North Carolina Cops Host Small Party With White Guys Who Broke Into Black Woman’s Apartment
What Shanay Porter discovered when she came home to her apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, last week would horrify most people, especially a woman who lives alone: Her door was open, and inside two strange men were chilling in her living room. They'd helped themselves to her food. They were wearing her ex-boyfriend's clothes. One of them had even used her shower.
Shocked, Porter simply said, “Who are you?" When one of the men came toward her, she quickly closed the door.
"I just looked at him and said, 'who are you?' And he started coming toward me and I hurried up and closed the door," Porter said. "I didn't know what to think or what to say. I was so speechless. I've never seen anything like this before."
Porter called 911, and the police soon arrived. Hooray! Unfortunately, the officers didn't respond with the urgency you might expect. This is when we reveal the less-than-shocking plot twist that Porter is Black and the men who broke into her home are white.
Porter recorded the police's interactions with the home invaders. It's bizarre. A cop asked one of the suspects, “Do you know your apartment number?" That's hardly relevant because this isn't their apartment. Burglar One asked Burglar Two, “What's our apartment number?" This impromptu Abbott and Costello routine didn't entertain Porter, who yelled, “Arrest them now!"
Because that's what cops do: They arrest people who break into other people's homes, eat their food, and raid their closets like it's a consignment store. This wasn't a difficult case.
One of Porter's neighbors also recorded this craziness on her cell phone. Porter asked the officers why the strange men were still in her house. It's a legitimate question. She wasn't throwing a party when she dialed 911. She wanted to reduce the number of white men in her apartment, not double it. The cop's response was infuriating:
"Well, right now we're trying to figure out what's going on."
WTF? This isn't a "Columbo" mystery. Did the cops really think there was a chance the men were in the right house? Shanay is not Karen. She wouldn't call the cops without the facts, like her driver's license. The police could've cleared up any confusion by speaking to the frightened Black woman.
A neighbor who had Porter's back demanded the police treat her like someone whose house was broken into by strange men. An officer cop-splained to her that it's somehow procedure to detain the burglars inside Porter's house.
"At this point in time what's safest for us and every single person out here is to deal with them in that situation; detain them and bring them out afterward."
That's bananapants. Police ask people to step out of their cars during traffic stops, and those people usually own their vehicles. The cops could've just ordered the men to step out of the house with their hands up. Porter was literally left out in the cold.
Charles Merry and Brian Capell were arrested, eventually. They are charged with breaking and entering, but I still contend eating her food and wearing clothes from her closet bump this up to burglary. Maybe I'm overly attached to my leftovers and comfy sweatshirts.
Porter doesn't believe the cops would've handled this the same way if she was white and Merry and Capell were Black.
"If I was a white woman and I called and said it was two Black intruders in my house, I feel like they would've had them out of my house immediately," Porter said.
Ya think? If you're Black, you're frequently surprised by the lengths cops go to confirm whether a white person committed a crime. It's like they're citizens. But with us, cops just assume we're criminals. That's how 12-year-old Tamir Rice died within seconds.
"I called police for help and the officers talk to them like they're good people -- they just broke into my house," Porter said. "I don't even feel safe with calling the police anymore. Because it's like you never know."
Unfortunately, deep down, Black people do know how the police will likely respond to situations like this. It's never our house. We're just visiting
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."