In the wake of the Ferguson shooting and killing of Mike Brown by a police officer, there has been much attention brought to the targeting of young black men by the police in this country. It has been announced that a decision on whether or not to indict Darren Wilson has been reached by the grand jury. Whether or not Darren Wilson is found culpable, the movement has begun in Ferguson.
I am a firm believer in the rule of law, and I believe that crime should be punished, both within and outside of the police community. However, I also believe that common sense needs to be exercised, and restraint needs to be shown, both within and outside of the police community.
What exactly do I mean by this? Let us examine the subject of this video that I have embedded. As I watched this video, several times over, I was moved to tears. I sat here at my desk, and I wept for quite sometime. In my mind’s eye, I saw a young boy, lost, confused, seeking attention the only way he might have known how. I pictured this scene, a 12-year-old child sitting on a playground swing, holding a weapon, pointing it for attention, and getting shot for it. This made me feel very, very sad. Though I don’t know what the kid’s circumstances were, this is the vision I saw in my head, and at the end of the day, a 12-year-old dying will always make me sad. Regardless of what the details are, a child dying is heartbreaking.[twitter-follow username=”arodomus”]
There are several things that we have to consider here. First of all, think about being the police officer which arrives on the scene. Perhaps he or she has a family; the officer could be a father, a mother, a newlywed. Who knows what their personal circumstances are? When this person left for work this morning, they had no idea, whether or not they would make it home tonight. Now they arrive at a location where a young man is holding a gun, and allegedly pointing it at other kids in the park.
It was later discovered that the 12-year-old was holding an airsoft bb gun, but this was obviously not known at the time by the responding officers. There is the question as to whether or not the dispatch informed the officers that the 911 caller said the “weapon could be fake.” Whether or not a 911 caller says, “It could be fake” is irrelevant to an officer arriving on the scene. It could also be real, and as an officer of the law, not only do you want to make it home tonight, but you want the other civilians and children present to make it home as well. This bb gun did not have the orange tip that is supposed to be on toy guns, and the child allegedly did not listen to the officer’s commands. This case is terribly sad, but unlike some other cases, this one can probably be justified as a fair shooting.
I do not know the state of the young man, and it breaks my heart, as a father, and as a human being. I only wonder what was going through his mind when he produced the weapon as officers were directing him to put his hands up. The lawyer for the family argues that officers should have used more restraint because they were dealing with a juvenile. However, at 12 years old, you have to know that you do not pull out a gun that looks very real when an officer is confronting you. Is it unfair of me to have this expectation?
Recently, there was another shooting here in Brooklyn, NYC. Two officers were doing a sweep of a building in the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. Upon entering a dimly lit stairwell, one of the officers “accidentally” fired his weapon at a young man in the stairwell. Now in this case, though I am fairly certain that officer Peter Liang did not mean to shoot and kill Akai Gurley, his careless mistake needlessly took a life.
As I have mentioned many times before, the job of a police officer is very dangerous. It is a very stressful job to do, especially when you are assigned to unsafe areas. However, that being said, this does not justify shooting someone simply because you are scared, or nervous. I understand that officer Liang wanted to make it back home, nevertheless, entering a dimly lit area, with your weapon drawn, finger on the trigger, without any just cause for this, is a great cause for concern.
As I understand this, the two officers paired together for this detail were both rookies. Having grown up in a tough area myself, I recall seeing at least one older, more experienced officer in the pack. The pairing of two rookies doesn’t seem very logical to me, especially if they are patrolling a high-crime area. Officer Liang entered the stairwell with his finger on the trigger. This is probably the single greatest mistake that he could have made. Unfortunately, his mistake took an innocent young father’s life, and though I feel for him, I don’t think that because he is a cop, he should be granted special privileges. I am a civilian who owns guns, and I know never to have my finger on the trigger, unless I’m prepared to shoot. As an officer of the law, I would expect Mr. Liang, and all of his colleagues to also be aware of this very important detail.
Accidents happen, but in life, we have to be held responsible for our mistakes. Mr. Liang has to answer for his mistakes, and as much as I hate “feeding him to the lions” in this piece, the fact of the matter is that he acted irresponsibly. His decision took an innocent life, and he must answer for it.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, two different cases where a young black man was shot and killed. One which though extremely sad, could very well be justified. The other, though also unfortunate, was more easily preventable and thereby not justifiable, in my opinion. Many people believe that young black men are being targeted, but would you believe that in these cases race had anything to do with it? What are your thoughts? Did this happen cause they were black?