Last week, a Washington, D.C. police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Deon Kay.
The circumstances surrounding his death are straightforward, as the police bodycam video that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser released the next day shows. After refusing to respond to an officer’s instructions to stop running, Kay, a handgun clearly visible in his right hand, ran towards an officer while making a sweeping motion with his arm. Kay might have been raising the weapon to fire or getting ready to throw the gun out of his hand; the officer had only a split second to make a decision and made the correct one: to stop an imminent deadly threat to his life from someone who was failing to respond to instructions from law enforcement.
Two other men who were in the car with Kay, also armed with illegal guns (and, like Kay, also black), obeyed the officers’ instructions and were arrested without incident. Had Kay done the same, he would be alive today. As for the intentions of those men, the weapons recovered at the scene don’t suggest they were responsible gun owners: One of the guns was a “ghost gun” built from a kit and lacking a serial number, making it untraceable if used in a crime.
As well, Kay and his peers were known to law enforcement. Kay and his friends clearly had little respect for DC’s strict gun laws: they live-streamed videos of themselves posing with handguns and assault rifles, including videos of themselves driving around the city brandishing weapons. These are all felonies in the District, where you must be 21 years old to possess a gun and open carry is not permitted.
In fact, the brazen flouting of gun laws is the reason the police came into contact with Kay and his crew in the first place. As the Washington Post reported, “D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said officers in the 7th District saw a live-streamed social media video of Kay and others inside a vehicle, holding weapons. Newsham said the officers recognized Kay and another man from previous interactions.”
We don’t know if Kay, who had recently turned 18 and not completed high school, had a criminal record as a juvenile (D.C. has had a serious problem with juvenile crime for years).
DC’s police chief would only say that Kay was a “validated gang member” who had “multiple touches with the criminal justice system.” As Newsham said at a press conference, “I’m pretty sure Deon Kay fell through multiple safety nets before yesterday afternoon.”
Nevertheless, within a few hours of reports of the shooting, D.C.’s chapter of Black Lives Matter organized a protest at the police precinct near the shooting and began misrepresenting what had happened to Deon Kay. Some of Kay’s relatives, including his aunt, spread unfounded rumors that Deon was “shot in the back” and unarmed. Black leaders amplified the message, with predictable results. Even after Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she would be releasing the body cam video the next day, BLM protestors demonstrated outside her home and demanded that she fire the police chief.
The once-venerable American Civil Liberties Union tweeted to its nearly 2 million followers, “D.C. Police murdered Deon Kay yesterday. He was just 18 years old. His death is yet another painful reminder that violence and racism is endemic to policing in this nation. We demand justice for Deon, and every life taken by D.C. police.”
After critics pointed out that nearly every word in the tweet was a lie, the ACLU deleted it, but they stand behind a statement riddled with equally egregious falsehoods, such as the claim that the police “made no attempt to de-escalate, there was no warning or directive given to Kay to drop a weapon.” As bodycam footage shows, officers repeatedly told Kay, “Don’t move,” instructions Kay chose to ignore.
Once the bodycam footage was released, clearly showing the threat Kay posed, Black Lives Matter pivoted to claiming that the officer still should not have fired his weapon. BLM’s D.C. chapter tweeted, “Deon should still be here. Resist the perfect victim narrative. All black lives matter.” For BLM, evidently, drawing an illegal gun on the police and threatening another person’s life is merely an imperfection. BLM went so far as to tell people to blame police despite what the bodycam footage clearly shows: “If you are tired of negotiating whether a Black child deserved to be killed by police. If you are tired of paying the salary of our executioners. Regardless, what you see in the tapes, you know Black people deserve better than this,” BLM tweeted.
Other local black leaders added to the emerging narrative of Kay as a blameless victim of police brutality: “He deserved a 2nd, 3rd, 4th chance at success, not a death sentence,” said Markus Batchelor, a BLM supporter and Vice President of the D.C. State Board of Education. Kay’s relatives also joined in, claiming the police unfairly targeted Deon because they “didn’t like him.” “Deon was a good kid. He had a gun, but he threw it. He never shot nobody,” his aunt told reporters.
BLM organized large demonstrations, both at the police precinct near the shooting and downtown in D.C., to march in Deon Kay’s name, using the hashtag #JusticeforDeon, which other groups quickly joined. The protestors shut down major thoroughfares and bridges around the city and carried BLM banners reading “F*** the Police.” They marched through DC neighborhoods denouncing white gentrification and chanting, “Every city, every town, we burn our precinct to the ground.” BLM protestors also blocked accredited press from covering the protest, claiming, “We have our own press we know and trust.” And they read “facts” about Deon Kay, none of which included the fact that he had brandished an illegal gun at a cop.
None of this comes as a surprise to anyone studying the long-term goals of the Black Lives Matter movement. Contemptuous of reform and unwilling to work with the democratically elected leaders who might help enact change, they pursue a far more radical end game of abolishing the police and prisons and, effectively, any form of law enforcement. Deon Kay’s case fits perfectly into their narrative, regardless of the facts. To a radical with an agenda, every black person is a potential martyr and every member of law enforcement is a villain.
If you support Black Lives Matter by giving the organization your money or your time, if you join their marches and put their signs on your lawn to signal your allyship, then you can no longer do so ignorant of the fact that you are supporting a movement that deliberately lies to its followers.
You are supporting a movement that wants to see the radical dismantling of our criminal justice system with no clear plans for how it would be rebuilt. You are supporting a movement that claims to speak for all black Americans yet pushes an agenda (such as abolish the police) that most black Americans do not support. You are supporting misinformation campaigns meant to stoke anger and violence.