Have you ever jaywalked? I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve done it. I am so brazen about it that twice I’ve done it in front of police officers and one time got yelled at not to do it again. Nobody stopped and frisked me. Nobody asked to look inside my purse. ( I should also note that people who are homeless often have to carry their worldly possessions with them. The rest of us can stash at home those items that might be illegal.) I am a white, middle class woman and that just doesn’t happen.
Now let’s consider the story of Muhammed Muhaymin Jr, a Black American who lived in Phoenix. (I give full credit to the CNN article that I have summarized and used text and image from in this post. It includes a video of his murder which I have not watched. https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/09/us/phoenix-muhammad-muhaymin-invs/index.html.)
A father of two, Mr. Muhaymin had been a garbage truck driver until his father’s death in 2006 lead to mental health issues and periods of homelessness; he was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and had auditory hallucinations. And so it was that in 2016 he was stopped for jaywalking in nearby Mesa, Arizona. The officer searched his bag and found a marijuana pipe — not marijuana — and charged him with misdemeanor possession of that marijuana pipe.
Three months later, in January of 2017, 40-year-old Mr. Muhaymin tried to enter a Phoenix community center restroom with his certified support dog, a Chihuahua named Chiquita. An employee called the police who did a background check and found the outstanding warrant for the possession of a marijuana PIPE and decided to arrest him. Although police officers reported this 5′ 7″ man, trying to keep hold of Chiquita, did not kick, bite or slap, they reported he was “passive aggressive.” And so he was set upon by four officers–three on his legs and back–and the fourth applying a knee to his head and neck. Mr. Muhaymin cried out “I can’t breathe” multiple times, vomited and eventually stopped breathing and died.
Jaywalking is not a capital offense. Neither is possessing a marijuana pipe. Neither is being black, being homeless, being schizophrenic. Yet an American man was murdered because of all those things. Shouldn’t that be a capital offense?