The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Shot by Police for Holding … Anything

Mar 25, 2024

Two San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 15-year-old Ryan Gainer on March 9 at his family’s house in Apple Valley, California. The sheriff’s department said the deputies felt threatened because Gainer was holding a five-foot gardening tool.

A 15-year-old holding a gardening tool—and what the cops do is shoot him the moment they set their eyes on him! But still, these cops’ trigger-happy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude is no surprise—not in the U.S. where, on average, three police killings happen every day. One reason the killing of Ryan Gainer caught special attention, though, is that it fit into a string of recent police shootings in Southern California, where the cops claimed they felt threatened by the everyday objects the victims were holding.

In two of the shootings the victims were holding cell phones, and in two other cases, lighters. L.A. cops also shot people who were holding a small car part, a small bike part, and a wooden board. And then came the white plastic fork!

In February, after cops shot and killed Jason Maccani, a 36-year-old mentally-ill man holding the notorious plastic fork, the LAPD claimed in a briefing that Maccani had been holding a “screwdriver or knife,” and that he had “charged” at the cops and grabbed their beanbag shotgun—none of which turned out to be true.

After cops shot Jermaine Petit in L.A.’s Leimert Park area in July 2022, the authorities went even further and began a prosecution against Petit, who survived the shooting, for “brandishing a replica gun.” In the meantime, the LAPD itself has admitted that Petit was actually holding a small car part called an actuator, and video footage shows that Petit was walking away from the cops when two of the cops fired at him. “I expected the police to demonize Jermaine,” said André Horton, Petit’s cousin. “The department has its purpose—to keep a certain sect of people in line.”

Disproportionately, the targets of police aggression are young black men like Jermaine Petit and Ryan Gainer. But not only—Jason Maccani was white. In capitalist society, where the capitalist class lives off the exploitation of the working class, it’s the job of the police department to keep the working class in its place by any means necessary, including lethal force.