We aren’t supposed to debate whether the Black Lives Matter movement is good for society anymore. We’re past that point. If you say anything on the matter, it’s assumed you’re some kind of racial reactionary — the kind of person who’d say something incendiary like “All Lives Matter.”
It’s worthwhile to remember, then, how a heated online dispute over the movement led to a man being shot and killed after he tried to enter a police officer’s home, all in part over an online debate regarding Black Lives Matter.
In July 2016, 20-year-old Tyler Gebhard threw a 112-pound concrete planter through the window of a Lakeshire, Missouri, residence. At home, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, were the off-duty officer, his wife, his mother-in-law and two young children. The officer and his wife were later identified as Josh and Jordan Lasley.
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said all but the off-duty officer tried to escape through a bedroom window. The officer, however, shot and killed Gebhard before he could get to them.
“I don’t think the officer had a choice — I honestly don’t,” Belmar told reporters, adding it was “a very difficult position to be in.”
The Post-Dispatch reported Gebhard had gotten 10 to 15 feet inside the house before he was shot twice in the chest. He would die shortly thereafter at the hospital.
After the shooting, it was reported that the officer and Gebhard knew each other. Gebhard reportedly had made Facebook threats during the Black Lives Matter dispute, both to the officer’s family and other “uninvolved members of the community.”
While there was no evidence that Gebhard spoke to the officer online and they weren’t Facebook friends, his uncle, Patrick Brogan, confirmed that Gebhard had decided to go over to the officer’s Lakeshire home after a Black Lives Matter argument on the social media platform. Brogan added that his nephew struggled with mental illness.
The Post-Dispatch reported “both were involved in a church group on Facebook where Gebhard allegedly posted ‘anti-law enforcement and anti-white’ threats,” according to a St. Louis County police officer.
“He wouldn’t discuss or share specific posts, but he said that there was no direct connection to the Black Lives Matter movement,” the report said.
“[The Facebook posts are] erratic, sporadic, and some are very threatening and menacing,” Officer Benjamin Granda said. “They’re all over the place. It puts on display the type of mental and/or emotional crisis he was going through.”
“Gebhard’s Facebook page contains numerous posts about police shootings of black men and the deaths of five officers in Dallas at the hands of a gunman targeting white officers,” the Post-Dispatch reported. “Some devolve into heated arguments and warnings of a ‘race war.’ Other posts are conciliatory, calling for black and white people to come together.”
A later report in the Riverfront Times — an alternative St. Louis newspaper — gave the story in more detail. It said Gebhard had once been welcome in the home of the Lasleys, but, in his final visit before the shooting, he had said strange things about police officers to Jordan Lasley despite knowing her husband was a cop.
The visit came just days after two high-profile shootings of unarmed black men and the slaying of five police officers in Dallas.
Things turned awkward when Gebhard couldn’t stop talking about police, which disturbed Lasley. Gebhard left.
Jordan Lasley’s brother followed up with Gebhard, telling him via Facebook, “my sister is extremely upset and worried with all the police that have been killed in the last two days. Obviously, there are some bad cops, but I think the majority of cops are good guys.”
“You’re right but I don’t feel bad for Josh [Lasley] he knew what he was getting into when he took his oath,” Gebhard responded. “He’s supposed to be out there making a difference. But he needs to be careful.”
When Jordan Lasley’s brother assured him that Josh Lasley would be careful because he was a smart guy, Gebhard responded: “I know he is … He just needs to keep his head down.”
Less than 24 hours later, Gebhard was shot dead after trying to enter the Lasley house.
It’s clear Gebhard had mental issues — he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, for which he had a history of not taking his medications.
However, it was also clear he was fixated on the police, something on which the Black Lives Matter movement remains fixated to this day.
The fixation isn’t about reform, however. It’s about defunding and abolishing the police. And for some in the movement, it goes further than that.
In mid-November, Hank Newsome, a Black Lives Matter activist in New York City, warned that if Mayor-elect Eric Adams reinstituted a plainclothes police unit in response to skyrocketing violent crime, there would be more than just civil disobedience.
“If they think they are going back to the old ways of policing, then we’re going to take to the streets again,” Newsome said after he met with Adams.
“There will be riots. There will be fire, and there will be bloodshed.”
Some people, it’s worth remembering, take that kind of rhetoric literally.
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