Reading over the details of the death of James F. Plymell lll in Albany on Oct. 23, I am stuck by the similarities to the George Floyd case. I am so heartbroken by the recent reports of deaths caused by the police around the country that I feel I can no longer ignore matters of this nature.
The first detail that strikes me in each case is that the police were called for a relatively minor incident involving members of a marginalized group. In the case of Floyd (a Black man) it is alleged that he tried to purchase a pack of cigarettes with fraudulent funds. In the case of Plymell (a homeless man) the police were called for assistance because his car was stalled. The police claim that Plymell’s behavior became strange. He became more animated and his speaking patterns became louder and more abrupt. Plymell remained in his car and reached into places where the officer could not see his hands.
In each case the police decided to "apprehend" the men. In each case the police say there was "resistance." Mr. Floyd stated, "You are going to kill me and I can’t breathe." Plymell screamed, "You are killing me," as he was tased twice. Why do the police have the right to apprehend men for such minor matters? Certainly it should be a serious matter to apprehend a human being. Even serial killers are not apprehended until sufficient evidence is acquired.
In each case the person who called the police regretted calling. It appears they felt that the situation escalated to an unnecessary level of violence.
The original coroner concluded in the case of Floyd that the death was due to an underlying health condition. It was concluded that Plymell died because of cardiac complications and not due to any actions of the officers. One thing is for certain: These two men would likely be alive if the police were not called. It defies logic to conclude that police force had nothing to do with these deaths.
The Linn County District Attorney’s Office says that the force used against Plymell was justified. I think the public deserves a better understanding of the matter. The same old excuses: He reached for something — he had drugs in his system — he looked suspicious — he resisted — need to be re-examined. If the police make a mistake, they need to own up to it. It is time for accountability.
Jenny Saarloos is a writer and activist living in Corvallis.
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