On August 9th, an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, setting off protests that continue on and off to this day. Brown was shot at least six times.
On August 24th, in Chicago, 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh was killed by a police officer. Witnesses say that he, too, was unarmed, though police allege he pointed a gun at them. And on September 13th, Chicago resident Denzel Ford, 20, was shot 11 times by police during a narcotics arrest. (According to news reports, Ford was stopped by two police cars while in his vehicle, and attempted to drive away. While doing so, he hit one of the police cars, which, in turn, hit an officer getting out of it. Shortly after, an officer from the second police car opened fire on Denzel. Police accounts say Ford hit the police car on purpose; his parents say they believe it was an accident. Like Brown and McIntosh before him, Ford was unarmed.)
This short documentary tells the story of the struggle of Denzel’s parents, Ricky and Venester Ford, to come to terms with how the shooting has impacted their family and community.
“It’s like a nightmare,” said Ricky. “I couldn’t have thought that had happened in a million years.”
Of concern to Ricky, not to mention the thousands of other activists who have taken to the streets in recent months, is not so much whether an individual was or wasn’t carrying drugs, or should have been stopped by police, but what he feels is a disproportionate use of deadly force by police officers against young men of color. In the United States, a black teenager is 21 times more likely to get shot by a police officer than a white teenager, according to a Vox review of FBI statistics. And officers who deploy firearms in this manner are rarely made to take responsibility for their actions: In Chicago, where Denzel lives, most investigations of police shootings or misconduct don’t end in discipline for the officer, and activists have long said the police accountability system didn't adequately investigate shootings or brutality.
The Chicago Police Department won’t comment on Denzel’s case, as it remains under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), a city-appointed agency tasked with investigating all police shootings and allegations of misconduct. (IPRA has said it works diligently to investigate any complaints of brutality.) For now, Denzel remains in Cook County Jail. His wounds, for the most part, are healing. Ricky and Venester hope he will be out on bail soon. Until then they wait, and worry.
Editor's Note 12/10/14 2:30pm: We initially published this story writing Denzel Ford was 19 when he was shot, but he was 20. We apologize for the error.
Executive Producers: Ben Kolak, Brian Ashby and David Jacobson
Producer: Yana Kunichoff
Cinematographer: Emmanuel Camacho
Editor: Mojo Lorwin
Music: Stephen Ptacek