Nakia Jones is a police officer with the Warrensville Heights Police Department in Ohio. On Wednesday, she streamed her reaction to the news of the death of Alton Sterling—a black man who was, according to a witness video, pinned to the ground by Baton Rouge police officers and shot Tuesday morning. The now-viral Facebook Live video by Jones, who is black and the mother of six children, is powerful and forceful.
As an officer, Jones explains that she is sensitive to criticism against men and women who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the public. And as a black woman, she says that she wanted to work in a black community to help make a difference—though she witnesses heartbreaking violence daily, she says, police should never be the ones perpetrating it. After she watched the graphic video of Sterling’s death, she explains that she could not stay silent.
Sterling, 37, was shot and killed by two white police officers who responded to an anonymous tip that a man selling CDs outside a convenience store had a gun and was acting in a threatening manner. According to an account from store owner Abdullah Muflahi, Sterling’s gun was concealed (and Louisiana is an open-carry state) and his hands were not near it. By Muflahi’s telling, the police were “aggressive,” and in the two videos that emerged they are seen fatally shooting Sterling after they’ve pinned him to the ground.
“I got to see what you all see. If I wasn’t on the police officer and I wasn’t on the inside, I would be saying, ‘Look at this racist stuff. Look at this.’ And it hurt me,” Jones says in her video.
“If you are white, and you are working in a black community, and you are racist, you need to be ashamed of yourself,” Jones continues in an impassioned plea. “You stood up there and took an oath. If this is not where you want to work at, then you need to take your behind [and leave]. I decided to work in an African American community because I am African American and I wanted to make a difference.”
“How dare you stand next to me in the same uniform and murder somebody? How dare you!” she cried. If you’re an officer who is “afraid of people that don’t look like you,” she said, “you have no business in that uniform. Take it off.”
A day after Sterling was shot dead by police, Minnesota police shot and killed Philando Castile after pulling him over for, reportedly, a busted taillight. Castile was the 123rd black person killed by police this year; their deaths are among the hundreds of black lives lost at the hands of police in recent years. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has opened investigations into both killings.