Letter to the editor:
Brendon Burns should be alive today. We send our love and sympathies to his family and friends mourning his loss, whose lives will forever be changed by his killing.
On the heels of the three year anniversary of the killing of Daniel Prude, we are horrified by the addition of another name to the list of lives lost at the hands of police.
We are reminded of the fact that people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement, because violence workers are not equipped to intervene in the midst of a mental health crisis.
In both the heavily-edited BWC videos and the written statements released by the police, the underlying messaging is that Brendon was a criminal who deserved to be executed. We reject that callous, dehumanizing narrative and remind the public that the role of police is not to be judge, jury and executioner.
In the case of Brendon Burns, from the moment police engaged with him on Vassar Street - some in plain-clothes, some in military gear with assault rifles - police continuously failed to de-escalate, choosing instead to fire wildly in a residential area, hitting cars and businesses, and placing the Park Avenue community and the children who attend School #23 in grave danger. These split-second decisions were made without regard for Brendon’s humanity, and ultimately cost him his Life.
We call on the public to question the circumstances surrounding his Killing:
Why did two police officers shoot at Brendon while he was running away from them on Vassar Street? Why did officers choose to shoot indiscriminately in a residential neighborhood, near a school and businesses? The Sheriffs claim that they established a perimeter around Brendon’s home prior to engaging him on Vassar street. Why, then, was his car not secured? Why was he allowed to access his car and remove the bag which was eventually used to justify killing him?
Officers have access to non lethal weapons including tasers, bean-bag guns and pepper spray. Why were none of these methods utilized at any point during the encounter? Why did Sheriff Baxter release a heavily-edited video attempting to criminalize Brendon for alleged crimes he hadn’t been charged with?
RPD Chief Smith and Sheriff Baxter claim Brendon was known to them for a while. What attempts were made to pull in community organizations to provide preventative mental health interventions prior to this encounter?
These choices made by officers cost Brendon his life, and placed the Park Avenue community in grave danger. As a result, we call for the immediate termination of all RPD officers & Sheriff's deputies who used lethal force in the encounter with Brendon Burns: Kevin Leckinger, William Baker, Clayton Hillegeer, Christian DeVinney, and Alexandra Baker. Brendon Burns should be alive today.
Signed: Free The People, Rochester ROC DSA (Rochester chapter of Democratic Socialists of America), National Lawyers Guild Rochester, The Police Accountability Board Alliance, and VOCAL-NY.