What Happened To Tawon Boyd? His Death Shouldn't Go Unnoticed
A 21-year-old black man died late last week after a confrontation with police. The man, according to court records, was reportedly held down by five officers and punched in the face repeatedly, as stated in the police reports of the incident. “One police officer got his arm around his neck like this, punching him, punching him and throughout the whole thing he’s like ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,’” the victim's fiancee Deona Styron told CBS Baltimore. You probably didn't hear about Tawon Boyd, but you should have.
According to both police and a lawyer for the Boyd family, Boyd himself called 911 for help. The police report stated that he appeared "confused and paranoid" and was telling officers there was an intruder in the house, when there was not. He then reportedly began going to a neighbor's house calling for help and trying to enter police cars on the scene. According to the police report, this began the confrontation as Boyd allegedly wouldn't comply with commands to lay down and reportedly began fighting with officers. The police report read:
Officers were able to get him under control by using our body weight to keep him on the ground. Officer Bowman controlled Suspect Boyd’s head and arms by holding him down with his arms while [the report author] held Suspect Boyd down by leaning on his buttocks/thigh area with my knees and using my arms.
Medics said Boyd had a pulse before he was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, The Guardian reported. After several days in intensive care, he was pronounced dead. An autopsy has yet to be completed.
Now, reports on the deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott have saturated the news cycles in past week, but cases like Boyd's and Terrence Sterling's, a 31-year-old black man who was shot and killed by police in Washington D.C. on Sept. 11, were sometimes overlooked. As many police-involved deaths as you hear about, there are dozens more with similar circumstances that don't get the same attention, effectively limiting the public's scope of police-involved deaths in the United States. If you only hear about a fraction of these cases, it's nearly impossible to conceptualize just how dangerous it can be to be a black man in America.
Most people can't devote much time to investigating police violence and its disproportionate effect on minorities, and they expect to find full and fair reporting on these pressing social issues. But ultimately, that's never going to be enough, because the problem is just too extensive. Cases like Scott's and Crutcher's catch on, ostensibly as individual models for the larger problem of police-involved shootings, but that also carries the risk of decreasing awareness of the problem as a whole and reducing it to just those individual cases. Focusing on individual cases and letting others slip away without the same national focus does everyone a disservice, because it makes the problem appear smaller than it is.
Boyd is a person who died after an encounter with the police and didn't get the proper recognition or scrutiny of his case that he deserved. It's up to you to seek out these cases and shed light on them in your own social circles. Sometimes it might feel like the public-news media relationship is only a one-way street, with the major outlets informing the public, but you can work toward shaping the news. The Washington Post keeps a user-friendly database of all the people shot by police, and you can use social media to both inform your connections and demand transparency, investigation, and justice. It will take work on everyone's part to reduce the frequency of police-involved shootings and deaths, but it's a cause worth working for.
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