Police Brutality, Gentrification and the Thin Blue Line: Rest in Power An’Twan Gilmore

DMV activists and residents march for Justice for An’Twan on Sept. 3rd, 2021
photo credit: Stonieflix/IG

Originally published by Lex in The Washington Revolutionary

At 3am on August 25, 2021, 27-year-old An’Twan Gilmore fell asleep at the wheel of his car on the corner of New York and Florida Avenue in NE Washington, DC. With his foot on the brake, the car remained motionless.

At some point that morning, 911 was called with reports of someone possibly unconscious in a BMW at the intersection with a firearm visible in his waistband. When MPD arrived, they sent eight officers to investigate. One produced a ballistic shield and positioned on the  driver’s-side window of An’Twan’s car as other officers positioned themselves around the sides and back end of the vehicle. Startled awake, An’Twan removed his foot from the brake, allowing the car to move forward. Within seconds, Sgt. Enis Jevric emptied ten shots into the back of An’Twan’s rear window, fatally injuring him and sending the vehicle into a nearby tree.

An’Twan Gilmore is dead. An’Twan Gilmore was murdered by MPD after he fell asleep in his car at three in the morning. How can The Washington Revolutionary give an accurate recount of his death? It’s neither because of police footage nor because of a press conference organized by Chief Contee in the aftermath, and it’s not because of the initial stories published in traditional news sources. The only reason we can give an accurate report on the incident that unfolded on August 25th is due to cell phone video posted to social media.

The Thin Blue Line

The story of An’Twan’s murder at the hands of MPD reveals a grotesque intersection of police brutality, gentrification and the thin blue line of silence that produces false narratives following incidents like this. After MPD failed to secure the scene during the reported 15- to 20-minute confrontation between eight police officers and a sleeping man, the ensuing police report and press conference attempted to frame Gilmore as an armed man and the incident as a type of standoff.

For example, the initial NBC Washington article published after An’Twan’s murder — based on information provided by MPD — was initially titled “DC Police Fatally Shoot Armed Man.” Within the now-corrected article, police stated that An’Twan held the gun at some point before he was shot. Chief Contee went on to state in a Wednesday press conference: “[Officers] attempted to wake the individual. At some point he awakened, and at that point, that individual was engaged by officers, and at some point, from there shots were fired.” Contee later stated that it is unknown if Gilmore ever reached for or drew the weapon. This reporting is consistent through multiple outlets’ coverage of the killing. Unfortunately, or conveniently, the police body camera footage closest to An’Twan is obscured by the ballistic shield held by that officer. MPD later admitted that EMT first responders found An’Twan with the gun still tucked in his waistband. Initial news reports corroborated MPD’s lies with no skepticism. We should know better by now.

Buried beneath Contee’s passive voice and vague statements is the reality that MPD lied. The real story is revealed in a cell phone video taken by a woman, Jordan White, who happened to be across the street during the incident. In the footage, viewers can plainly see officers tapping on An’Twan’s window with guns drawn. The car then lurches forward without threatening any nearby officer’s safety, and Sgt. Enis Jevric begins to immediately shoot into the car.

Who keeps us safe?

The killing of An’Twan Gilmore by Sgt. Enis Jevric proves the multiple ways that the police fail to keep us safe. The Washington Revolutionary, as an abolitionist publication, has consistently pointed out how modern policing fails to prevent crime and, in most cases, only has the capacity to intervene after damage has been done. What is tragic about the case of An’Twan Gilmore is that a so-called crime did not even take place. An’Twan Gilmore was asleep. The untouched gun in his waistband is a red herring and a distraction in any discussion of this incident. This is about the criminalization of Black men by the state which allowed falling asleep to be approached like it was an armed hostage situation.

Rather than rectify the situation by calmly waking Gilmore up in person or with a loudspeaker, ensuring that he was not having a medical emergency and facilitating him moving his car out of the intersection, witness video shows him surrounded by armed men with shields — all this despite one officer’s warning that Gilmore might be scared and despite MPD’s own policy against shooting into a moving vehicle.

Following the killing of An’Twan Gilmore, his family took to the streets to demand justice. Gilmore’s family had facilitated a stream of marches, large and small, demanding justice for his murder. Gilmore has consistently been supported by family: cousins, god-family, and individuals who considered him a brother, as well as small nieces and nephews who led their own protest on Thursday, September 2nd. The outpouring of familial support, as well as support from members of the Black and abolitionist communities in DC, demonstrates how police murder pollutes an emotional ecosystem and deep networks of support. During a large march from Florida and New York Avenue to the U Street neighborhood, one speaker suggested that An’Twan was also a victim of gentrification — a Black man who supposedly did not belong in the rapidly changing so-called NoMa area of DC.

The fatal impact of gentrification

Now called NoMa, meaning North of Massachusetts Avenue, this section of northeast DC was once 85% Black. Now, the neighborhood’s demographics are far different, with the section bordering Massachusetts being over 50% white. The northern part of the area has a Black population in the 60% range, but poverty rates have remained high since the 1980s. No wonder Black men get the police called on them for falling asleep at the wheel.

One of the most violent results of gentrification is over-policing and frivolous 911 calls. In gentrified areas across the US, Black residents constantly complain about having cops called on them for congregating on the corners they’ve called home for years, walking their dogs, riding dirt bikes or playing GoGo music — the sights and sounds of community. An’Twan Gilmore made the common mistake of simply existing while Black in a neighborhood that no longer wants people who look like him around. The police approached him with such extreme aggression because over-policing and criminalization is just one part of the multi-pronged approach that drives Black people away from cities like DC.

It must not be lost on readers that MPD Sgt. Enis Jevric had or has a secondary job as a real estate agent throughout DC. Jevric had listings through Samson Realty as recently as January of 2021 in NW and SE. Not only is Sgt. Jevric responsible for the killing of An’Twan, he is also part of the machine of development that is selling DC to the highest bidder while the Black and Brown Washingtonians that historically called the District home are priced out.

Any solution to police violence must not only include abolition of the police, but also a stop to the gentrification that financially empowers police to wantonly murder Black lives for the sake of property and profit.

Originally published in The Washington Revolutionary a local protest and abolitionist publication in DC.

Related Entries