Community Questions if the Mass Shooting had an Element of Race


La Sonja Peisker, Rev Shane Harris and Rev Jared Moten



May 2, 2017 (SPRING VALLEY) Local National Action Network President Reverend Shane Harris called for a press conference at their headquarters this morning. The main question was why did Chief Shelley Zimmerman say that there was no racial motive within 24 hours. The incident, in the mind of the community, has the very clear positively that it was. They feel the investigation was closed hastily.

However, as of this morning, San Diego Police said that they are still pursuing all leads, but this has not been communicated to the public. The last statement made by the Chief was that there was zero evidence that this was racially motivated.

Harris made it crystal clear that today he was not speaking on behalf of any of the families affected. He was speaking on behalf of the community. He was also speaking on behalf of San Diegans at large who remain concerned about the motive for Peter Selis to shoot 7 black people and one latino. Selis was white,

Harris was in New York for the annual NAN meeting and he learned of this late at night, when he received a call. “The call was concerning a mass shooting that had happened, where particularly six African Americans and one latino was shot, brutally in a pool area.”

Harris noted that “immediately on Sunday night, the police chief came out and made a statement, and the mayor followed her. And the next day the continued response and the continued prospectus would begin. It wasn’t even 24 hours before the police chief and the mayor, came to the prospective that this was not racially motivated. Or that there was no motivation of hate involved in this crime.”

Harris went on to question how they could conclude such in 24 hours. He wants transparency in the investigation, and he also wants to see a full investigation. He would like to see outside people get involved. He added, “one of the biggest issues in this nation has been race relations since the election of President Donald Trump. And the relations around the country, people feel emboldened.”

Harris also pointed out a few things. Selis had easy access to a gun. He added that we also need to deal “with race relations in this country.” He then recalled the shooting at the AME Church in Charlestown, when Dylan Roof killed 8 of the members and the pastor, during Bible Study. Roof, went into the church with the intent of killing African Americans, He addressed another point of the story that is not well known, however it has been covered in passing by the media. This is the fact that after Roof was arrested by the police he was taken to a Burger King to get some food before going to jail.

“We are dealing in this country with a climate of racial tension. and for us to analyze soothing in 24 hours. and say we found no probable cause that there was racial intentions or hatred involved in this, I think it is egregious at best. I think that it clearly defines the  continuous efforts that we must continue to raise in this probe.”

Reporting San Diego asked whether Harris believed this was indicative of structural racism? We also asked if they were going to look into the reporting in the Union Tribune in particular, of racial tensions at the Crossroads. NAN is concerned that there were “racial intensions in this.” He also said that they want to talk to the Chief and to have a community conversation. He was frank, “Some of them don’t know what racism really is. They just have a general definition.”

Harris also called this mass shooting an act of terror, and the shooter a terrorist. The legal definition of the term under 18 U.S. Code  is as follows for internal terrorism:

(5)the term “domestic terrorism” means activities that—

(A)involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;

(B)appear to be intended—

(i)to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;

(ii)to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or

(iii)to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and

(C)occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

We have a situation where populations are being coerced and intimidated. Even if the majority does not receive this to be the case, many minority populations are being coerced right now in an environment of fear. This is not the first time this has happened in American history, but if we are to move forwards, we need to have those difficult conversations. This is not about black on black or latino on latino crime. As Harris noted, crime happens where people live. Those are just propaganda terms.

He also said that there is a difference in how white perpetrators are treated when compared to people of other races or faiths.

Where the structural matter also comes in, is not just in the treatment of Dylan Roof, which was not that exceptional for a white person. Every time we have an incident involving a white person, excuses are found. There is a need to create sympathy for the white criminal and erase the victims. This time, it is the estranged girlfriend that drove Selis to this act. This is the narrative being presented. Harris and NAN are questioning the premise and want an in depth investigation. They are aware that bringing outside investigators, including the Department of Justice might be harder, since Selis is now deceased. 

We are embedding an edited video, which goes into some issues as well.

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