Saturday, November 09, 2013

In cold blood

It happens all the time.  It happened in my small town this Summer as the police questioned a man parked behind a restaurant after closing time.  Whether confused or inebriated, the man didn't get out of his car and it began to roll. The policeman stood his ground instead of stepping aside and emptied his pistol into him.  A grand jury decided against charging him and  like so many other stories involving citizens being shot by police for such things as asking for help or going out to their driveways to get a pack of cigarettes from their car, we will hear no more of it. No matter what a citizen is or is not guilty of, instant and abject obedience or summary execution is the law on the street.

I still remember a TV news story from back in the 1980s because the victim drove the same 1985 Pontiac Fiero GT I did at the time. The video, shot by a bystander, showed a police officer copying down the front plate number while the driver sat in his car parked at the curb. The nervous driver let his foot slip off the brake and the car rolled ever so slightly forward.  Instead of stepping to the side the officer drew his Beretta service pistol and emptied a magazine into the driver at point blank range.  That report was the last attention the media payed to the incident, but as I said, it happens all the time and it happened again in Ames Iowa on the university campus to a young, unarmed driver sitting in his van with the motor running.

Tyler Comstock and his father were working together as landscapers and when the elder Comstock refused to give his son a cigarette his teenage son got in the company truck to go out to buy  some. The father decided to "teach him a lesson" and reported it stolen. A police officer pursued him despite the dispatcher's telling him to back off. . There was a crash.  The officer's car was hit. Tyler didn't shut the engine off as directed and so the officer opened fire, killing the 19 year old.  Yet another senseless killing by someone either in a panic or in a fit of indignation at someone not obeying orders quickly enough. It happens all the time.  An officer fears for his life, feels his authority is being threatened or disrespected, mistakes a gesture sees a pack of cigarettes or a wallet as a weapon, a moving vehicle as a deadly attack -- pulls a gun, makes an excuse. . .

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