Our under-incarceration problem, Charlotte edition

Nearly lost in the controversy over the events leading to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a black police officer in Charlotte is the killing of another black man during the ensuing protests. The victim was Justin Carr. Mr. Carr had wanted to tell his grandmother, who marched with Martin Luther King, that he took part in the protest.

Who shot Carr? Relying on video evidence, the police have arrested Rayquan Borum,

Who is Rayquan Borum? According to the Charlotte Observer, he’s a 21 year-old Charlotte resident with a criminal past.

What is the nature of Borum’s criminal past? According to this report, which cites, among other sources, North Carolina Department of Public Safety records, Borum has been booked on accusations ranging from possessing a firearm as a felon to carrying a concealed weapon to drug offenses. (It appears, though, that Borum didn’t use the weapon during the drug offense which, to the Obama administration and other supporters of sentencing leniency, means he’s a “non-violent, low level” offender.)

In 2011, Borum was convicted as a felon for breaking and entering and larceny. Reportedly, he served only three months in prison and was released in 2012. Borum also faces at least two pending weapons charges in another county.

Last year, Borum was arrested for resisting a public officer, possessing a stolen firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm by a felon, possessing marijuana paraphernalia, and possessing marijuana.

With a record like this, Borum should have been in prison. Our criminal justice system is “broken,” all right.

Finally, why did Borum shoot Carr? We don’t know. However, there is speculation that the intended target (or targets) was a rival gang member in the crowd of protesters.

As I argued here, the Charlotte protests/riots provide a revealing glimpse into the challenges of patrolling crime-ridden neighborhoods. Officers who patrol them must deal regularly with the people who, among other acts of vicious lawlessness, hurled stones at cars driving along the interstate; tried to throw a reporter into a fire they had set; and assaulted en masse a bystander in a parking garage.

They must also deal with the likes of Rayquan Borum and the gang members whom, if the speculation is correct, he wanted to kill.

It’s the inherently dangerous nature of patrolling neighborhoods where one encounters these dangerous thugs, not police racism or malevolence, that explains why police officers occasionally shoot black men in such neighborhoods.

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