Local media personality Danny Morrison spoke on Facebook Live last week with Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry and Assistant Police Chief Joe Mullins about the death of Robert Forbes and George Floyd.
“It was sick,” Terry said about Floyd’s death. “It was horrific and inexcusable in every way, shape, or form. I condemned it outright — what the officer did and what they didn’t do. Where was humanity? Where was the basic value of life?”
The conversation was part of a week-long Juneteenth virtual event, hosted by Bakersfield College.
Another topic of conversation was Forbes, who died early this month after being struck by a car during a George Floyd protest in Bakersfield. Keith Moore, the driver, has not been arrested, and Morrison questioned if there was going to be an arrest made.
BPD said videos of Moore driving show he was driving the speed limit and his lights were on; however, many Black Lives Matter supporters are saying this was a hate crime.
Morrison said the video shows other drivers who were ahead of Moore slowing down and honking to accommodate protesters crossing the street.
Morrison also brought up the fact that Moore wasn’t handcuffed. Mullins clarified that Moore was eventually cuffed, taken to BPD and was held there for twenty minutes before he was released.
“A very angry, very hostile group of people stood there and they did their job which is to keep this guy from being dragged away, and some kind of, what they might think [is] street justice being done on them . . . [the officers] did their job and I stand by that,” said Mullins.
Morrison said there is a double standard. Morrison asked if BPD would have reacted the same if the racial aspects of the case were reversed — if a Black man drove into a group of “All Lives Matter” protesters and killed a White man.
“I want equality, I want balance,” said Morrison. “When you have a black man passed away and the White man sitting at home that bothers me.”
Chief Terry answered that they would have followed the same protocol regardless of the race of the driver.
“I follow the facts and the law no matter who you are,” Terry said.
Mullins said Moore will not be charged for violating the California reasonable speed law, “Because if he plead guilty [for a traffic violation, we] would not be able to be able to file for greater charges,” Mullins said.
“What are we waiting for,” Morrison asked.
“[I’m] absolutely not going to arrest someone for something when I know the DA won’t file the case right now,” Mullins answered.
Mullins said that the case is not closed, and that BPD was waiting for the autopsy report as well as asking for more witnesses to come forward to ensure a proper investigation before deciding whether or not to send it to the District Attorney’s office, who had informed Mullins they would not file given the current evidence.
Mullins did share however that BPD had impounded Moore’s vehicle and that his cellphone was also part of the investigation.
Morrison then brought up the demand to de-fund the police and asked if Chief Terry and Mullins agreed with that. Mullins said it could be helpful to take money from the budget and reallocate it to the mental health services within the department.
Mullins said, “The police are not trained or the best prepared or equipped to deal with situations like this.”
Kern Sol News is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.