On Friday, Oct. 14, local law enforcement failed those who were victims of the violent incident that occurred downtown last week.
That is not an exaggeration, nor is it fabrication. A young man who hatefully and mercilessly drove through a crowd of peaceful protesters is free once more, after only hours in custody, confirming for those with any lingering doubts that Reno is not immune to the kind of racialized policing that plagues the rest of this country.
For those that may be unaware of the full sequence of events, this is the way things unfolded:
Monday, Oct. 10: A group of demonstrators gathered under the Reno arch as part of a protest against Columbus Day. A white pickup approached the group and its driver repeatedly revved the engine. A brief altercation ensued between bystanders, protesters and the driver. The driver then drove through the crowd, which included seniors and small children in strollers, seriously injuring a 59-year-old woman.
Tuesday, Oct. 11: Reno Police Chief Jason Soto held a news conference. When asked about why the driver, who had already been identified, was not in custody Soto’s justification was that “we sat down and had a conversation with the individual.”
Thursday, Oct. 13: The Reno Police Department held a news conference outlining the timeline of Monday’s events. Soto stated that the driver called the police after driving through the crowd and “indicated [he and his passenger] were the victim of a battery while they were seated in the vehicle.” Never in this conference did Soto identify those who were purposefully run down as “victims.”
Friday, Oct. 14: The driver, Nicholas Mahaffey, was booked into the county jail on a charge of provoking an assault — a misdemeanor. Two others involved in the altercation were charged with simple battery. Mahaffey was quickly released on a $10,000 bail, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Every step of this investigation has been an illustration of the same privilege that has been seen in countless cases of violent acts by young white males across the country. The RPD has followed in the footsteps of their counterparts who have allowed rapists to walk free and ensured mass murderers such as Dylann Roof were treated with the utmost respect, including being given a hot Burger King meal. In these instances, the best interest of the criminals was placed above the best interest of their victims. The fact that Mahaffey was convicted of a misdemeanor and only spent a very limited time in jail denies justice to those who were terrified and victimized by his actions.
The RPD has attempted to excuse Mahaffey’s crime as an act of self-defense. In the Oct. 13 news conference, Soto described Mahaffey’s side of the story as a sequence of events that caused him to “[fear] for his safety based on the threats and acts of violence” fromthe individuals surrounding his vehicle. He was, apparently, so frightened that the very people he could have killed “caused him to drive through the crowd to avoid being seriously injured.”
Take a moment to consider that. They caused his actions, thus he cannot be held responsible, right? Wrong.
Let us be perfectly clear: nothing these demonstrators did or did not do warranted, excused or justified Mahaffey’s action. This was a deliberate hit-and-run, and possible hate crime, committed by an adult who could have easily reversed his car’s direction or made a U-turn. He had a choice, and he chose to endanger the lives of dozens of people.
Yet, not once in the course of this investigation has Mahaffey been held responsible for his actions. He portrayed himself as the victim, and our law enforcement seems to have taken his word for it. Meanwhile, the real victims’ voices have gone largely unheard.
Multiple people involved in the demonstration have stated that Mahaffey passed by them multiple times and yelled racially-fueled expletives such as “F–k the Indians.” He is seen on video pulling up to the group and revving his engine multiple times, an action that even Soto described as antagonistic. If you were one of the individuals who experienced or witnessed this, would you not feel a need to intervene? To try to prevent the scenario that ultimately occurred? In this instance, it seems that trying to dissuade a person from committing an atrocity is a more egregious offense than actually committing said atrocity.
The actions of the RPD represent a shameful miscarriage of justice. It is incredibly difficult to see the sequence of events as anything but law enforcement allowing yet another young white man to get away with a crime while the people of color who were directly affected by the crime.
It is time that we as a community come together to demand that real justice is carried out. It is time to stand with our Native community who was so tragically targeted by this despicable crime. If you, like us, do not want to live in a city where there is a chance that your civic protectors give preferential treatment to some criminals, take action.
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