By Mildred Robertson
Well, it was almost justice. A bewildered Michael Dunn raised his hands in disbelief as a Florida jury found him guilty of shooting into a car of unarmed Black teenagers, and killing one of them. Mind you, they didn’t find him guilty of murder. The white 47-year-old software engineer started an altercation with the teenagers in a Jacksonville gas station parking lot because he thought their music was too loud. He then fired 10 rounds into the vehicle, killing Jordan Davis.
Dunn claimed self-defense. But what was he defending himself from? There was no weapon found in the car—just a dead child.
It is a familiar story. Young Black males seem to be deemed inherently dangerous just by their existence. It appears that Florida juries find it reasonable for armed grown men to mow down Black youth without fear of repercussion. The Florida gun law is the 21st Century hangman’s noose where society says it is okay to sacrifice a Black child at the whim of any white citizen. That citizen can be found innocent because any “reasonable” person would have feared for his or her life in the presence of this child.
But where is the reason? Is it not “reasonable” for a young Black man to expect the freedom to walk safely to the corner store for skittles and a soda? Is it not reasonable for Black youth to drive into a service station for gas, without the fear that they will lose their lives because some stranger does not appreciate their tone when they ignore his reprimand?
Just as in the George Zimmerman case, Dunn provoked this encounter. He did not have to address the issue of the loud music with the young men. He could have mentioned it to the store clerk. Or he could have just got his gas, got in his car and drove away. Yet all he had to do to get a pass in Florida was to say that someone in the car threatened him, and he “thought” he saw the barrel of a rifle. In Florida, that will get most white men a “get out of jail free” card. (It did not work so well for Marrisa Alexandar, also of Jacksonville, a Black women who fired into the wall to frighten a known abuser away).
Dunn made the mistake of firing at the fleeing car, which is what could earn him 60 years in prison. Even in Florida, they couldn’t figure out how to make folks in a fleeing car be seen as a threat.
It is good that Dunn was at least found guilty of these lesser charges. Florida has mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for crimes committed with guns. So Dunn faces 20 years for each of the three counts of his conviction. That is likely little comfort to Davis’ grieving family.
It appears prosecutors will retry Dunn on the murder charge. If they do, Florida needs to be aware that the whole world is watching. Because of its racial overtones, the trial has drawn international attention.