Outrageous “Justification” of Shooting of Black Child in Cleveland, Ohio
According to an Associated Press news report by Mitch Stacy (Sunday, October 11, 2015) two consultants to the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Prosecutor’s office have declared the November, 2014 shooting of twelve year old African-American boy Tamir Rice by a “rookie patrolman” “justified.”
I saw the video of this shooting on network television news—several times. I’m sure if you search for it on the internet you can see it for yourself. Unless my eyes deceived me (the video recording seemed clear enough to me), the patrol car pulled up next to the child who had a pellet gun, a policeman jumped from the car and immediately shot the child dead. I saw no time for a warning to “put down the gun!” Again, unless my eyes deceived me (judge for yourself) the boy was not pointing the pellet gun at anyone.
This is another in a series of outrageous incidents of “legal” shootings of black boys and young men in America. Most often the police involved are exonerated. I realize that police face life-and-death decisions on an almost daily basis, but in many of these cases the dead black boys or men were unarmed with any deadly weapon.
I recently posted an essay here asking whether Americans can bring themselves collectively to shout “Shame!” toward actions that are technically legal but immoral and harmful.
It is my opinion, based on my own observation of this incident, that the shooting of Tamir Rice was immoral and harmful even if technically judged legal and even justified. I say to the officer who shot him: “Shame on you. You should have at least given him a warning and time to respond before shooting. He was only a child.”
I have a black grandson and I worry about his future in this country. I believe many law enforcement officers do not care about African-American boys’ and young men’s lives. It appears that, in some places and times, there is an undeclared war on them in the minds of some law enforcement officers that is condoned in their culture.
Some time ago I posted here a grandfather’s advice to his African-American grandson. Some responders thought it was unjustified and even extreme. In light of what happened to Tamir Rice, I don’t see how anyone can think that. My advice to all American black teenagers, especially boys, is “If you see a police car coming toward you, lie down flat on the ground with your hands behind your head. Your life is more important than your dignity. Let it get sorted out later.”
No, I do not think all police officers are racists or at war with African-American boys or men. But some are. You can’t tell by looking at them.
This incident in Ohio and the developing cover up, defense, justification, of the police officer’s actions, is prima facie evidence that something is desperately wrong in American police culture and if we as a society cannot cry out for justice for black teenagers it only demonstrates our loss of moral compass and gradual acceptance of racism among those who are supposed to protect the innocent regardless of color, gender or creed.
Appendix: Just after writing this, I watched a segment of the television news magazine “60 Minutes” about an African-American man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He was finally released only months before dying of cancer. The prosecuting attorney at his trial now admits that not only were mistakes made, but that the trial itself involved injustice. He admits, for example, that blacks were consciously excluded from the jury and that possible alternative perpetrators were overlooked, not pursued. Also, the state-appointed defense attorneys had no experience in criminal law. The then prosecuting attorney (white) is now asking the state’s bar association to discipline him for his involvement in that trial thirty-some years ago. The current district attorney of that county adamantly claims the wrongly incarcerated man suffered no injustice even if what happened to him was unfair. What’s at stake? The state would normally owe the wrongly convicted man about three hundred thousand dollars but denied it to him on a technicality—that he was suspected of a crime for which he was never tried or convicted. The current district attorney (white) came across in the interview, in my opinion, as totally lacking compassion for the wrongly convicted man and unconcerned about the events that led to his wrongful conviction. He was stone faced and claimed that compassion plays no role in the legal system. If state law says someone cannot be awarded financially for wrongful conviction and imprisonment so long as they were ever suspected of committing a crime, so be it, that’s the law and the wrongly convicted and incarcerated person deserves nothing. The black man who spent thirty years in solitary confinement on death row because of a conviction his own prosecuting attorney admits was flawed was given a twenty dollar gift certificate upon release and told “good luck.” I say “Shame!” on that system and those who support it and enforce it even if it is technically legal. To paraphrase Charles Dickens: “If that is the law, then the law is an ass.”
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