On July 8, 2015 between 10:30pm and 11:00pm, Stonewall, Mississippi resident Jonathan Sanders was pulled from his horse and strangled with a flashlight by police officer Kevin Harrington. Police Chief Michael Street denies that he was strangled by a flashlight despite the contrary evidence of Jonathan’s family, including his girlfriend and mother of his child Charita Kennedy.
Jonathan Sanders was a farmer who rode and exercised horses, and he was riding a horse at the front of a buggy when this happened. He had his lights on and wasn’t disobeying any laws. There was no reason for a police officer to stop or harass him, much less drag him off his horse. There was certainly no reason to strangle/murder him.
News sources are already trying to discredit Jonathan and somehow paint the picture that he deserved to be murdered by a law enforcement agent. The Clarion-Ledger, a local paper, used Jonathan’s prison picture to head their article and stressed that he “had crossed paths with authorities before” on drug charges. So, to quote the horrendous New York Times article about Michael Brown, he was “no angel,” but that shouldn’t matter. You should not have to be perfect to avoid being harassed and murdered by a law enforcement agent. Your life should not be less worthwhile because you have prior convictions.
If Jonathan Sanders was disobeying a law and if he was unruly, he should have been dealt with in a reasonable manner. He should have been told to get off the road or lawn, to turn on his lights, to show his identification, and at the worst, stunned and arrested. And if Kevin Harrington somehow felt he was being threatened, he should have gotten the hell out of there. Stonewall is a small community of maybe 1200 people – it would not be hard to find out who Jonathan Sanders was and to arrest him at a safer time – especially since he had prior convictions.
I am tired of reading about black people being harassed, discriminated against, beaten, shot, and killed. I am tired of the excuse that the cop had no choice but to do what he did. I am tired of the excuse that he or she had to act quickly and decisively because the situation was dangerous for them. I am tired of people thinking that the only way to de-escalate or disarm a situation is with a dead black body on the ground. And I am tired of people thinking the black body deserved it. We need to understand that no matter how un-angelic the black person may have been and how stressed out the cop may have been, that is no excuse for murder. We also need to understand that our willingness to let cops and other authority figures do what they want with impunity is harmful and needs to stop. Everyone deserves a chance to explain themselves. Everyone deserves to walk away from a bad situation. And everyone deserves justice. And until we understand that, black bodies will continue to pile up.
Rest in peace, Jonathan Sanders.