Will Sutton: Lafayette deputy Clyde Kerr’s 2020 heartbreak, racist ‘justice’ and our pain

Like many of us, I’m sure Lafayette Parish Deputy Clyde Kerr III was looking forward to the new year, putting 2020 behind. Last year was so bad. Now, Kerr is dead.

Something called COVID-19 popped on our radar screens early last year, just after Mardi Gras, and we were curious when — BAM! — it hit us that we were a part of a global pandemic.

Things were getting worse with the virus when, on March 13, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed — in her apartment. Louisville plainclothes police officers forced themselves into her home. There were police reports, news stories. Demonstrations and protests ensued. Taylor’s death got some national attention, but there was no video and it was mostly a Kentucky news story.

The virus got worse. More people got sick. More people were dying from the vicious virus. More Black people were dying from the virus. More Black people were dying at the hands of police officers.

Things continued getting worse with the virus when, on May 25, George Floyd was killed by police officers on a Minneapolis street. Someone at a store accused Floyd of trying to pass off a counterfeit $20 bill as real. Several officers were dispatched. He was pushed against a wall, then down on the street and handcuffed. Three officers kneeled on him. He cried out for his mother. Minutes later, he was dead.

There were police reports, news stories, demonstrations.

There was video.

A short few days later, Kerr was in Acadiana when he saw the Floyd video. Like most people, including Black people, and most especially Black men, he didn’t like what he saw. He was emotionally drained. How do I know? On May 31, he recorded a 44:43 video on YouTube. Titled “This Needs & Has To Be Said!,” Kerr said on video he was processing the incident, but it was his son’s response that was the larger issue.

His son, 13, had watched the video, start to finish. He watched Floyd die. He asked Kerr why. “I couldn’t explain it,” Kerr said on the video. “What hurt me the most was having to explain this to him. … I could tell he lost a piece of his innocence.”

He added, “I have cousins that look exactly like Floyd.”

I feel him. Like him, I, too, have cousins, relatives, friends who look like Floyd. We are Floyd. It hurt.

By April, about 70% of the Louisianans who died of the virus were Black, compared to a statewide Black population of about 32%. This was happening nationally. The Black Lives Matter movement was launched after the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Florida, and after Michael Brown, 18, who supposedly stole a box of cigars, was killed during a struggle with officers. Police killed Eric Garner, 43, accused of illegally selling cigarettes in Staten Island, New York. They listened to him cry “I can’t breathe.” There was video. Alton Sterling, 37, was killed by police outside a Baton Rouge store where there was a struggle as he was selling CDs. There was video. 

There have been too many situations involving Black people, men and women, killed by police officers of whatever ethnicity and race. Since The Washington Post started tracking shootings by on-duty police officers in 2015, there have been 5,000 such deaths, including more than 900 in the last year. That’s shootings. That doesn’t include police deaths by other means. About half of those killed by police were White. But Black people are shot at an unconscionable rate. We are about 13% of the nation’s population, yet police kill us at more than twice the rate of Whites, according to the Post.

It’s not right.

How can we be OK when the circumstances continue and police department and individual responsibility escapes those who kill us?

Kerr, chaplain of his officer training class, was 43. On Monday, the son of famed trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr., ended his disappointment, his frustration and his pain. On a video recorded earlier, he said he had hoped to see the Super Bowl LV with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, mainly because he wanted to see fellow St. Augustine High School Purple Knights Tyrann Mathieu and Leonard Fournette compete. He decided he couldn’t wait.

Kerr took his own life. We may never know whether Kerr struggled with personal demons as well. This tormented Black man said on video that he could no longer be complicit working in a system he considered racist. He said on video he had had enough. 

What will it take for us to say we’ve had enough?

Kentucky grand jury indicts 1 of 3 officers in fatal Breonna Taylor police shooting

13:29 PT — The grand jury has indicted just one officer, Brett Hankison, on charges of wanton endangerment. The officer was not charged because of shooting Breonna Taylor … he was charged with shooting into a neighboring apartment. The other 2 officers who fired shots the night Breonna Taylor was killed were not charged. In other words, no one was charged for killing Breonna.

Hankison has been indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree — for firing recklessly and without due regard for life. His bail has been set at $15,000. Wanton endangerment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years if convicted.

The indictment has already sparked anger.  Rev. Al Sharpton called it “grossly insufficient.”

AG Daniel Cameron will hold a news conference any minute, taking about the charges, why certain officers were not charged, and the prospect of unrest in the wake of the grand jury’s decision.

Cameron had told the media he was waiting on a ballistics report from the FBI, which at the time he claimed was just about the last piece of the puzzle before he could wrap his investigation. Once he got that, he walked it back and said it was inconclusive — and then eventually kicked the whole case over to a grand jury out of Jefferson County … presumably to appear impartial in the conclusion that’s ultimately reached.

It’s a tense moment — and you can tell by what the City of Louisville did earlier this week … preemptively declaring a state of emergency and putting a 9 PM to 6:30 AM curfew in place in anticipation of the announcement. Ominous to say the least, they’re clearly erring on the side of caution.

Cops were told they couldn’t take time off for a while starting this week … so it’s basically all hands on deck — the assumption being if no charges are brought forth, chaos will erupt.

The grand jury will present their report to a judge at 1:15 PM ET, and Cameron’s presser is set to begin shortly thereafter … obviously, we and the rest of the world will be watching.

As we reported … Brett Hankison — 1 of the 3 cops who fired their weapons during the deadly March 13 raid at Breonna’s home — was already fired from the forceback in June.

Police Chief Robert Schroeder had said Hankison had “violated obedience to rules and regulations,” and use of deadly force while serving the no-knock warrant.

The other officers involved in Breonna’s death — Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove — had already been placed on administrative reassignment but were still part of the force.

Cameron has asked the public to remain patient during the investigation … adding his team had been working nonstop — and the grand jury finally convened this week to decide whether to indict the officers.

As we reported … Oprah went to extraordinary lengths to push for justice in the case, including buying 26 billboards around Louisville. Likewise, countless professional athletes, entertainers and ordinary citizens on social media have kept Breonna’s name, and her tragic case, in the spotlight.

Her death has been controversial from the start. As we reported officers initially reported Breonna was uninjured during the raid … and prosecutors seemingly tried to smear her in a plea bargain with her ex-BF.