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.