Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
A shocking video of a police officer beating a 14-year-old African American boy over a Swisher tobacco cigarette is being shared across social media platforms around the world.
In the clip, re-posted tens of thousands of times, a Rancho Cordova deputy is captured pummeling the youth in his chest as he presses him to the ground in an incident that happened April 27.
Now, the family of the teen is calling for the firing of the officer, although stating they understand the case involves a minor in possession of a cigarillo.
“There is no valid reason for Brian Fowell, an officer of the law, to punch a child in the face and chest. There is no valid reason for an officer to push a child’s face into the ground against a curb by their neck,” said Tanya Faison, founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento in a written statement to California Black Media. “This 14-year-old boy posed no threat to this officer and the actions officer Brian Fowell took are dangerous for our community.”
The incident happened near a 7-Eleven store where the Rancho Cordova Police Department (RCPD) reports the youth received the tobacco cigarette from an adult.
“The video of the Rancho Cordova deputy repeatedly hitting and slapping a much smaller, unarmed 14-year-old boy is disturbing to us as parents and frustrating to us as lawmakers,” reads a statement the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) released to California Black Media.
“Over the last few years, the legislature has made clear their expectations about the appropriate use of force and the need to find alternatives, especially when it comes to unarmed minors,” the statement continued.
Race, Police Use of Force, Black Teens and Nicotine Addiction
For decades now, activists have targeted tobacco products in the state of California, partially to deter young people from smoking or chewing the cured and dried leaves, which contain nicotine and can lead to addiction.
Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, has been a major force in the anti-tobacco crusade in California. One of the main arguments she makes to lawmakers is her view that tobacco manufacturers target Black people with their products.
McGruder has been working hard to put the brakes on menthol cigarettes, cigarillos like Swishers, and e-cigarettes, which are used for vaping, a favorite way to consume tobacco among teens. Vaping has led to severe respiratory illnesses among first-time smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Anger, disgust, rage, these are the feelings we felt as we watched the video,” said McGruder. “Rage that another Black boy was traumatized by police brutality. As horrific as this video is, what is more horrific is that the biggest invisible killer and profiler of Black boys, the tobacco industry, will be able to latch onto it and use the legitimate concerns of our community to block public health policies that would stop the industry from profiling and addicting our children.”