Evans case thick with racism

His life and what happened that night should not be used by the police as some sort of training exercise.

Itís interesting how self-defense never entered into the picture in the trial of Harry Evans. Evans was found guilty of murdering Sgt. Gerald Vick of the St. Paul Police Department. Evans and his friend Antonio Kelly, who were both in the alley that night when officer Vick chased after them, are black. Vick and his partner Joe Strong are white.

Harry Evans and defense attorney David Gill probably figured that self-defense was a tough sell in Minnesota considering the state is 95 percent white and the dead sergeant was a decorated white police officer. Itís tough to prove at this northern latitude that a black man with a criminal record could fear for his safety when being chased by a white man.

Letís reverse it: Letís say black undercover officers had been bar-hopping all night and the more aggressive one had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.20 percent, twice the legal limit. These two black undercover officers start an argument with two white guys outside a bar about urinating in public, but never identify themselves as officers. The more aggressive drunken officer is 6-feet, 4-inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. One of the white guys gestures back and forth that they have guns. The two white guys only see two drunken black guys who have singled them out and are picking a fight. The confrontation at the bar ends, but starts up again down the street when the two white guys who are on foot come upon one of the black undercover officers in his car. The larger, more intoxicated officer shows up in his car and more words are exchanged. No crime has been committed and the two white men turn and walk away into a nearby alley, but then the larger, more aggressive officer takes off after them and runs into the alley stomping his feet and yelling ìget the f–k out of here.” He is then shot by one of the white guys.

If this was the situation, the two white guys would have a very good chance at proving self-defense. The thought of a drunken 6-foot, 4-inch, 250-pound black man with a gun, cop or not, chasing two white guys down an alley at night would strike fear and anger in most whites.

Racism makes it nearly impossible for whites to comprehend that blacks have a right to defend themselves and that blacks also experience fear. That is the gist of the Evans case. In reality, the still-living white officer said, ìWe were trying to clean up the neighborhood, if they would have just gone home Ö” Evans and Kelly didnít know that these undercover cops were trying to clean up the neighborhood. And Evans and Kelly were leaving. Yet Vick chose to chase them.

Ramsey County attorney Susan Gaertner was able to reduce the trial to the simple question of who fired the gun, Evans or Kelly, pitting the two black men against each other. She was able to push aside Vickís behavior that night because of his race and occupation. She called Vickís intoxication, his aggressive behavior, his verbal abuse and his not identifying himself as distractions. After the trial, she said, ìIím glad the jury did not listen to the distractions and focused on who shot the gun.”

The local media called Evans and Kelly ìdrunk” but officer Vick and Strong ìhad some drinks but were not acting intoxicated.” Alcohol affects police officers the same way it affects ìcriminals.” The police might be above the law but they are not above the effects of alcohol. If you or I were arrested for driving with a 0.20 percent blood-alcohol concentration and told the judge, ìI had some drinks but wasnít acting intoxicated,” we would get laughed at. The county attorney gets away with it. The police have no problem being tough on drunks, until one of them is drunk.

An intoxicated black man with a gun has every right to defend himself against an aggressive intoxicated white man who also has a gun.

KSTP Channel 5 News called Evans ìa cop killer.” Even if Evans was guilty of murder, he should not be labeled a cop killer if he did not know he was shooting a cop.

With racism in the media, the police department and the courts, what chance did Evans have? Racism leads whites to believe two black men lured Vick into the alley to gun him down. I, as a white man, still have racist issues that will cloud the truth. If we stick to the facts, the facts show Vick committed no crime and Vick chased them down as they were walking away. Vick didnít identify himself as an officer. All the great work Sgt. Vick did throughout his career does not cancel out the fact that Evans and Kelly had a right to defend themselves. Once Vick chases them down into the alley and starts stomping his feet, it becomes a dangerous situation.

People say Vick did not deserve to die for making a few mistakes. One never hears this type of logic when the police kill someone who has threatened them. Does Evans deserve to spend the rest of his life in jail because of Vickís mistakes? Vick started the confrontation. Vick chased Evans into an alley after Evans had walked away. The most decorated St. Paul police officer killed in the cityís history needed to be put to rest in an honorable way, and the only way to do that was to put it all on Evans in an unjust way.

This is not over for the city of St. Paul. Such conducts of injustice fuel riots and racial tension. Evans deserves his freedom. Everyone has the right to protect themselves. How can Gaertner argue that Vickís intoxication didnít matter? The St. Paul Police Department currently is changing its policy on drinking alcohol while undercover.

Why was Evansí safety compromised? Chief Harrington publicly has said that if Vick was still alive he would have been disciplined for what he did that fatal night. The police department knows its policy was wrong and it knows Vick was in the wrong that night, but they still used Evansí life as their property to clean up a mess. The police department decided to adjust its policy after the fact.

Harry Evansí life and what happened that night should not be used by the police as some sort of training exercise to work out the kinks in police policy. They blame it on bad policy so that they can disregard Vickís behavior. They need to be held accountable since Evansí life and freedom hang in the balance.

Frank Erickson is a Minneapolis resident. Please send comments to [email protected].