Black Man Killed By Pittsburgh Police For “Owning A Home While Black” » VSB

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Black Man Killed By Pittsburgh Police For “Owning A Home While Black”



I initially planned on writing something Monday about the death of Christopher Thompkins — a Pittsburgh man who was shot and killed by the police Sunday after a burglar entered his home — but hesitated because I wanted to get more facts about the case first.

This hesitation was undoubtedly due to two factors:

1. A statement from Thompkins’ ex-wife, Brenda Richmond, who was in the house with him and said she blames the burglar, not the police, for Thompkins’ death.

2. Information about Thompkins’ criminal history from both the Post-Gazette piece linked above and stories such as this one published by KDKA,

I am ashamed to admit that the information about Thompkins’ history served the intended purpose of including it. Although it has absolutely no relevance in this context, I allowed it to color my perception of him and the circumstances that led to his death. This is an editorial ploy that I’m acutely aware of — I’ve both written and spoken about it extensively — and I still fell for it. And I’m writing about this today (finally) because it needs to be written about and because I don’t want any of you to succumb to that trap.

Plus, the need to “get more facts” was a misguided one, because there are already enough facts here. It’s a fact that Christopher Thompkins was shot and killed in his own home by the police. It’s a fact that the police were there because of a silent alarm that went off when the burglar entered his home. It’s a fact that the conviction KDKA reported on was eventually vacated due to appeal; something KDKA neglected to include in their report.

Knowing Pittsburgh, and knowing the neighborhood this occurred in (the predominately Black and working class Larimer), despite Police Chief Scott Schubert’s claim that this happened due to a “horrible chain of events”, I have no doubt that Christopher Thompkins would still be alive if this happened two miles away in predominately White and middle class Squirrel Hill. Or perhaps even two minutes away in the Bakery Square condominiums and lofts. I strongly doubt that the officers would have been as quick to pull their triggers in those neighborhoods. And, if they still decided to fire, I have no doubt they would have waited a split second longer to make certain they were aiming at the right guy.

America has always been and will continue to be a uniquely dangerous place for Black people. This is a fact. And it will continue to spin and transmute this danger by suggesting, implying, and just outright saying in myriad ways that Blacks are uniquely dangerous people. This is also a fact. There are already enough facts here.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • IAmMikeBrown

    Let us pray.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    WE know the mentality is if they Black, regardless if it’s the robber has a gun or the homeowner has a gun, they shoot first and ask questions later. We also know the fallback position is going to be a person with a criminal record should not have a gun. The lengths folks will go to avoid admitting they are wrong is sickening. It’s like folks are channeling their inner Donald Trump.

  • Val

    Honestly, the first thing I thought was why would any Black person have an alarm system that would summon the police? I mean, that’s asking for trouble. It’s dangerous enough calling the police but them showing up when you aren’t expecting them is even more dangerous, as proven by this incident.

    And, it’s truly stunning how much time they spent talking about his ‘criminal past’. White Supremacy never takes a break.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      “why would any Black person have an alarm system that would summon the police?”

      Why can’t we be normal and do normal ish? At a minimum, I pay for protection so if / when I need to use it I should be able to. Second, I don’t want any residual lawsuits from the family on the amount of force I use to protect my home.

      • Val

        I hear you but there’s the way things should be and then there is the way things are.

        • Janelle Doe

          sadly, Val. Sadly. And yet our taxes pay for their service

        • Sigma_Since 93

          The other thing that bothers me is the cops knew they were going into a Black neighborhood. There was a high probability the robber was black too. That alone should have caused them to take a second or two.

          • Negro Libre

            Like we’ve seen several times, most of these shootings are due to police officers recklessness and carelessness that is protected by a free get out of jail card.

          • Val

            There is no pressure for them to do that extra due diligence. They ‘accidentally’ shoot one of us and they get a paid vacation and then go back to work.

            • Mary Burrell

              And they get a Go Fund Me.

      • I wonder if he would have shot a cop that didn’t announce himself what the fallout be?

        • Val

          You already know the answer to that, Cog.

        • Do you really have to wonder?

      • Epsilonicus

        Plus I need my house protected when I am not there. We do quite a few long weekend trips

        • Val

          Well, that’s understandable and a lot different from this situation.

    • “Honestly, the first thing I thought was why would any Black person have an alarm system that would summon the police?”

      I told Moneypenny that if you ever have to call 911 for her to give an accurate physical description to that it will be recorded and cops will know who is who in the situation.

      • Val

        Yeah but to them Black is Black. I’m not sure they would differentiate until after the fact.

        • I’m aware of that but I need to do what I have to keep the better 2/3 protected. It’s part of the f**ked dice roll that is blackness.

        • Mochasister

          We all look alike.

      • I’ve thought about this possibility and my conclusion was hey, at least will have I managed to keep the wife and kiddos paid in full for a while. How sad is that I would take a dirt nap for financial stability for my family? It is what is, I guess.

        • Me

          It’s not sad. It’s smart. And hopefully the Mrs. and the Jr.’s do right by your legacy by making sure they strengthen that stability in your absence. If you can’t be there to guarantee your family outpaces where you came from, the least you can do is give them a leg up to do it.

    • Wise Old Owl

      Absolutely, White Supremacy is always on. However, sometimes we fall asleep and think that we one big Happy Human Family, while they don’t even think that we are Human…That’s why I stay on task and recognize who the enemy is to Black Lives…

    • Mochasister

      I would only call the police as an absolute last resort. And yes, I peeped how they went into great detail to give hisome criminal past. Absolutely nothing about the burglar. Sigh. Wash, rinse, repeat cycle. If you’re Black, you better be more pure than the Lord Jesus Christ if you’re the victim of a crime. That’s the only way you’ll get any semblance of sympathy. Unless you’re the perfect victim, forget it.

      • Sweet Ga Brown

        Ehhhhh…they’ll still find a way.

        • stacius

          Yup. I don’t have a record. Aside from a few parking tickets, nothing. I still wouldn’t call the cops.

      • Exactly….I’m so tired.

      • HoneyRose

        Even then, they’ll still find a way. Philando Castile worked at a school, had no criminal background, was licensed to carry a weapon and clearly announced it and announced that he was reaching for ID before he did. People STILL blamed him for getting shot.

    • DomiMami

      ***Disables alarm service***

      • Epsilonicus

        You still need it for when someone breaks in and you are not home.

        • DomiMami

          Yes, I didn’t really disable, but I also never thought about having to defend myself from the police given an alarm situation.

          Definitely gave me something to think about. But then again, even if we have thought of all protective avenues there will be inventive new ways for them to kill us for nothing!


          • Make sure you have a firearm… whoever comes in uninvited… send them to their maker. Shoot first.. Ask questions later.

    • Nik White

      Val I had such an alarm as I lived alone and it never occurred to me that I’d be in danger using it until the past few years. Mine wasnt’t silent and one of my friends set it off by accident once. I was embarrassed but pleased that they responded so promptly. Please know that this was years ago but thankfully the officer and dialogued – him from the driveway and me on the porch before a weapon was drawn.

    • Epsilonicus

      Because I need my house covered when I am not home.

  • grownandsexy2

    And some will go to their graves denying that implicit bias exists.

    • Mochasister

      They’re annoying with that. They try to gaslight Blacks into thinking we’re crazy for being afraid of the police and mistrustful of them. Or they blame us for having bad experiences with the police. “If you hadn’t been wearing that hoodie…” “If you would just be more respectful…” “What were you doing out at night anyways?” Some of them have the nerve to be angry that we don’t have the same regard for the police that many whites do.

      • grownandsexy2

        It’s racist to think that we have to live our lives in a different manner. Why should we be held to a different standard? Geraldo Rivera made a connection to Trayvon Martin being murdered and the hoodie he was wearing. Even his son was ashamed of his comments. Why aren’t we allowed to be human? I wear hoodies myself. Got plenty of them. Annoying too, is their feelings about Kaepernick using his power and influence to call attention to the systemic issues which plague people of color, such as police brutality and the execution of unarmed black men and women. Imagine being ostracized for calling attention to the hypocrisy of liberty and justice in the land of the free.

  • Cosmic_

    “When police arrived, they saw a man coming down the stairs firing shots in their direction. Police returned fire, killing Thompkins.”
    I can’t imagine the anxiety of a person, who has just been startled out of their sleep, to see an intruder standing over their bed.
    Then, in a mode of self defense (from just waking up at 4am and seeing an intruder in his bedroom) partake in actions to defend his home and those in it from the threat of an intruder.
    I am not an LEO and am unaware of proper protocol, but aren’t cops suppose to announce their presence when entering a home?

  • BlackSpartacus

    And Trump is about to go full martial law on us in Chicago…

    • Vitianagary

      U better know it… I know we are tired of watching the King of Cheetoh-land on TV but he’s counting on our fatigue… but we MUST stay informed and know what’s going on in Washington DC. He’s signing executive orders every day… and in a minute TEETH Harvey is going to be ushering in construction workers to build a wall Chicago! He’s gotta go in first cuz No more Department of Justice to back us up and protect our rights… we’re about to flashback to the ’60’s!

  • The things that they try to tell us about ourselves are as dangerous as they are. Self hate is killing our youth by their own hands and making us indifferent to the suffering of those just like us. It’s just terrible but we still have to call the Devil a lie, every time we catch him. It’s the only way to fight.

    • Val

      I don’t think it’s self-hate though, Cog. That would make it some sort of Black pathology thing. It’s not. I mean, when Italian mobsters kill each other no one says it’s because of self-hate, right. It’s business.

      Those killings occur because there is no legal economy in those communities anymore. So illegal economies have sprung up. And unfortunately violence is usually anywhere that illegal economies are. Whether it be in Little Italy in New York or a former coal mining town in West Virginia or on the South Side of Chicago.

      Living wage jobs will stop the killing in poor communities. A real economy will stop it.

      • I agree with you to a point. However, we have seen a spate of “new blacks” that actually think that we are somehow inclined to killing each other. It stats with our representation as athletes and entertainers and kids connect the dots before we get to them.

        • Val

          Those New Blacks are just newfangled respectability politics preachers in new packaging.

          • Their kids’ kids have swallowed the blue pill. I knew this when they were caping for Mitt Romney. Now Kanye supporting Trump on stage.

      • Negro Libre

        I agree for the most part.

        There are also more decentralized gangs in those neighborhoods. The reason why the mafia was easy to shut down was because it was so hierarchical.

        • Val

          And also because the Mafia in this country was beginning to have trouble getting new recruits since Italians are no longer discriminated against like they were as recent immigrants.

          I mean, that discrimination was the main reason why the Mafia became a thing here. They couldn’t get jobs so they joined the illegal economy.

          So now they just enter the legal economy.

          • LMNOP

            Interesting, I didn’t know that history.

      • Brooklyn_Bruin

        ” Living wage jobs will stop the killing in poor communities. A real economy will stop it.”

        I dunno know about this.

        • They’re not poor communities if they have living wage jobs. I see your point, though. Drugs and jealousy aren’t going anywhere but it will curb much of the problem. Val is right about the underground economy being dangerous. You are right about there always being a need for one.

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            In my experience, drugs aren’t why people pull guns. It’s not about a salary.

            Anyone else work with at risk teens before? No criminal justice peeps on VSB again?

            Lack of cash/jobs are why you see property crime, why people join the underground economy. They need money. A drug dealer has a weapon to protect himself, not to harm others.

            It’s usually not drug dealer beef between two teenage boys, or two young men.

            (Though it’s often the case that one or both partakes in the black market.)

            Finance is not why they’re so mad at each other that they’re willing to kill.

            Giving either a living wage job is about *idle hands* in my experience. *Any job* solves that issue. Not just s well paid one.

            If dudes ain’t doing nothing, then slights and insults + testosterone + poor impulse control can turn into beef.

            And just like World War I, you got alliances, usually informal, that get Chuck involved in Albert’s and Brandon’s beef over Keisha. Chuck is at the scene when Albert shoots Brandon, and now Darrell gotta hit both Albert and Chuck. And it spirals out of control.

            That’s not a black American issue. Not an economic one, per se. That’s the white boy code of honor in Appalachia, it’s blood feuds in Albania.

            None of the senseless violence is typically about money, jobs, drugs.

            Kids are getting jumped, not robbed. (Now getting robbed Monday often leads to the robbery victim becoming a shooter on some get back..)

            It’s about “respect.” In quotes for emphasis.

            Respect in a * young man’s * mind, a brain that science tells us is not fully formed. Women talk about hot flashes.

            Teenage boys specifically, but teen girls as well, can get easily fired up over anything. Half of what boys do at that age is hardly deliberate, the same way a 40 year old would do it.

            Keeping the violence down through work is not about money – but keeping a young person occupied both physically and mentally. That’s why extra curricular activities are successful in reducing violence, as are neighborhood peacemakers that jump between beefing crews.

            It’s the parents and grandparents that need living wage jobs.

            Mommy ain’t gathering her home girls to go shoot up a rival PTA members block because she got called out on box mix cornbread.

            • Surely, there is a testosterone problem in America. Not arguing that. But when poor kids have nothing but their testosterone to define them, what do you expect. Also, the way we approach guns in America is just plain stupid. That being said, America goes to war in foreign countries for “our interests” which is all money driven so blaming only poor kids for killing over cash is slightly hypocritical.

              • Brooklyn_Bruin

                America is on some other stuff. I care mostly about my hood and what affects it.

                Taking guns out of the equation would make it stabbings, but at least they would live.

                As a community, it’s figuring out ways to engage these folks in something that just keeps the possibility of something popping off at a minimum.

                Ironically, school should do that, but that’s where a lot of the issues and allegiances start.

            • Hugh Akston

              Your comment reminded me of this doc

              Listen to their reasons


            • IAmMikeBrown

              “Keeping the violence down through work is not about money – but keeping a young person occupied both physically and mentally. That’s why extra curricular activities are successful in reducing violence, as are neighborhood peacemakers that jump between beefing crews.”

              Absolutely true. The idle mind truly is the devil’s workshop.

              “Mommy ain’t gathering her home girls to go shoot up a rival PTA members block because she got called out on box mix cornbread.”

              I did witness an altercation at a school cookout over red beans and rice between two young mothers. But they were fine by second period the next day.

              • Brooklyn_Bruin

                This is worth a short film. Viola Davis and Alfre Woodard

            • La Bandita

              So what you’re saying is it about being young, so dont criminalized them because they will grow out of it…kinda

              • Brooklyn_Bruin

                Huge difference between a 25 year old shooting up the club, and a 40 year old remembering those wild days. It’s heartbreaking for speaker and listener.

                Throw in criminal justice system/economic system – and “youthful” indiscretions ruin lives.

                If women were more violent – you’d get the same. Very poor decisions made in the passion of youth. Jobs left, School abandoned, poor relationships, Children too soon…

        • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

          Co-sign the I dunno

          • Brooklyn_Bruin

            Moonlight brilliantly captured non monetary violence.

            Dare I say this out loud, but I’d like to see a film/tv show that gets into the head of the bully.

            It’d be like The Wire from Marlo’s perspective.

            Not to sympathize, or even humanize, but to understand.

            Along those lines, why was Kennard so evil, but Randy, Dukie, and Michael so kind hearted?

      • LMNOP

        I think also guns being so accessible.

  • Negro Libre

    As much as I’d like to blame this on racial bias, I think it kind of misses the point on much of these shootings. The Supreme Court has said that cops can shoot anyone based off whim, gut feeling or in reaction to fear… and it’s up to other cops to say if they would’ve done the same, under similar circumstances. All of those are same reason venomous snakes have to attacking people. Imagine a general saying to his soldiers, hate shoot, bomb and kill whenever you want…how could his army win a war?

    The issue isn’t that cops have racial bias, it’s the fact that they are allowed to use their bias as a defense against bad judgment and acts of extreme idiocy, often at the expense of citizens, most especially black and brown people.

    • Val

      “The issue isn’t that cops have racial bias, it’s the fact that they are allowed to use their bias as a defense against bad judgment and acts of extreme idiocy, often at the expense of citizens, most especially black and brown people.”

      This paragraph says it all, NL.

    • Two sides of the same coin, really. Without bias, the SCOTUS has no reason to legislate it in to legitimacy.

      • mr. steal your costco samples

        yeah, it’s a distinction without a difference as far as I’m concerned.

  • While I don’t think the police tried to kill that man, they were definitely reckless in their behavior. That’s definitely some hood ish. Cops are always much calmer around White people, particularly if there are White women around.

    • Negro Libre

      True, but they are allowed to be reckless in the name of defending the public against “probable” criminals.

      Yet, even the military and others have to exercise their arms rationally, and unlike American police, they pretty much have free range to shoot their enemies since they don’t fall under the American constitution protections.

    • grownandsexy2

      “Cops are always much calmer around White people, particularly if there are White women around.”

      Exhibit A: Women’s March on Washington.

      • Me

        One among many reasons I didn’t entertain the thought of going.

        • grownandsexy2

          I had considered going right up until the last minute, looked at the cost of staying the weekend and changed my mind. Then my granddaughter and a girlfriend were going to make the trip together but the friend’s mom said she’d feel better if an adult accompanied them. (Both girls are 18 and legally adults) but I suppose she wanted someone older so they didn’t attend. I gave them the “list” of do’s and don’ts for POC before they changed their minds, but couldn’t help but reflect how we always have to have a contingency plan in place.

    • AProst

      I’m pretty sure when the police point their guns and fire, they’re trying to kill the target. Of course, you’re totally right in saying cops are slower to pull trigger on whites.

      • grownandsexy2

        I think that’s true when the target comes with a black or brown body. Doesn’t seem to work that way when the target is melanin-deficient.

        • AProst

          Sadly that’s true.

      • He looked too crazy to be shot. I know I’d be too busy going WTF to get a good shot at him initially.

        • He had already offed a whole grip of patrons, and exited the side door with his rifle if I’m not mistaken.

      • HoneyRose

        There was also this crazy white lady who was shooting people in Atlanta around the same time. She got taken into custody alive and unharmed.

        • We get shot.
          “They” get detained for further study.

  • Ras

    When I moved to the Suburbs(kill me) for a couple of years I owned a house with an alarm and infra red lasers on the windows. One night the silent alarm was tripped and I was awakened by police pointing guns and asking me whose house is this and asking for ID while I was in my boxer shorts. It was really scary. Luckily, I survived and lived to tell this story. I immediately disabled the infra red lasers as the cat was the culprit.

    • So killer p****, then? Sorry, I had to. I’m glad you here but is there a way to tell police to not enter your home unannounced? That’s a good way to accidentally kill a police officer.

      • Ras

        It was my first month in the new house. A Brooklyn dude by way of St Croix didn’t know the ins and outs of home security. After the incident I called the company and set up a call system as the first alert. But I am extremely happy that they figured out a burglar probably would be in his shorts with sleep in his eyes. also the real killer p**** was putting her clothes on hoping they didn’t make it up the stairs.

    • My wife and I always set the alarm to active and to have the dispatcher call us just to avoid this.

      • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

        I set mine the same. Although, I have a small remote control on my key chain and on one occasion hit the panic button by mistake. Before I could count to 10 the po po was outside. I didn’t know I’d even triggered. The alarm company had to tell me AAAND said for the panic button, no calls ahead of sending the cops. They will automatically dispatch. Needless to say I don’t use the remote anymore. No batteries.

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