The shooting of unarmed Black men by white police in the United States is a story that keeps repeating over and over. The recent case of a local 22-year-old African American man shot in the shoulder by Champaign police officer James Hobson, who is white, is yet another outrageous example. It is a test case for police chief Anthony Cobb, who came into office in the wake of the police killing of Kiwane Carrington.
There has been some coverage of the shooting by the local media, in the News-Gazette and Smile Politely. Still, there has been little effort to dig deeper than the press releases put out by the Champaign police which have provided few details. According to the Champaign police, on Sunday night, June 11, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Officer Hobson stopped Dehari Banks in his car around Fourth Street on the North End. The reason why has not been provided. Banks had a case of driving on a suspended license, but it was pending, and he had not been convicted.
Perhaps scared by the many stories in the news, Banks did not stop his car, pulled into a driveway, ran into the garage door, got out and fled. Hobson ran after him and cornered Banks in a fenced-in area. According to Hobson’s police report, which has not been made available to the public, he drew his gun while coming to a running stop, pointed it, and “accidentally” shot Banks in the shoulder. Banks was unarmed.
One important detail that the news has failed to report is that Banks was not actually charged with anything to have justified his being shot. The News-Gazette listed a history of his offenses, and ran his mug shot, but failed to mention there were no traffic tickets or criminal charges filed against Banks for what happened that night.
Often, the police put “cover charges” on the victim of a police shooting to protect themselves from a potential lawsuit. Without charges, the City of Champaign is open to significant legal liability. No one was killed, so there will be no million dollar law suit. The family can hire an attorney and likely will get a cash settlement from the city.
Whether the decision to not charge Banks was a deliberate move by Chief Cobb, or (less likely) a result of the facts of the incident, the outcome is still uncertain. It remains to be seen whether Cobb will fire Hobson, who is on administrative leave according to the police union contract. Hobson is a rookie cop, joining the force in September 2015. Chief Cobb has called for “patience,” but he has refused to respond to phone calls about the incident.
Of course, anti-Black police violence in the US cannot honestly be described as an accident, but is the product of a fear and anxiety over Black bodies. Indeed, the police killing of 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington in 2009 was also described as an “accident” and Officer Norbitz, who allegedly shot him, cleared of charges.
In 1970, Black resident Edgar Hoults was killed by a Champaign police officer who chased him down, aimed his gun, claimed he slipped, and shot Hoults in the back of the head with a hollow point bullet, killing him instantly. It was claimed Hoults’s death was also an “accident.” The cop who killed him was exonerated by a jury.
More recently, I reported on four Champaign police officers who in December 2016 killed Richard “Richie” Turner, a homeless African American man, in Campustown. None of the police were charged and they are still on the force.
Champaign police keep killing―or trying to kill―Black people.
Some have questioned why Hobson wasn’t wearing a body cam. Across the country, body cams are being presented as a solution to police violence. Yet in cases like, most recently, that of Philando Castile, video footage of police killings has failed to bring justice for Black victims.
According to a source, Banks has been released from the hospital and is recovering.