Thursday, May 13, 2010

Should Anyone Die Over a Tube of Toothpaste?

image Anthony Kyser, an unemployed barber walked into a CVS in Chicago and stole a tube of toothpaste.  Normally when someone shoplifts, they end up in jail; however, Kyser ended up with a one way trip to the morgue.

The manager caught Kyser stealing and chased him into an alley.  He then proceeded to place Kyser in a chokehold.

Witnesses said Kyser, of the 1400 block of South Hamlin, cried, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe!" as the CVS worker held him in a chokehold for what they thought was several minutes. Three other men attempted to restrain him in the alley behind the 2600 block of South Pulaski, the witnesses said.

The medical examiner ruled Kyser's death a homicide, saying an autopsy showed he had been strangled, but police said Sunday the employee who killed him won't be charged.

Police are treating the death as "accidental," Chicago Police spokesman Daniel O'Brien said. (source)

To be clear, the employee chased the man down and then strangled him to to death, how is this accidental?  It actually takes a lot of strength to choke someone to death, and the hold would have had to have been applied for a long period of time.  No mater what Kyser may have stolen, he certainly did not deserve to die. 

The failure to charge the employee with murder or even manslaughter, evidences what little regard we have for the lives of Black men, the poor, and ex cons.  In the stories that I have seen written on this issue, the fact that Kyser is a recovering addict and had served time for prison for drug convictions, has been used to justify the way in which he was murdered.

Even if Kyser had been lucky enough to escape this terrible incident with his life, he still may have suffered brain damage. The brain does not like to be deprived of oxygen.  The employee must have felt Kyser’s body go limp as he lost his struggle to escape -- and yet he held him in that position until policed arrived.  How is an unconscious man still a threat?  His intent must have been to do bodily harm, or he would have not chosen a hold that has been known to lead to death.

The following are two comments that I found at Blackvoices.  I have chosen them because they are quite representative of the commentary I read on various blogs researching this piece.

Well, hell why not just let hime go! Its just toothpaste,its just a wallet,its just a car its just money,its just someones tools. The toothpaste nor the employees caused his death. HE caused his death by putting his grubby hands on something that was not his to touch and trying to get away or fight. You were not there so shut the f up. There should be no compensation for the man who died the parents should give an appology to the store and the employees for their rotton drug addicted theif convict son.

You will note that the concern of the above commenter is not the loss of life, but rather devaluing Kyser because of drug addiction and a criminal record.  A drug addiction is a disease and the coercive government policies regarding illegal substances, more often than not exacerbates the problem rather than helping anyone battling with addiction.

I also think that it is important to note that the commenter had no problem believing that a commodity was worth more than the life of a human being.  Stealing is wrong, but I daresay that murder is a far worse crime. Items can always be replaced but a life cannot.

This has nothing to do with black or white, it has to do with stealing, taking what does not belong to you. If he had not fought back he would be alive today, maybe going back to jail but he would be alive. Don't blame this on anyone except Kyser, he was the one breaking the law.

Even though it was reported that the Kyser repeatedly said that he could not breathe, according to the person above, he should have surrendered an died a peaceful death.  NONSENSE.  Clearly the above commentator has no idea the adrenaline that would have been flowing through his body as the fight or flight instinct kicked in.  If you cannot breathe, you are going to fight, struggle, and do everything possible to try and take a breath.  There is a reason that police officers cannot put suspects in a choke hold and I think that we should remember that instead of once again re-victimising Kyser by suggesting his death wasn’t quiet enough.

Right now there is rage being expressed about this story across the internet; however, Kyser’s name will quickly drift off the front page while his step children and ex wife deal with the loss of the man they called pops.  We won’t think about the ways in which Black men, ex cons and drug addicts are devalued until the next time some one is accidentally killed murdered in cold blood. But each day we allow a system that is corrupt to decide what the value of a human being is we perpetuate the idea that property rights are more important than life. CVS would not have missed the small profit that they would have lost from the toothpaste but I bet those kids will always miss their pops.