#GrievingWhileBlack: Family Demands Apology After West Memphis, Ark., Police Handcuff Grieving Mother

Far too often, police force black people to audition for their humanity. This is one of those times.

According to writer and digital strategist Richard Brookshire, his family is owed an apology after a traumatic confrontation with the West Memphis Police Department that resulted in his sister being handcuffed.

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On Saturday, Brookshire’s four-year-old niece was killed in a tragic car accident. Soon after, family members throughout the country descended upon a La Quinta Inn in West Memphis, Ark., in order to properly grieve their loss and make necessary preparations for the funeral.

Then on Sunday night, this happened:

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In response, the West Memphis Police Department maintains that due to reported break-ins in the area, they were merely doing their job and being hyper-vigilant in order to protect and serve the community. Additionally, they’ve released multiple videos of the incident that they believe corroborates their claim that this was a preventable situation.

“They were on those hotel lots because hotel management is coming to us and saying we’re having an issue here,” Assistant Chief Robert Langston told WREG. “We’re having break-ins in our area. We’re having people travel through and want to make sure our property is safe.”

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The West Memphis Police Department declined The Root’s request for comment, but released an official statement on their Facebook page that has seemingly since been removed:

The West Memphis Police Department would like to express our condolences for this family’s loss. It is an extremely tragic situation and we understand the stress that this family is dealing with. Our officers were simply trying to patrol this parking lot, at the request of management, in an attempt to protect the property of people as they traveled through our area. This is an unfortunate event that could have easily been prevented.

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At this time, the family is exploring their legal options and believe the West Memphis Police Department should undergo bereavement and distress de-escalation training. But in the immediate aftermath, Natacha Brookshire, whose grieving daughter was handcuffed, realizes that these circumstances are far too common for black families.

“I got a phone call and all I heard was my daughter screaming. I got so scared. I thought, ‘Someone is attacking my daughter and I don’t know where she’s at.’ That’s when the accident had happened,” she told Fox 13.

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She added, “I understood exactly what was going on. I had no doubt in my mind what was going on. I understood I was living racism in action.”

“The West Memphis Police Department owes my family an apology, they owe my sister an apology, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Richard Brookshire told WREG.

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Brookshire is also asking that concerned citizens contact the West Memphis Police Department and make their concerns known.

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And for those interested in helping to cover the costs of funeral arrangements, his family has created a GoFundMe page.

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