There’s a new addition to America’s ever-growing collection of videos that capture people being threatened with violence or legal action for carrying out normal activities in public while also being black. This clip shows a DoorDash driver attempting to make a delivery, when a man pulls a gun on him, saying, “I have a right to be scared because of you.” The gunman was arrested and is being charged with aggravated assault.
The video below from 12News shows footage from two observers — a neighbor in the apartment complex, and the driver’s girlfriend, recording from the car. The driver, Dimitri Mills, says that he’d never seen the gunman, Valentino Tejeda, before, but that the man accused Mills of stalking him. Tejeda told police that he only pulled the gun — which was loaded, with a round in the chamber — because Mills nearly hit him with his car, but none of the witnesses supports that claim.
Tejeda’s assertion, “I have the right to be scared because of you,” reflects a long-running societal discourse — the idea that fear of black men justifies their murder.
A Time feature earlier this month addressed this, summing up the pattern in three opening sentences:
If you closely follow the twists and turns in many of the most recent high-profile shootings of black men, you’ll notice a pattern. First, only the slightest and smallest level of alleged misconduct or “suspicious” behavior is used to justify the killer’s unreasonable fear.
And second, even after the smoke clears, all too many members of the public will understand, forgive and perhaps even share that deadly terror.
It’s a storyline that applies to a long list of victims. There’s Trayvon Martin, who was killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman. It fits 14-year-old Tamir Rice, shot by police officer Timothy Loehmann because he was perceived as a man holding a weapon, when he was a child holding an AirSoft rifle. The same narrative follows in the case of John Crawford III, killed for carrying a BB gun through Walmart — a BB gun he had picked up from a Walmart shelf and intended to buy. There’s the more recent case of Ahmaud Arbery, followed and killed by men who say they thought he was committing robberies.
Dimitri Mills’ experience differs from many similar cases in two very important respects: he came out alive, and the gunman was arrested immediately, rather than facing charges or investigation only after pressure from the public. Cell phone video has been an important factor in pressing law enforcement to act on these incidents, though it’s still no guarantee. “What happened to ‘we?’ What happened to ‘we the people?'” Mills asks.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com