An unarmed 19-year-old Angelo State University student and college football player was reportedly shot and killed in Arlington, Texas, on Friday. Christian Taylor allegedly broke into a GMC dealership around 1 a.m. by driving his vehicle through a glass wall into the lobby, surveillance camera footage reportedly shows. He was approached by officers, and a police trainee named Brad Miller allegedly shot and killed the sophomore student athlete, while another officer allegedly fired his Taser at him. Authorities claim Taylor did not comply with calls to surrender before being fatally shot; Taylor's death is currently being investigated by local authorities and the FBI. The Arlington police department released a statement that they are sad about the loss of life and are committed to a full investigation. Although information is still being released about the incident, what might be the most telling are Christian Taylor's tweets about police brutality, which have gone viral after his death.
Taylor tweeted about his own mortality just over a week before the officer-involved shooting, stating that he didn't want to die young. It was a particularly ominous message, book-ended by completely innocuous retweets, allowing for little context as to why Taylor felt it necessary to share such a statement on social media. The tweet has since been retweeted nearly 16,000 times and favorited nearly 10,000. Late last year, Taylor tweeted about how commonplace police brutality had become, likening such incidents to the simple flip of a coin. Taylor had also retweeted videos featuring the particularly aggressive detainment of minorities from white police officers.
The social media response to Taylor's death has been incredibly far-reaching. Celebrity athletes like Serena Williams and San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid have both taken to Twitter to speak out about the incident. Williams called this latest incident a "gigantic bad nightmare" while Reid repeatedly asked "When is it going to stop?" Prominent activist Deray McKesson and countless others have also been tweeting their tributes to Taylor.
The Arlington Police Department has echoed Taylor's statements as well as those reacting to his death. In a press conference on Sunday, Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, referring to the ongoing investigation into Taylor's death, said:
This incident has not occurred in isolation. It has occurred as our national has been wrestling with the topics of social injustice, inequalities, racism, and police misconduct.
Taylor's father, Adrian Taylor, told CBS Dallas-Fort Worth that though his son appeared to be doing something very wrong, it wasn't enough that he should have had to die. "What he was doing ain't no way right. But to shoot an unarmed man? And you’re trained to take down men with your hands, with Taser, with your club and you shoot to kill?"
The fact that Taylor was legitimately concerned about dying young as an African-American male and felt that police brutality was becoming almost routine is incredibly telling. Taylor's tweets speak to the national frustration of what feels like an uptick in incidents where unarmed people of color are either shot or mistreated by white officers. The circumstances surrounding his own death make the tweets all the more tragic.