Not long after midnight on Wednesday morning, Miosotis Familia was murdered for being a cop. Alexander Bonds walked up to the command post vehicle where she was sitting, in uniform and on duty, and fired a bullet into her head. According to a preliminary investigation, he ran and officers pursued him. After Bonds fired on the officers, they returned fire and killed him. Bonds was a black man who had taken part in an assault on a police officer in 2001, had expressed anger on social media about police brutality—including abusive treatment he absorbed while in prison—and who had a long history of severe mental illness.
Roma Martinez, who has lived for years in the neighborhood north of Yankee Stadium where Officer Familia was killed, called her “a good policewoman.” Familia lived on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, close to the street where she died. A neighbor, Rafael Mercedes, stated “she was a very loved woman in the neighborhood. Everyone loved her.”
Officer Familia’s murder is national news. It was covered on the front page of the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post published pieces on it as well. Her death touches on some of the most explosive topics in our society: police interactions with African Americans, crime, and racism. This is a complicated story, but it is also one easily exploited by those willing to use it to advance their agenda.
At InfoWars.com, the website run by the right-wing conspiracy theory promoter Alex Jones, the headline screamed out: “Anti-Cop Hillary Supporter Assassinates Mother of Three in ‘Unprovoked Attack.’” The article by Paul Joseph Watson goes into depth about Burns’ social media posts on the election, and why he was voting for Clinton. What, exactly, this has to do with his murder of Officer Familia goes unexplained, but a formal explanation is unnecessary. For InfoWars’ intended audience, the point is obvious: He liked Hillary, so he must hate cops.
The article then went after the Black Lives Matter movement:
Previous ambush-style murders of police officers have been motivated by extremist anti-cop ‘Black Lives Matter’-style rhetoric, as well as mass shootings of police officers like the Dallas massacre, which was celebrated by BLM sympathizers. There has been no word yet from prominent ‘Black Lives Matter’ personalities about the killing of Miosotis Familia.
Why Black Lives Matter “personalities” should feel a need to comment on the murder of Officer Familia is another question, in particular only a few hours after it took place (notice the date and time of the tweet from Watson). But it’s one whose answer is, again, obvious to the intended audience.
The New York Post ran an opinion piece from Heather MacDonald, who often writes on police issues from a conservative perspective. While she refrained from going after Hillary by name, she too connected Bonds to Black Lives Matter:
Alexander Bonds’ anti-cop rhetoric echoes the Black Lives Matter-inspired vitriol spewed by previous cop assassins over the last three years.
MacDonald went on to blame “the drumbeat of lies about the police that have been amplified by the media and the political establishment during the Black Lives Matter era,” and specifically called out President Obama. Never mind that Obama always took care to praise the vast majority of law enforcement officers when talking about police matters, and spoke in a balanced way even when criticizing the actions of a few.
You may remember that, in the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned that Alexander Bonds had a long history of mental illness. He had recently been hospitalized after a breakdown and got out only a week before he killed Officer Familia. Furthermore, according to his sister, Bonds had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Neither of the aforementioned articles included anything about that. The InfoWars piece appeared on July 5, but was never updated. MacDonald’s article appeared on July 6, the day after the detailed NYT article about Bonds’ mental history was posted. If one is going to write responsibly about what motivated this heinous murder, some discussion of these facts should be included. Of course, the key word there is “responsibly.”
When it comes to policing and race, this country is on a knife’s edge. A number of trials of police officers charged with killing black men have ended without guilty verdicts. People are angry, without question, and reporting on Alexander Bonds’ motivations can certainly talk about these matters, and cannot help but explore parallels to previous targeted, assassination-style killings of police officers.
But what is reprehensible is to use the murder of a police officer to attack people who have spoken out about injustice and police treatment of African Americans, with the intent of silencing those who would do so in the future. While Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do not talk about these issues in the same way as do Black Lives Matter leaders, none of them has ever called for, endorsed, or celebrated attacking police officers. In fact, they have done the opposite.
When someone dies unjustly at the hands of a police officer, it not only devastates the friends and loved ones of the victim, it also tears at the fabric of trust between the police and the community that is necessary to keep people safe. All communities need and benefit from the often dangerous work police officers do, but a lack of trust makes officers less able to do that work well. Furthermore, such unjust deaths undermine the rule of law and notion of justice on which a democratic society like ours relies in order to function. Additionally, the murder of a police officer tears at our social fabric in similar ways and with similar results. It is a direct attack on our system of law enforcement, and thus on the rule of law itself.
Black Lives Matter leaders and progressive politicians like Clinton, Obama, and others have been working toward solving these problems. They want a more just America in which all of us are safe, and feel confident that we will receive fair treatment no matter who we are. Those who politicize the murder of Officer Familia in the way that has been detailed here are not interested in solving anything. All they want is to fan the flames of hate even higher.