With a Palm Beach County Sheriff deputy’s rifle pointed straight at him, my boyfriend’s first instinct was to reach for the cellular phone in his pocket to call his employer and “clear everything up.”
My biggest nightmare is losing someone that I love. And Sunday that could have happened.
Keith Mcintosh is the lone, weekend employee of a rural, isolated gas station in Delray, far from the glitz and glamour of urban West Palm Beach.
At the owner’s request, a sheriff’s deputy is supposed to patrol the area to deter criminal activity.
I am always afraid he will be robbed and possibly hurt at work; the ironic thing is who I should have been afraid of wasn’t a masked thief coming to clear out the register and leave no witnesses.
It was the very people sworn to serve and protect him.
Keith called me Sunday shaken by events that occurred earlier that afternoon, and recounted a disturbing story.
As he was locking up the store for the day, a customer came by, saw him counting the money in the register and called the police to report a robbery.
A few minutes later Keith walked out to tell two customers at the gas pumps that the store was closed for the evening, as he pulled open the door to speak, he heard, “Get on the ground!”
He looked to his left and 15 feet away was a deputy pointing a high-powered rifle at him with his finger on the trigger.
As he went through the motions leading up to an arrest-laying face down, patted down then handcuffed, all that kept running through his head was, “They could shoot me right now, no one would know what really happened.”
How scary is that?
My boyfriend is pursuing an interdisciplinary degree at Florida Atlantic University.
He is the older brother who takes on the responsibilities of his household to help out his single mother.
He does not curse and always addresses his elders with “yes, ma’am and no sirs.”
But he was seated handcuffed in the back of a squad car scared, claustrophobic and on the verge of an asthma attack.
As he repeated that it was all a misunderstanding, the officer in the front seat of the car told him that they were so tense because of the four officers killed in two separate incidents in Oakland, Calif., the day before.
That is understandable I guess, but you know what’s a bit more scary?
The thought of unarmed Oscar Grant shot by a transit officer in the San Francisco subway station, or unarmed Amadou Diallo shot 41 times while reaching for his wallet, or once again, unarmed Sean Bell shot 50 times on the eve of his wedding.
Our three-year anniversary is in two weeks and I keep thinking how with one nasty twist of fate, I would not have had my partner to celebrate with.
I could have been one of those people crying over the unfairness, and just like one of them, I would not have gotten any justice.
As a black person in America, I know things are unfair and I am judged by my appearance, but I am always more fearful for my black men.
Incidents like this just add to my angst.
I will leave that argument at this, if my 6’2 285-pound dreadlocked boyfriend was a 5’7 140-pound white girl, it would have never reached that point.
As far as we have come in this society, incidents like this are a reminder of how much further we have to go.
They did not knock on the store’s door and ask Keith what was going on.
Instead they pulled a gun on an unarmed man.
That terrifies me.
Relations between authorities and minorities have historically been shaky but we are usually the ones at the end of the barrel.
Now police feel like they may be in the cross hairs and they are even more jumpy, a situation that is only going to get worse.
What if Keith had reached for his phone like Diallo reached for his wallet?- searching for something to reinstate normalcy in a surreal moment?
I pray that this is not just the beginning of a rash of similar more serious incidents, because police on the offensive fear a repeat of the Oakland incidents.
Veronica Raymond is a senior broadcast student from Miami. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org