The Guardian’s The Counted database now shows that 221 Black people have been killed by police in the United States in 2016. Joshua Beal is the latest.
Beal, 25, was killed by an off-duty Chicago Police Department (CPD) sergeant on November 5. The Indianapolis resident was in Chicago to be a pallbearer at his cousin’s funeral. Beal’s sister, Cordney Boxley, told The Chicago Tribune that her family was leaving the funeral in a caravan when the incident happened. Per the Tribune:
Suddenly, Boxley said, a car cut her off and then tried to run her 17-year-old sister off the road. She said her family as well as the motorist who had cut her off—who she believed was a Chicago police officer—stopped and got out of their cars.
At some point the man pushed her female cousin to the ground and pulled a gun on her, pointing it at her face, according to Boxley.
Boxley said many of the men in the family began walking toward the man, confronting him.
She said the man got inside his car but exited again and “he just started shooting,’’ hitting the windshield of a car containing Beal, who had pulled his gun when he saw the man holding a gun on their cousin. Boxley said Beal legally owned the gun and did not fire it.
Boxley said the man pulled Beal out of his front passenger seat and began shooting him.
CPD presents another version of events. Department spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi told press that the incident began when traffic left the caravan stopped in front of a fire station’s driveway. Per Guglielmi, a firefighter told them to move, prompting an argument with three people who got out of their cars. A woman inside a nearby business in the predominantly Irish-Catholic Mount Greenwood neighborhood called the police and then joined the argument. Then an off-duty CPD officer who was at a barbershop approached, closely followed by a uniformed sergeant who was driving by.
“There’s a sergeant on his way to work. He now sees a man with a gun in his hand. He gets out, announces his office in full uniform,’’ Guglielmi said. He went on to say that the sergeant displayed his gun and that Beal did not drop his weapon when commanded to. The sergeant then shot the man, who later died in a local hospital. Officers say the weapon was recovered at the scene, but they are not sure if Beal fired it.
Beal is survived by a fianceé and two young sons, ages 2 and 4. The Independent Police Review Authority is investigating the shooting and the involved officers have been placed on administrative duty for 30 days. CPD has faced lots of scrutiny over the past year in the wake of the police-involved shootings of Laquan McDonald and Paul O’Neal.
A small group protestors who gathered in Beal’s name on Sunday (November 6) faced vitriol from hundreds of counterprotestors waving “Blue Lives Matter” flags, per DNA Info. Organizer Ja’Mal Green says that racist slurs were hurled at them, and the police eventually had to escort the activists to their cars to ensure their safety. “It really felt like we were back in the ‘60s,” Green said. “The rally shows that a Black man can be killed by police, and they were overjoyed about that.”
— BLMChicago (@BLMChi) November 7, 2016
Sunday night, Black Lives Matter Chicago and Black Youth Project 100 organizers held a press conference at the Calumet District Police Department demanding that charges be filed against the officer; pushing for Beal’s brother, who was arrested during Saturday’s fatal encounter, to be released from police custody; and asking for support to cover funeral costs.
Boxley also spoke to the assembled press. “Are we not important? Do our lives not matter?” she asked.
Watch the press conference below.