of those victimized and may their deaths not be in vain.  Amen.


Solomon Burnette

Solomon Burnette

The Clarion Content has been following Solomon Burnette since his 2011 City Council campaign. A Durham native son made good, he is a graduate of North Carolina Central University with BA in European History.

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