Nakala Murry was at home in the middle of the night on May 20 with her young son, daughter, and nephew when her ex-partner, the father of her daughter, showed up unannounced at 4 a.m., entered her home, and acted, in her words, “irate” toward her. Murry felt she was in danger and told Aderrien to call 911. Aderrien did so and reported what was happening, including that his mother’s ex did not have a gun but was scaring her.
Shortly after he made the call, Aderrien was shot by Indianola Police Department (IPD) sergeant Greg Capers — even though he was 11 years old, completely innocent, and inside his own home. According to Nakala Murry, Capers arrived with a second cop, banged on the front door, tried to kick it in, and had his gun drawn when she opened it. He ordered everyone to exit via the front door with their hands up. Ms. Murray told them her ex had run out of the back of her house and that the three children were the only people inside. Yet Capers continued brandishing his gun and ordered everyone to come out with their hands up. Aderrien walked around a corner into the front room, and Capers immediately shot him in the chest. Ms. Murry reported that her son “came from around the corner, and it was instant.” She said Capers “wouldn’t know, because he shot so fast” who, or even what, he was shooting at.
Police targeting innocent people is not exceptional. Cops raided Breonna Taylor’s home and killed her on the argument that her ex-boyfriend, who they said was a drug dealer, picked up a closed package from her. In April, police in New Mexico shot and killed 52-year-old Robert Dotson — and fired at his wife — when they knocked on his front door in the middle of the night after someone in his neighbor’s home called 911 and asked for protection in a domestic violence situation. The cops confused the addresses. In June 2020, while nationwide protests were occurring against police violence, a Colorado cop broke the arm of Karen Garner, a 73-year-old woman with dementia, while arresting her for shoplifting, and then bragged about it to other cops. The police don’t effectively prevent crime. They routinely commit it. And with huge budgets, they maintain the conditions of poverty, inequality, and despair that cause a large amount of crime.
These are individual instances of a big-picture problem. Police do not use violence only in response to violent suspects. They also use violence against people who they feel do not obey them quickly enough. And the level of “compliance” or submissiveness that police expect is in fact based on social status. When dealing with Black and Brown people, single mothers, homeless people, disabled people, people who live in poor neighborhoods, people they see as part of an underclass, police systematically feel justified in using extreme force. This is why police first pointed a gun point blank in George Floyd’s face when he was accused of using a fake $20 bill and then strangled him after he was already handcuffed. The police do not protect everyone. Their actual purpose is to manage society in the interest of the capitalist class. In this domestic disturbance case, their strategy was to stand on the front step of Nakala Murry’s house and wildly threaten whoever they saw without even learning what was happening in the home. This is a one-size-fits-all tactic — arrive, wave guns, demand surrender from whoever is around: perpetrators, victims, bystanders, mistaken identity, whoever.
Aderrien survived the gunshot wound to his lung, liver, and ribs after being rushed by helicopter to a major hospital. His mother said Capers shot Aderrien “one to two minutes” after ordering everyone to exit their house. The Murrys’ attorney, Carlos Moore, said, “I think they shot first and asked questions second,” noting Aderrien is four feet, 10 inches tall.
IPD chief Ron Sampson, said in a local newspaper that the shooting was “extremely tragic, on both sides.” When Ms. Murry led a protest at the town hall, officials told her they would bar her from entering the building with more than nine people because that would be too disruptive.
The IPD named Capers “Policeman of the Year” in 2021. Moore is representing another client, Kelvin Franklin, a Black soldier whom Capers tased while handcuffed on video in December 2022 even as he protested that he had one kidney. He had lost the other as a bystander victim in a store robbery. Capers is also Black. The small town of Indianola is about 80 percent Black.
Ms. Murry and her attorney have demanded that the town government fire Capers, fire Police Chief Ronald Sampson, and release the body camera video. They demanded authorities prosecute Capers for aggravated assault. A few days after the shooting, the town council suspended Capers with pay. Then, after massive national media coverage, the town council reversed itself and suspended Capers without pay three weeks after the shooting. Capers’ lawyer complained publicly that by pausing the officer’s salary, the town had violated his right to due process. The lawyer asserted that the shooting was an accident.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) has taken over handling of the shooting. This means top police officials claim the power to say whether Capers’s actions were a crime or an accident. The MBI said it is “assessing this critical incident and gathering evidence” in order to arrive at “findings” — conclusions for or against prosecution. The MBI is under the authority of state attorney general Lynn Fitch.
The MBI refuses to say anything about the already known facts of what happened on May 20. It told major media: “Due to this being an open and ongoing investigation, no further comment will be made.” The agency publicly said when Aderrien Murphy suffered a collapsed lung, torn liver, and broken ribs from Capers’ bullet he “received significant injuries” — an Orwellian use of calming language. Four days after the shooting, Ms. Murry reported police officials had not yet come to the hospital to record a witness statement from her.
The MBI is keeping Capers’s and his partner’s body camera video and a security camera video hidden from public view and even from Ms. Murry. Major media reported on this withholding and the family’s protest, but they also implicitly normalized the MBI’s closed-door control over the decision of whether to prosecute Capers. This ideology of deference comes out after every police shooting. It evades several things. A distinction exists between facts — information undeniably visible to all observers whoever they are and whatever their goals — and interpretation, the process in which various actors struggle to characterize events and their meaning. Control over the official interpretation given to a police shooting that justifies prosecution or nonprosecution is power. Cops, cop commanders, and state bureaucrats stand in a different place in society from Aderrien Murry, his mother, and their community, and they have different interests. The “ongoing investigations” promised after cops commit publicly observable criminal acts are political processes.
Authorities pretend it is impossible to speak about known parts of what occurred until the state itself has a long time to privately consider all aspects of the event. Their aim is to manage opinion and prevent an anti-police, anti-government, implicitly anti-capitalist movement that might struggle to change the balance of power. This means removing the right to evaluate as far as possible away from the Black working class, while pretending that evaluation is a neutral process. Legions of lawyers, spokespeople, police investigators, politicians, administrators, and so on participate in this procedure. These specialized professionals don’t live in the same places as working-class Black and Brown people. They have special salaries, perks, job security, club memberships, and connections to “important” people who shape their lives and careers. These special people form a machine that works far above the working class without popular control or transparency.
This is most blatant in the continuing concealment of the body camera video. The “investigation” is a form of propaganda that maintains that the state institutions are adults worthy of arbitrating, and the public, primarily the Black working-class community, are children who must sit down and shut up because they don’t have the special skills that administrators possess.
Everyone on the Left should completely support all four of Nakala Murry’s demands — release the body camera video, fire Sergeant Capers, fire Chief Sampson, and prosecute Capers for, at minimum, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The police shooting of an 11-year-old potential crime victim came out on national television, but there is currently no capacity for the Black Lives Matter movement to mobilize against authorities. Assemblies and committees of the people who were ready to protest and fight in 2020 are indispensable. Large-scale political discussion is also necessary. We need to combat, not assist and accept, the Democratic Party. They have governed nationally and in many states for three years in which the Black Lives Matter movement has been temporarily, paralyzed, silenced, and demobilized — while police in every state continued their criminal behavior.
The goal of the Left is to abolish the police. There is only one way to do this. People do need protection. But the existing machine of cops, prisons, and ruling-class officials does not protect people. It protects the rich. Long-term revolutionary action, involving building political organizations and assemblies, demonstrations, and strikes, is the only way to combat this system. The working class and oppressed would replace the police by creating our own protective forces. The paid, blue, use-of-force team of the capitalists eventually have to be replaced by innumerable squads everywhere of working-class and oppressed people, pulled from their workplaces and communities, armed, organized, united, into rotating part-time service in a protective force controlled and operated by the working class through its own democratic assemblies. Our goal is a different kind of public power to replace the dissolved police.