Events, Marches and Demonstration, Social Policy

17 year old Innocent Black Boy killed in King County #ChanceMakesChange

Now There are NO Mistakes at this Genocidal Rate

Chance Gittens was 17 years old, one of his last Facebook posts read, “An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you allow it to get inside of you”.  On Tuesday January 27, 2017 Chance was shot and killed by three undercover police officers in King County. The officers killed chance while search for a hit and run suspect from earlier that week.
I was invited to the attend the inquest court hearing in Kent and was eager to attend after hearing more details about the shooting. When I walked into the courtroom attendees were reminded that although this event was a public hearing, it was not a trial, but an inquest hearing focused on the presentation of evidence. On Monday October 9, 2017 I walked into the segregated courtroom, cleanly split down the middle it seemed, Black victims versus white officers yet again. Black victims mourning the loss of a young Black man as a group of white officers did everything they could to defend their senseless actions. How did this loss of life occur? Through a scam. It was clear that officers baited the young man into his death the more I heard on the case. The suspect that officers were looking for turned out to be the furthest from the description of young Chance, two white teenage girls were later safely apprehended for the crime that Chance had been killed for. Their bail, originally set for $1 million had later been lowered to $300,000 both expenses much less costly that the innocent Chance had to pay.
my view of the 3 officers speaking to their attorney during a break in the hearing

There were a series of instances while sitting in the back of the courtroom that I witnessed that heightened my discomfort as the case went on. My stomach flipped as the police officers’ attorney was granted the request to withhold officers’ identity due to the fact that they were ‘undercover’ officers whose career was threatened, stating that the officers faces could not be filmed and their voices must be scrambled or otherwise could not be recorded. These requests blatantly obstructed any thorough attempt for the media to seek justice. The officers’ careers plainly valued over the loss of life.

My eyes rolled as I watched the jury file into of the room one by one, a majority of white men along with 2 east asian women.Although three potential Black jurors were reviewed they were not selected. A series of peremptory strikes eliminated any potential Black jurors to qualify in assisting with determining the legitimacy with Chance’s cause of death.  Before the case began Juror 9, an older, bald white man was called to question for winking at the officers. Regardless of this blatant sign of bias he was not dismissed from the jury. “Another man was dismissed from the jury for even less biased actions,” the victim’s attorney argued but her comments were not taken by the judge with any regard. It was incredible to see the evident act of predetermined bias glazed over.

Lost “Confiscated” Video Evidence and Other Suspicious Police Behaviors

I shifted uncomfortably as a resident in the community where Chance was killed described how he’d heard the shots that he thought were a type of fireworks. But unlike with fireworks his dog was not afraid which called his attention. This man left his home and captured video as he stepped out onto the scene of multiple police cars and a body lying on the floor. He described how his phone had been confiscated by the officers as evidence. However I was disturbingly shocked that this phone still had not been retrieved. “What happened to the video?” The judge asked, “The officers told me that they were unable to download it, I never got my phone back” the man responded. I was shocked, I couldn’t help but gasp, how is it possible  that the officers confiscated a phone that still could not be brought to this evidential hearing? How is it possible that an average person like myself can retrieve a video off a cell phone with more success than experienced police officers? How is it that officers charged with the murder of Chance, were able to confiscate the digital evidence that would have allowed us to clearly see the images from that moment?  The judge surprisingly moved on to the next question without any followup but I could’t believe that this issue had also been dismissed so casually. Another issue added to the list of those that I considered proof of foul play meaninglessly tossed into the wind.
I squirmed in my seat while listening to the Detective Micheal Gurske explain how he portrayed himself as a young woman on social media in order to entice Chance to meet him. Why would that have been necessary? While listening to the disastrous outcome of his ‘detective’ work I came to the conclusion that it’s as though the proceedings are more of a form of practice than  actually practical. This was not a case in search for answers or critically analyzing witness’ responses. We were just going through the motions, doing our best to bore the jury of unengaged people with meaningless details while ignoring those missing facts and suspicious behaviors of the officers themselves. I’d already realized years ago, after the pivotal death of Trayvon Martin, that the judicial process was not for ‘us’ the black victims of American society.
There actually has never been a restorative avenue for the black victims of American society. For centuries the abuse of Black people in this county was a natural product of American society, from slavery through Jim Crow segregation and even now. This trial reminded me that we’re still those victims, now we’re just allowed to partake in the motions which is more offensive and disturbing than it is restorative or truth seeking. The state’s burden of proof does not exist in our cases. In contrast, it’s as though we hold the burden of proof, to prove that our life was wrongly taken even after the obvious misuse of justice by incompetent quota seeking, militant minded, heavily prejudiced officers.

Father Continues Protest

Prior to the hearing Chance’s father, Frank Gittens, a manager over a car dealership in north Seattle where my fiancé was employed, held a rally outside of the court. He shared his reason for protest, “Police brutality, and misconduct is rising,
It’s not getting better.
We as a nation has paid out upwards of a billion dollars in the last decade in police misconduct cases. Example Chicago has paid out $500 million in the last decade.
When you killed our son Chance at 17yrs old, you didn’t just kill a kid that you had no respect for as a human.
You killed a whole generation of Gittens,and Dunlaps. Oct 9th you will have to explain your actions in front of the public you chose to deceive. We loved our son,and you had no right to show up at his home with a vendetta that he had nothing to do with. I call upon all friends,and family to visit us to support #justice4chance. We will have a professional rally outside the court house that morning at 730am. #chancemakeschange.
They make mistakes,and break protocols,and we as tax payers pay for it with no accountability.
To the good officers in every dept across the nation. May God protect you from the bad. “
The court proceedings went on for a series of days that I couldn’t bring myself to sit through. This was the first time that I’d been invited to a case like this, these cases of genocidal attacks by state forces on our community are no longer just a distant national headline on the news. The frequency of these cases proves genocidal and these attacks are coming closer and closer to home. My heart went out to the boy’s family, after the hearings ended Frank’s post on Facebook resonated with me:
“After much thought.
Watching those officers do what ever it took to discredit our son on the witness stand to save themselves. Was the hardest thing i ever had to go through. 90% of the families that have a inquest scheduled don’t even go,because they can’t afford a lawyer to represent them. The state will not provide them one for police shooting cases. The inquest ended well,and we did the best of any inquest in many years.
Now their in for the biggest fight of their lives about taking my sons life.
I want to thank all my friends, and family for the much needed support.
Like Doughboy said. Either they don’t know, don’t care about whats going on in the hood.
And we know which one it is.
#justice4chance , and God will see to it.”
You can support Chance by liking his memorial page on Facebook here:
As well as through circulating the following hashtags:
Another court hearing is scheduled for the future…
Additional Resources:
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About Amani Sawari

I am a University of Washington alum, Class of 2016. I graduated with my Bachelors Degree in two majors: Media and Communications AND Law, Economics and Public Policy. It's a mouthful but it illustrates how I have a hard time doing only one 'thing'. I am a writer, poet, singer, songwriter and much more. I enjoy sharing my experiences and perspectives with those who are interested and I am a proud member of the black diaspora!
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