On April 8, 2021, Raheem Reeder was shot and killed by the Tallahassee Police Department. On July 15, grand jurors- for the fourth shooting in thirteen months- declined to indict or find any guilt with officers involved in the shooting.
While maintaining a facade of objectivity and fairness, most mainstream media and prominent news outlets favor the side of the police. The grand jury process allows for a back doors approach to confronting police violence in this city. Marsy's Law makes it so that the police officer responsible for the shooting has another layer of protection from accountability. Despite having the backing of every political institution, the State Attorney, and the right to murder on duty, they can be classified as victims and even escape having their names and identities released.
It’s no wonder the deaths of Tony Mcdade, Mychael Johnson, Wilbon Woodard and of course Raheem Reeder still seem somewhat unsolved, unfinished. While the grand jury and the State Attorney have made their decisions, when one really looks into the situation without accepting the evidence provided as immediately correct, the nature of the case is far harder to determine.
The case of Raheem Reeder is as sad and unnecessary as the rest. A routine traffic stop turned into a situation where Raheem and Valerie fled from TPD and took refuge in an apartment away from the area. Despite playing almost no role in the conflict, Valerie was charged with second degree murder charges for aiding and abetting, which in reality, was likely her attempt to protect her own life and her daughter’s in an unforeseen circumstance.
While the court’s decision on this case is closed, information and evidence given show that the story isn’t as simple as it seems. Take, for instance, the questioning of Valerie Hatton’s daughter after police separated her from her mother. News outlets used confessions taken from a child separated from both parental guardians, without any legal representation, as legitimate evidence in the case. They claim(based on Valerie Hatton’s daughter's account) she was given two stolen cell phones to hold and confirmed that a police officer got run over.
Using a child questioned on the night of a traumatic event with no impartial representation backing her is suspicious at the very least and malicious at the worst. There is no way for the public to know whether this investigation process was fair and impartial. She could have been manipulated and misguided into giving answers that benefit and favor one party over another. All admissions of evidence from her cannot and should not be used.
Other details included in the report point to the “hostage situation” being more complicated than originally suspected. The claim that Valerie Hatton aided and abetted the situation is especially weak, and Raheem Reeder’s role is more complicated than first suggested. Although there is evidence from victims that Reeder used force to control the victims and stay in the house, he made no real attempt to stop them from escaping or to use them against the police department.. Hatton claims miscommunication led to what has been deemed theft during the encounter and that makes sense. Hatton’s attempts to protect her partner shouldn’t be transformed into a second degree murder charge. Whether or not one agrees with her actions, she made no real attempt to take anything and was first and foremost aiming to protect her daughter.
If Reeder and Hatton went so far as to run to escape the police, it makes no sense as to why they would try to steal from another house. In the ‘hostage’ situation Reeder never once directly threatened the couple with the gun, and it seems unlikely if not impossible that the victim would have been able to grapple with a man with a firearm without being shot. There were thousands of ways Reeder could have chosen to exit the building, but he instead decided to escape by jumping from the second story.
Reeder has a father who was murdered by police officers in Flint, Michigan. This can act as justification for his actions- his blind father was literally murdered by police officers for defending himself. No wonder Reeder was eager to escape and defend his life at all costs.
The facts surrounding the Raheem Reeder situation, despite the case itself being settled, are still unclear. The accusations lodged at Raheem Reeder and Valerie Hatton seem unclear and backed not with evidence, but with the prejudice and misframing often surrounding cases of police shootings within the South. Multiple claims are made that necessitate that Raheem must have been guilty, but none of this information and evidence has enough backing for any kind of strong argument.
After the Tallahassee Community Action Committee visited the Reeder family in Flint Michigan and mourned the loss of Raheem with them, it is clear his dehumanization and criminalization by the media and the police are unfair and unjust. It’s not just the specific incident with Raheem. It’s the very way police conduct and brutality are handled by everyone who holds power in our city. There needs to be real, structural change if we expect any improvement between the relationships of police and community members. We can keep on blaming the victims of police violence, but until we have community control- the power for working class people to decide the policies and protections of the police- there will be no justice for the lives that have already been lost.