Steve Snell: We Lost A Young King To Police Brutality

Steve Penn is a cousin of Carnell ‘CJ’ Snell, who was brutality murdered by cops.

As tensions in California continue to remain high due to the recent police killings of Alfred Olango and Reginald Thomas, the shooting death of Carnell ‘CJ’ Snell was sure to ignite public outrage. CJ, as he was popularly called, was shot five times in the back as he fled from police on Saturday, October 1st. The shooting sparked massive protests from Black Lives Matter activists over the weekend. Another protest is planned for Sunday. We talked to Steve Penn, CJ’s cousin who lives in Atlanta. He is organizing a protest tonight calling for the release of body cam footage of the incident and a thorough investigation into the incident.
First of all, could you please tell us about the new developments in the shooting death of your cousin Carnell ‘CJ’ Snell?
Steve Penn
Well, basically the only thing new that has developed so far was the releasing of the video the day before yesterday where it shows my cousin CJ running from the cops, though we were kind of ready for whatever punch they were going to throw. We have a problem with that because these LAPD officers are required to wear body cams and whenever there’s a homicide committed by them, it’s really hard for them to produce the body cam, so they’re showing one side of the story there.
Did any of the witnesses see that CJ was armed?
Steve Penn
Yes, the driveway where Carnell was shot down, there were some witnesses there that actually own the property of that very same driveway, and at the time, the police won’t even talk to them, so we find that kind of strange, that they would not use those witnesses at the time when the crime was committed. That’s why we’re calling for the body cams and we won’t let off until we get some answers.
Do you know if Carnell had any kinds of connections with any gangs or criminal groups that could have given him a gun? Did he ever talk about needing a gun to protect himself?
Steve Penn
No, I don’t know. One thing is I’m in Atlanta. And this is another thing that we’ve been trying to address in the media and make it very clear: his record, if he had one of any sort, his friends, his environment, in this particular situation, is totally irrelevant. That’s one thing that the police officers do to try to paint the picture of a bad guy. So I don’t know anything and I really doubt it. Carnell was no different from any other kid, they’re out there, they’re walking into the store, they’re doing whatever it is they’re doing, and so I don’t really think that’s really relevant. I don’t know anything about Carnell’s legal background or his friends.
Could you tell us more about Carnell? What did he study, what were his interests? What did he dream of becoming?
Steve Penn
Carnell just graduated and got his GED, and he was on the road to get his life together. We actually were trying and pushing for him to come out here and stay with us in Atlanta, just to get away from a lot of things that go on in South Central LA. I know you are aware that there’s a heavy gang population over there and you don’t have to be involved or considered as a gang banger or a gang member, it’s just a place where you live at sometimes, that the police will stereotype you and you just fall into that category. So that was one of the main reasons why we were trying to push for him to get him away from all of that. We wanted to give him a better life here in Georgia.
Do you know whose car he was in or driving when the police stopped him?
Steve Penn
No, I don’t even know if that story’s true now. We don’t have body cam footage and basically, the public is just going off with what the police is putting out there in the media. And right now, we don’t know the full story because there’s only one piece of visual evidence that’s been released and until we push for those body cams and get out there and investigate on our own, then we’ll eventually get the truth. I’ll be going out there on Friday to support my family and I’ll learn a lot more once I get out there.
Have you been able to ascertain if he was alone or with friends at the time he was shot?

Steve Penn
Carnell was by himself running. There was nobody running with him as you see on the video. And that is one of the main things we’re trying to find out. We want to know exactly how the very last seconds of his life was. I’m not sure how many police officers were chasing him but on the video, it looks like they were two and I know that there was more. So we want to see where he takes his final breath. We need to get some more details and information because as it stands right now it’s just one sided.
Did he participate in the Black Lives Matter movement? Was he an activist who supported Black rights?
Steve Penn
I’m not sure if he was with any type of organization in particular, but I know that he was aware of what’s been going on with the police brutality. How can you live in America, and not be aware and fight for your people, and see what’s happening in these streets? And it’s not just in LA, it’s in Chicago, it’s everywhere. So I don’t think he might have been part of an organization, but I know for sure that he would’ve been a young king that would stand up for what’s right. They took a young king from us.
What do you plan to do now?
Steve Penn
Well, the plan right now is we’re going to hold the protest scheduled for tonight, I’ll be out there at some point protesting. We’re going to be doing a lot more protesting and trying to get the officers to release those video cams and we’re going to keep fighting and marching until we get the answers. CJ is gone forever, but we’ll be fighting for answers, whether it’s here in Atlanta or out there in LA. One more thing I’ll like to mention is that we had a few powerful names, before the footage was released, people were calling, the press, lawyers were soliciting their businesses, they wanted to support the family, but as soon as this evidence comes out, with Carnell running from the police, their experience will tell them, “You know what, there’s nothing we can do.” All of a sudden the phone calls stopped, the interest stopped because these older leaders, they don’t know how to dig deeper to find the answers. They just go ahead and they accept whatever it is that their master hands them, and if they say, “Mr. CJ had a gun and that’s it,” then even our own people will see that picture and turn their backs on their brothers and sisters. I find that really disturbing and if you can’t take a piece of evidence and fight that, then you shouldn’t call yourself a leader for the Black movement, for the Black race, you shouldn’t call yourself an attorney that supports in situations like this. A lot of these leaders are out there for publicity. They want an easy win. If they have to do a little bit of work, they’re on to the next victim.
What would you like to say to our readers to make them support the protests?
Steve Penn
I will definitely want our young and old Black people and the world to dig a little bit deeper. And don’t accept what goes down in the legal system. Ask questions, research, promote positive energy, promote positivity especially to the young Black community because they’re so impressionable at a young age. And I’m calling on all artists, all political leaders, the rappers and everybody in the Black community, we have to paint a better picture for our younger kids growing up, we have to paint better pictures, we have to have better content in our material, because sometimes these young kids can’t decipher what’s real and what’s not. And if all you’re talking about is, “my guns do this and my guns do that,” those words are very powerful. We have to go ahead and keep shedding light on that, because the major media outlets, they don’t want us to educate ourselves. Remember back in the 1800s, we weren’t allowed to read and write. The wanted to keep us ignorant because they feared if we discovered how to read and do things on our own, then the possibilities for us is extraordinary. So I just encourage everyone, let’s uplift each other, promote positive material, positive music, positive films, that’s what we need.


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