Not Objectively Reasonable: MLK's Long Arc of the Moral Universe At Work

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Photo by Chelsea Lawrence

On Monday, a white, pudgy, blundering rookie cop in Texas was arrested and charged with the murder of small town hero Jonathan Price for helping out a woman in a domestic dispute while being black. Shaun Lucas, an ill-trained 22-year-old in a Proud Boys haircut and gun store sweatshirt when booked, had been with the  Wolfe City Police less than six months; before that, he worked five months as a jailor at the sheriff's office. Price, 31, was a former high school athlete who worked for the town and as a fitness trainer, and a community mentor "loved by all" who "would help anyone"; he was also a vocal defender of the police who on social media argued he'd never gotten racist "energy" from them and questioned the anger of BLM protests. At a convenience store Saturday night, Price saw a scene of domestic violence and confronted the abuser. When police arrived, he raised his hands and tried to explain what was happening - in cop-ese, “resisted in a non-threatening posture and began walking away.” Lucas tased him; when Price's body convulsed, Lucas “perceived a threat” and shot him. After an investigation found Lucas' actions "not objectionably reasonable," he was arrested just two days after the shooting - a swiftness one expert called "unheard-of," though Price family attorney Lee Merritt said the family and community "worked (hard) to make it happen." Again, there's a hashtag, a GoFundMe page,vigils, protests, and rage at the murder of another black man, not just unarmed but doing a good deed. "SICK. OF. THIS," wrote one, and, "If even black people who think cops are good are being murdered by cops, what does that mean for the rest of us?" The answers: "You can't reform this," "There's no excuses this time," and, whatever you do, "They will still kill yo' ass. And sleep well."

Tragically, Price was "a victim of a system he didn't believe in," writes Reese Waters of our enduring societal racism. "It was Price who was stopping the violence, assisting the victim," he notes. "No matter. Officer Lucas saw him as the threat, and the system went to work." The awful irony: "Price didn't believe in the system, never experienced racist energy from local police. And I'm sure he didn't, until he did" - gunned down even while "doing the right thing." Over 11 years ago, Oscar Grant was likewise doing the right thing. A black 22-year-old in Oakland, CA., he was taking the subway home with his friends on New Year's Day 2009 because his mother had begged him to, arguing it was safer. When BART officers swarmed Fruitvale Station after hearing reports of a fight, Grant obeyed orders to lay face down on the station floor, where he was fatally shot in the back by BART officer Johannes Mehserle - a killling that sparked one of the earliest waves of nationwide protests against racist injustice. Charged with murder, Mehserle was found guilty only of involuntary manslaughter after claiming he mistook his gun for his Taser, and served 11 months. In a bizarre twist, the same day Shaun Lucas was arrested in Texas, in Oakland the county's District Attorney announced she is reopening Oscar Grant's case in response to ongoing pressure from his family and community - a move that came, not just 11 years after Oscar's death but mere hours after the family had demanded new charges at a news conference. Specifically, they seek felony murder charges against a second officer, Anthony Pirone, who first arrived that night and created the “climate of violence” by punching Oscar and pinning him with a knee to his neck. To back up their claim, they presented photos of the scene alongside those of George Floyd's murder - images, because so little has changed, morbidly, uncannily alike.

"Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Oscar's mother Wanda Johnson. “We should not have to wait another 11 years. We were told then that it should happen, and it should happen now.”

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Price's mother Marcella Louis: “He had a good heart. He always tried to help others." Getty Image

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Lucas mugshot

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Jonathan Price. Facebook photo

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BART cops knee Oscar Grant

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