Vice President Mike Pence predictably lied multiple times during his speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night. But perhaps most egregiously he tried to link the May 29 fatal shooting of a federal security officer in Oakland to the George Floyd protests that were happening that night, instead of to the fringe right-wing group called Boogaloo with which the accused shooter identified.
So long as Trump is president — hell, perhaps as long as Fox News remains on the air — we will have to continue listening to right-wing rhetoric that tries to paint California as a cesspool of crime, wildfires, and homelessness, with Oakland often singled out as a dogwhistle that means "city with Black people." And last night was no different, when Pence referred to the shooting of David Patrick Underwood outside the federal building in Oakland, saying that his America would "will never forget or fail to honor" him.
Underwood was one of two security guards employed by the Department of Homeland Security who was shot that night, as a Black Lives Matter protest turned chaotic several blocks away. However, almost immediately after the shooting occurred, Oakland police and the FBI made clear that the shooting did not appear connected to the protest and subsequent vandalism occurring in the city. And in a federal complaint against accused shooter Steven Carrillo and alleged accomplice Robert Justus, prosecutors made clear that Carrillo and Justus met in a Facebook group dedicated to the fringe Boogaloo movement, and that they specifically, allegedly, wanted to use the cover of civil unrest in Oakland to commit an act of violence against a federal law enforcement employee. (The loosely defined Boogaloo movement is focused on inciting a second Civil War to take down the two-party system, and targeting who they call "soup bois," or employees of the "alphabet" of federal agencies with acronyms like the FBI, CIA, DEA, and DHS.)
In his RNC remarks at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Pence gave a shout out to Underwood's Republican politician sister, Angela Underwood Jacobs, saying, "we say to you, we grieve with your family," and trying to suggest that Underwood "was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland." While technically this is true — there was activity one could call rioting happening nearby when the shooting took place — it is highly and intentionally misleading for anyone unfamiliar with the case.
After the arrest of Carrillo and Justus in June, John Bennett, the FBI special agent in charge of San Francisco gave a press conference in which he said, "We believe Carrillo and Justice chose this date [May 29] because the planned protest in Oakland provided an opportunity for them to target multiple law enforcement personnel and avoid apprehension to the large crowds attending the demonstrations."
Friends of Carrillo have told reporters and investigators that Carrillo had been expressing anger online prior to the shooting about the role law enforcement was taking against citizens. In one post, he allegedly wrote, "Go to the riots and support our own cause. Show them the real targets," adding, "We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage."
A week after the killing of Underwood, Carrillo allegedly opened fire on two Santa Cruz sheriff's deputies, killing one. His arrest quickly followed.
Pence seemed to want to use Underwood's death to underscore the Republicans' support for law enforcement and Black people, because Underwood was Black.
"The American people know we don't have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with our African-American neighbors to improve the quality of their lives, education, jobs, and safety," Pence said.
Local Fox affiliate KTVU reported today that Pence "blurred" the details of Underwood's murder for political purposes.
Speaking to the station, Oakland city councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan referred to Carrillo as a white supremacist. "There was a white supremacist murder in Oakland, and it is disgusting and wrong for anyone, especially the vice president, to try to blame the Black Lives Matter movement," Kaplan said. "Mr. Underwood's tragic murder was not part of any demonstration, but an act of a violent, armed white supremacist."
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