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Taylor Johnston and Ellen Wagner make important decisions about the Post in the editors' office on the evening of Wednesday, February 5, 2020.

Dexter Reed wrongfully killed

March 21, four tactical-unit police officers shot and killed Dexter Reed, a 26-year-old Black man, at a traffic stop in Chicago. The officers fired a total of 96 shots in 41 seconds at Reed after pulling him over in an unmarked police car. They allegedly pulled him over for not wearing his seatbelt; however, the bodycam footage released April 10 shows that Reed’s car has tinted windows, and investigators are questioning how police could have noticed. The officers can be heard repeatedly telling Reed to roll down his windows and unlock his car doors. Reed did not comply with their commands. 

Preliminary evidence has suggested Reed may have fired the first shot, wounding one officer, which then led to the other four’s retaliation. However, the Reed family’s attorney said officers did not announce they were police. The five individuals were also wearing plain clothes and thus were not easily identifiable as police officers. While this in no way justifies firing a weapon, it also does not justify the officers’ response.

Regardless of whether Reed shot first at the officers, shooting a person 96 times, in any context, is unacceptable. Even worse, the officers continued to shoot Reed after he was lying on the ground, having already been shot multiple times. 

Police are trained to use force as a last resort, only in situations when it is necessary to protect themselves and others from imminent danger. There is no danger in a motionless, wounded person. The sheer number of shots fired and the rapidity of them, in addition to the continued fire after Reed was already down, is a clear abuse of power. 

Within 41 seconds, four officers fired nearly 100 shots at Reed, with one of the officers firing at least 50 times. There is no situation in which that would be necessary, and there is no excuse for the way the police officers handled this one.

Police shootings are no doubt high-stress situations that can elicit poor judgment. However, police are not regular people, and they have a responsibility to stay calm in situations like those and act accordingly. The handling of this situation is inexcusable.

It is also important to note that Black people are disproportionately affected by police brutality in the United States. They account for 22% of fatal police shootings, even though only 13.4% of the population is Black. In fact, in the U.S., Black people are more than three times more likely to be killed by police than white people. 

The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2012 after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Since then, there has been a public onslaught of protests condemning police brutality, yet little seems to have changed.

The officers’ use of excessive force on Reed has cost yet another innocent life. Another mother now mourns her child because of the recklessness of those officers. Reed’s death is unjustifiable, and there should be consequences for the officers responsible. 

It is, of course, wrong to shoot at police officers. But when five armed individuals — who are wearing plain clothes and thus are not easily identifiable as police officers — suddenly surround someone, that could certainly elicit a sense of endangerment. 

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Katie Millard, Managing Editor Emma Erion and Equity Director Alesha Davis. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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