This Video Illustrates a Black Person's Worst Fear When They Are Stopped by Police

July 27th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

The haunting story of Alex Landau, a 26-year-old Black man who was beaten by Denver police officers in 2009, has been recorded and transformed into an animated video by the nonprofit organization StoryCorps.

In the video "Traffic Stop," Landau is heard recalling the night when three officers pulled him and a friend over for a traffic stop—an illegal left turn—and proceeded to severely beat him when he asked to see a warrant before they searched his car. He tells his adoptive mother, Patsy Hathaway, who is white, about what happened that night and how it affected his perception of race relations in the United States.

"I thought that love would conquer all and skin color really didn't matter," Hathaway told her son. "I had to learn the really hard way when they almost killed you."

The "really hard way" was seeing Landau huddled over a chair in the Denver Police Department receiving room, bloodied and battered by officers who appeared to hold the then-19-year-old college student's life in disregard. Not only was Landau in handcuffs at the time of the beating, but one officer also pressed his gun to the man's temple after another falsely observed that Landau was "reaching for a gun."

The physical and psychological pain of the incident reached a climax at that moment and Landau passed out, then unconscious of the life-threatening reality of the situation. When he awoke, the officers were gathered around his body, laughing. One reportedly asked, "Where's that warrant now, you fucking n****r?"

His mother arrived at the department shortly thereafter. She let out an involuntary scream, unable to contain herself after seeing her son in such a bloody condition. Landau would need 45 stitches on his face. Hathaway's response caused her son to cry—for the first time since the incident, he said—but it wasn't because of the pain of his injuries.

"It was just seeing how it devastated you," Landau explained. "For me, it was the point of awakening to how the rest of the world is going to look at you. I was just another Black face in the streets, and I was almost another dead Black male."

The City of Denver agreed to pay Landau a $795,000 settlement in 2011. And as for the officers involved, two of them have been fired "for uses of excessive force not related to this incident," NPR reported.