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.

  • miss t-lee

    This is terrible.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Were the cops in danger?
    Were third parties in danger?
    Was any attempt made to handle the situation peacefully?

    Burglary is not a shoot on sight type of offense.

    “There’s an active shooter” = guns drawn

    “There’s been a shooting at this address, not sure where perp is” = life threatening situation

    “Somebody might be in the house” = stop and identify yourself, maybe a tackle, possibly a taser

    • Nortey


  • This is sad. The burglar was only charged with criminal trespassing? The police should identify themselves at.all.times. Why is this so difficult to understand?

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      I haven’t read the Pittburgh patrolman’s rule book, but I’m willing to be that they are required to identify themselves and broke protocol.

  • Rewind4ThatBehind

    So as usual…you got to die while being Black, die while being in the comfort of home while Black, and die due to mistaken identity while Black because Twitter finger cops got trigger finger nerves.


  • Freebird

    Only one thing to say for me: Yall be safe here.

  • mr. steal your costco samples

    man, I just sold an apartment building in Larrimer last year. to Damon’s point …

    had to reject two offers outright when buyers (on two separate occasions) told my (whyt) agent that they were concerned about the neighborhood holding value — in each case immediately following a Black family CROSSING THE STREET.

    it made my heart warm not to do business with those two clucks.

    • Mochasister

      They would have been calling the police on their Black neighbors for the slightest little nuisance.

  • Angry Vegan Hipster

    You see, there’s only one other individual I trust less than a burglar, that’s a cop. So to avoid this situation, I’ve armed myself with a big firearm. Here’s my fantastic scenario: burglar breaks in, I assume it’s to cause my family and I harm, so I then warn and fire at the burglar(giving them opportunity to flee), if the burglar still advances, I then then shoot 2x, the first round is to let them know I’m serious, I then call law enforcement and let them know someone broke in and I shot them. I take the firearm and sit it down away from my body while waiting for law enforcement to show up. I then lay down on the ground outside until the cops get there. Unfortunately, through this whole elaborate scenario,I realize that I can still be shot as lay prone on the ground with my arms out to my sides. Do they sell a “White Man” costume anywhere that I can purchase to ensure my safety and well-being?

    • Val

      That’s the way I’d do it except I would call the fire department after and report a fire at my home. The police would come with them but they wouldn’t be in shot somebody mode.

      Then I’d explain why I called the fire department. Likely they’d charge me with falsely reporting a fire but I and my SO would still be alive.

      • Angry Vegan Hipster

        LOL-That’s perfect.

        Crazy that we have to be creative to find ways to stay alive SMDH.

      • LMNOP

        The fire department is a great idea.

      • La Bandita

        Val, genius!! Hopefully, they dont catch on, because Im soooooo going to do this. xenay on the firenay shssss…

      • Mochasister

        Good idea about calling the fire department! I’m going to file that suggestion away in my mental file cabinet.

  • Ausar Mars

    Fact of the matter is the powers that be were pissed off after 8 years of Obama even though they put him there( I hope black ppl don’t still think WE actually elected him) to alleviate the shitstorm of political unrest created by Bush/Cheyney and the crew after they went into Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses to steal the oil and other natural resources of the native people while giving them toilet paper, also known as Dollars,(which is typical for the American empire which they learned from the British empire)….

    They thought Obama would be a good puppet and keep stealing from countries where people predominantly have MELANIN-see color- but he didnt and they couldnt risk another 8 years of uncertainty when it comes to their MONEY with Hillary at the Helm so they gave us Darth Cheeto who is sure to do their evil bidding with a smile on his face. I’m investing heavily into herbal remedies for the next 4 years :) lol…..

  • Hugh Akston

    Sad to admit but that’s the only reason I don’t have an alarm system at my house

    May he Rest In Peace and hope his family pulls through because we know that murderer will continue his life like normal

    • I feel you, but I keep that X1 paid up.
      I have it connected to my cell, my brother, and my moms cell. I hear one effin peep, I can pull up all 4 corners of the crib on screen.

      • PDL – Cape Girl Shero


      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        I just pull the cover over my head and hope for the best.

        • Lol…daheII state YOU from?!

          • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

            It’s gotten me to 50 years safely. If it ain’t broke . . .

        • grownandsexy2

          You just made me lol.

        • Mochasister

          Sounds like a plan! Lol!

    • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

      With or without it, there’s always the risk. I’ll take the risk and protect myself and what I work for. I don’t want a cop rolling up all trigger happy but I don’t want to wake up to someone standing over me from an invasion either.

      My home has been burglarized. No way I’ll be without an alarm. A couple weeks ago my neighbor caught a dude looking around my home. She just happened to be pulling in for lunch. Said he pretended to be walking his dog and walked straight up my driveway to the back. She walked up on him in the backyard and told him to get. My new neighbor came over, introduced himself and informed me he’s got cameras that will pick up activity on the backside of our homes. Can’t leave yourself wide open because of race matters. Gotta protect yourself too.

      Same dude went the next street over a week later with the same “walking the dog” scheme, this time with a chick. Didn’t know the home owner was home.

      Killing is indeed tragic but what do you do to protect yourself and what you work so hard for when folks are scoping which homes they can break into while you’re at work? And truly if you enter my home unauthorized be it cop or thief, my guess is that you intend to harm.

      • Hugh Akston

        When someone can call the cop and tell them that you’re trying to rob your own house and a cop pulls a gun on you then it’s hard to really justify an alarm

        I have my own mean to defend myself etc but an alarm is not one right now …

        But I do see where you’re coming from Thoth we want to take all the precautions we can take to prevent harm to ourselves and love ones…and that can provide a sense of security and be helpful in different situations

        “And truly if you enter my home unauthorized be it cop or thief, my guess is that you intend to harm.”

        Very true indeed

        • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

          I want a powpow

          • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

            If you are in any state other than a few NE ones, you need to go through the hassle of properly securing and training yourself to use one.

            • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

              No guns for me. Sometime I want one cause #criminalsirkme but no guns here

              • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                Hey, it’s not for everyone. Most importantly its the mentality and knowledge of organization and self-defense that accompanies (or should accompany) getting a firearm for black folk. If you are already in that form of community building with your neighbors, then fine. But cops and criminal can’t be the only one riding around in our communities with weapons. Angel’s carry swords for a reason.

                • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

                  Amen brother….to your last statement.

              • Mochasister

                I am a person who is easily scared. Sometimes my mother announces herself when she’s coming into a room because “she didn’t want to scare me.” It’s probably not a good idea for me to have a gun in my hands.

                • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

                  Me on the other hand is quick tempered. Don’t get me wrong I’m not crazy but I don’t need a gun. LOL

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        I personally am of the mindstate that we need to police our own neighborhood. I have nothing against the alarm system, but people won’t even maintain firearms and training in their communities, yet are troubled that they have no other alternative but to call in police who, either through fear or malice, are two steps away from gunning them down.

        • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

          I have a pretty decent set of neighbors. Been in my home 14 years now and someone is always watching. We do it for one another. That’s not a gun but a bunch of set of eyes are plenty powerful. We call each other and the cops lickety split if we see anything amiss. My neighbors don’t wait. They’re in your front yard at the first sign of anything. And that’s beyond crime. They watch for your kids, the neighborhood teenagers, honey they can tell if the mail is late. LOL

          Plus, I have Angels watching over me.

      • cedriclathan

        We’ve always had big dogs in the house. Two Rottweilers, a bull mastiff pit mix, a bull mastiff and now a Rott/American bulldog mix. The idea is to make them think twice and try an easier target. So far, it’s worked out for us. Oh yea, we keep a little yapper (rat terrier) to make noise.

        • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

          Exactly. Something in place that will deter or at least make people think twice. The new dude next door came over with his pitbull. Had me nervous.

          • cedriclathan

            Make friends with that pitbull. They are extremely loyal and friendly and will protect their friends. If the new dude is cool, so should his dog be. If the new dude is sketchy, make friends with it anyway. You might adopt it when he goes to jail…

            • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

              Hahaha….new dude is cool. That dog tho I’on know. That beast was pulling him. I was talking to him afar.

              • cedriclathan

                Dog needs a proper neck jerk. Offer to walk new dudes dog with him. Jerk the s%#t out of that neck when he’s pulling, or walk fast and stop suddenly. The dog will get the point. You’ll have that pit walking like a true gentleman in no time and looking at you as his true master and new dude will think you’re the bomb!

                • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

                  LOL I don’t want to walk with the new dude or his dog. Nuh uh. He’s a nice neighbor but DASSIT

                  • cedriclathan

                    I want an invite to the wedding….

                    • PDL – Cape Girl Shero


    • King Beauregard

      What about a system that makes a loud noise if someone breaks in, would that serve your purposes? A burglar probably doesn’t want you to wake up, right?

      KB recommends pepper spray for self-defense: it’s less likely to be interpreted as a gun, it will theoretically stop an attacker cold, and even if you spray an innocent person you (probably) won’t have a death on your conscience. Also, KB pulls a lot of ideas out of his buttular regions so take KB’s ideas with a grain of salt.

      • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

        I’ve heard wasp spay is great because it has greater distance than pepper spray. Not sure how true that is though.

        • Cheech

          Wasp spray has phenomenal distance. It’s a solid stream you could direct for 15 feet pretty easily.

          Haven’t used pepper spray but doesn’t it disperse in a much wider pattern? (Except the stuff cops use?)

        • King Beauregard
        • Wasp spray is good for wasps. But that’s about it. We had an industrial strength at my old gig that burnt who’s to a crisp, but Its almost harmless against people.
          Mess around and get stomped out.
          Get the pepper spray.

          • Kas loves Jamaican Breakfast

            The more you know.

      • Hugh Akston

        lol maybe i’ll think about

        but yeah got pepper spray among other things lol


    This is so sad.

    If police were held accountable and punished for killing innocent civilians who pose no threat to anyone, they would be a lot more careful not to kill Black people. Everyone knows this.

    It’s infuriating that our society won’t even consider routinely punishing murders committed by government employees on the job.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      Honestly. And then when we talk about the community holding cops accountable either by making them unable to continue policing the neighborhood or making their personal lives he** thereafter, we are in the wrong. This won’t stop unless we make it stop.

      • Yep.. I’m not saying go around killing cops but I am saying to protect yourself from that same threat cops seem to always find.

    • grownandsexy2

      From the slave patrols to the present day, the police are doing the job they signed on for. Control the black population.

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