LAW & CRIME

The Uncommon Case of Daniel Brown: How a White Police Officer Was Convicted of Killing a Black Citizen, Baltimore, 1875

Kent State Univ. Feb. 2021. 184p. ISBN 9781606354124. pap. $24.95. CRIME
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In his first book, former attorney and judge Shufelt examines an all-too-common crime—a white police officer killing an unarmed Black man—with an unusual aftermath: the murder conviction of the police officer. In the summer of 1875, Patrick McDonald, an Irish immigrant and Baltimore police officer with a long history of violence, responded to a noise complaint at the home of Daniel Brown, a Black laborer; McDonald then fatally shot Brown. In the weeks following, Baltimore’s white establishment decided that McDonald should be prosecuted but denied the role race played in the incident—an astounding response given that the department was run by former slaveholders and Confederates and there were firsthand accounts of McDonald’s use of racial epithets. Writing with empathy for Brown, Shufelt presents a full picture of the man’s life and offers rich context about his deadly encounter with McDonald. The author explains how a seemingly enlightened outcome resulted from Baltimore’s race and class structure. White distrust of the police stemmed from the department’s disruption of elections, and Brown’s murder contributed to the argument for reform, Shufelt explains.
VERDICT An accessible account that will make a worthy addition to collections on racial justice and police brutality.

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