News » Crime

Witnesses Question 'Suicide by Cop' Narrative in Tony McDade's Slaying

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday June 3, 2020

Initial reports made the police shooting of Natosha "Tony" McDade in Tallahassee, Florida, seem cut and dried: McDade had posted a long video at Facebook talking about a wish to take revenge on attackers who had, they said, subjected them to a vicious beating.

McDade had added that they had no intention of going back to prison, where they had just completed a ten-year stint; instead, McDade stated an intention to die by pointing a gun at responding police officers and forcing them to open fire.

New information around McDade's killing is coming to light, with at least one witness to McDade's killing questioning the official version of events, reports local station WFSU.

As reported at EDGE last week, McDade, 38, had posted a video in which they said that they had been beaten by a gang of five men and would be seeking revenge.

"I'm gonna kill you," McDade promised in the video.

McDade also said: "I'm living suicidal right now."

Authorities believe McDade stabbed and killed 21-year-old Malik Johnson and that they were carrying out the threats they had made on Facebook in doing so. But according to a man who claims to have seen police shoot McDade, the rest of what happened might not have gone precisely as outlined in advance on Facebook.

"I walked down this way, as soon as I get around this curve, I just hear shots," Clifford Butler was quoted as saying by WFSU. "I see the girl [McDade] right behind the tree, but I see for him [the police officer] just jump out the car, swing the door open and just start shooting."

Added Butler: "I never heard 'Get down, freeze, I'm an officer' — nothing. I just heard gunshots."

The police account details that the officer was still in his car when McDade pointed a gun at him, prompting an armed response, WFSU noted in a followup article.

In that same followup article, however, the radio station quoted a neighbor of McDade's, who opined that even if the officer's response was necessary, it need not have been lethal.

"They could have tased her. They ain't have to shoot her that's all," the neighbor, identified only as April, said. "Whatever she did, they say she did, or she was doing, whatever that is I don't know, but they ain't have to kill her."

WFSU reported that people who knew McDade say they suffered from mental health issues.

Issues of lethal police response have been a matter of concern for some years, with African Americans and other people of color saying that police target them far more swiftly for lethal responses that sometimes involve unarmed civilians. The issue has taken on a sense of renewed urgency in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis last week. Floyd died after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes, asphyxiating him. Chauvin kept his knee pressed on Floyd's neck for about three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive.

Chauvin and three other officers were fired in the wake of Floyd's death, and Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder. Defenders point out that Floyd had a criminal record and was suspected of passing a counterfeit bill just before his confrontation with the officers, who were responding to a complaint from the store where the forged bill had reportedly been used in the purchase of cigarettes. Critics note in turn that Chauvin had been the subject of seventeen complaints. The New York Times reported that Chauvin and Floyd had both worked security at the same nightclub; Maya Santamaria, the former owner of that club, told the Times that she had to "have words with [Chauvin] on various occasions when I thought he was not reacting appropriately based on the situation at hand."

Added Santamaria of Chauvin, "It was like, zero strikes and you're out."

Floyd's death was one in a number of recent killings of African Americans that involved police officers or, in the case of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, civilians: A father and son who chased Arbery because they thought he might have been responsible for break-ins that had taken place in their neighborhood. After a confrontation, Arbery was shot point-blank and died. Officials failed to press charges for two months until video of Arbery's shooting began to circulate online.

Protests against the killings have taken place in several cities around the nation, with some of those protests devolving into chaos and rioting. The Trump administration claims that "Antifa" are responsible for the riots, while some officials have said they believe right-wing provocateurs, including white supremacists, have exploited the protests as a chance to create civil disturbances.

In a recent controversial move that drew condemnation even from some Republicans, Attorney General William Barr reportedly ordered a peaceful, legal gathering of protestors in Lafayette Park, near the White House, to be attacked by police in riot gear. The protestors were set upon without warning, with tear gas and flash grenades, and dispersed; a short time later, Trump crossed through the park in order to pose for photos in front of an Episcopal church with a bible in his hand.

Trump has told state governors to "dominate" the protests with police and National Guardsmen, vowing to deploy US military servicemembers to forcibly restore order if governors do not comply.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments on Facebook