There are always more victims than one in a police killing

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 1/4/2018, 6 a.m.

But Erica was not daunted by the double standard in treating victim and victimizer. She was energized and became a committed activist working with and supporting civil rights organizations, particularly the National Action Network, that fight against police abuse. She hit the campaign trail with Democratic presidential contender Sanders precisely because Sanders had repeatedly spoken out against the mass incarceration of blacks and minorities and the rash of police slayings of unarmed young blacks. “I believe Bernie is not afraid to go up against the criminal justice system,” Erica said. In a statement on her death, Sanders paid tribute to her dedication to criminal justice reform by noting that it was her father’s murder that spurred her to action.

The often-missed human side to the tragedy of a police killing of an innocent is that the sons and daughters of the victims often have families, too. Erica was a mother with her own family responsibilities and pressures. One of them would have been to explain why her children’s grandfather was not in their life. Many of those who paid tribute to Erica repeatedly noted that though the official cause of her death was complications from heart issues, a big part of that was the pain and suffering that the slaying of her father caused her and the family.

This is the human cost of police killings that go unreported and unpunished. In these cases, there are always more victims than just the one slain. Erica is the latest proof of that.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.