Kimberlé Crenshaw: Let me try to describe Gina Best for those of you who haven't met her. She enters a room adorned in white, her long hair is wrapped elegantly in a white head wrap. She's gracious, she's smiling. She's bringing spiritual energy in a small suitcase that brims with treasures, crystals, candles, sage, and other good-smelling things. And as she unpacks each item, she carefully places them around a small table, saving the center of what is now becoming a display for the most precious cargo in the suitcase: a stuffed toy, a well-worn media book and a framed photo of her daughter, handsomely photographed in her Navy uniform. It's only the sharp intake of her breath when she pulls her hands away from the photo that the excruciating pain that she carries is revealed. It's the sound of a broken heart that radiates underneath her regal demeanor. It's a posture that's at odds with the agonizing longing and the barely containable rage that convulses just underneath Gina's surface. She is the mother of India Kager, a Black woman killed on September 5th, 2015 by Virginia police. It's a story of police killing that is so savage, so senseless, so sudden, so unnecessary, and so unjustified that it leaves terrified witnesses to the story knowing that in this quasi-police state in which most Black people live, anything can happen to any of us at any time.
Gina's loss weighs heavy, and it's a burden that's not eased one bit by the obscurity that surrounds this horrific tragedy. It raises the question of whether her stolen life meant any more to a society that basically yawned than it meant to the officers who disregarded her very existence in their relentless pursuit of the man she was with. Gina lives with this awareness, that the child she birthed was reduced to collateral damage in the eyes of the law, and the excruciating recognition that her words convey with stunning clarity to anyone who has the opportunity to hear them.
Last week, India would have turned 32. Like Breonna Taylor, who was nearly the same age as the 27 year old India, her death would also be chopped up to collateral damage. Like Breonna’s case, the cops responsible for taking India's life have not been fired, they've not been prosecuted. Unlike Breonna, India story hasn't garnered much attention, and it's a loss that compounds the loss of India's life. So we wanted to take some time to sit with Gina on the eve of India's birthday, both as a memorial to India, and also as a moment to reground Say Her Name in the real stories of Black women whose lost lives barely register.
Kimberlé Crenshaw: So here's a person who served her country, a mother, an artist. Someone like that, one wouldn't expect to ever get a call to say that she'd been killed by the police. How does this happen? How did it happen?
Gina Best: On Labor Day weekend, a few days before, Angelo Perry had traveled here to Maryland to meet baby Roman.
Kimberlé Crenshaw: Baby Roman was how old at this point?
Gina Best: He was four months old and Angelo hadn't seen the baby, had not met the baby. India was living here. And actually, India did not know that he was married until after the baby was born. And his wife did not know about the baby. And they found out later. Again, he kept that from both, but he came to meet the baby and wanted to take the baby back, beautiful Roman, they called him Jelani, to Virginia Beach to meet his family. And they went from house to house, introducing baby Roman to Angelo's family, to different locations there. But unbeknownst to Angelo and India, the Virginia Beach police were pinging cellphone. They were pinging his phone and following that. And they tracked them ...
Kimberlé Crenshaw: And why were they following him?
Gina Best: Because they said that they got a tip from a confidential informant that he was on his way to commit a crime. By this point, they had gotten ...
Kimberlé Crenshaw: With a four-month-old baby in the car.
Gina Best: Baby in the car. Yes. Yes. That's the story, that's the narrative that the police put out. And therefore, they had assembled ... This is Labor Day weekend, they assembled the entire Virginia Beach SWAT team, highly trained and surveilled, and watched India as she went from house to house carrying baby Roman's car seat in and out of the house.
Kimberlé Crenshaw: So they are aware that this idea that he's coming to commit a crime ... They're aware that there's information to contradict that or at least minimize the intervention because they see India and they see Roman going from house to house with him. I am no criminal lawyer but it doesn't sound to me that a tip constitutes probable cause for them to initiate an arrest.
Gina Best: No.
Kimberlé Crenshaw: Which seems to me the only justification for the intervention, any justification, is trying to effectuate an arrest. But there's no probable cause, no reason.
Gina Best: None.
Kimberlé Crenshaw: Okay. They're following him, they're following India. They see four month old baby Roman is in the car with them.
Gina Best: Yes.