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by Peter Moskos

November 26, 2014

*Let's* Monday Morning Quarterback

Imagine, say, you get a call for an armed person waving a gun in a park.

Here's what you don't do: drive right up to that person on muddy slippery ground to put your partner in an unprotected and defenseless position a few feet from the suspect.

I feel sad for the officer involved. He does have to live with shooting what turned out to be a non-lethally armed 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, Tamir Rice.

The problems here abound. The dispatcher didn't relay information that the caller said the gun was "probably fake." That could have have changed things. By my main problem with the police here is driving right up to an armed suspect. The only reason to do that is to drive into the armed suspect.

Why would you drive in a snowy park to put yourself on slippery turf within feet of an armed suspect?! It makes no sense. You should do everything you can so you do not put yourself in what James Fyfe called a "split-second decision." Because that is when mistakes are made.

So you park your friggin' car half a block away and approach on foot. Why? Because your aim is probably better than his. Why? Because you can suss the situation. Why? Because you can issue commands with distance on your side. Why? Because you might notice that it is a 12-year-old kid. And while that may mean nothing, it increases the chance you notice it's a fake gun. Why? Because you shouldn't be a lazy f*ck, you lazy f*ck!

So this was bad policing. But that doesn't make it a bad shooting.

You wave a gun, you get shot. That is the way it works. Because you can't -- or at least I wouldn't -- roll the dice with your own life. You can't give the person a chance to shoot you because then it's too late.

Also, what the hell is a 12-year-old doing out alone on a cold day pointing an illegal fake gun at people?! (It's illegal because the orange "safety" tip has been stripped off)?! Where did he get this gun? Could it be from his wife-beating father or drug-dealing mother? I don't know. Hey, didn't somebody ask: where's junior?

Oh, he's playing in the park.

I know it's not politically correct to blame parents. But seriously, shouldn't we blame these parents who did a lethally bad job supervising their son? Instead we blame the cop who had the bad luck to get a bad call and be riding shotgun with a another cop, the driver, who was pretty effing stupid. But the parents had far more time to make far different choices, you know, so their 12-year-old son wouldn't be out in public on a cold day waving a gun around. Shame shame shame.

Some have criticized the officer for saying the guy he shot was around 20. It's interesting to me that the 911 caller also never mentioned that the suspect was a kid. Here's the 911 call.

The video can be seen here.

What the video won't do is convince you how real a fake gun can look. But if it looks real. It needs to be treated as real. Not convinced, take a look at this gun. Real or toy?

Why it's a plastic toy. Can't you tell? No? Well, neither can cops.

That's a replica of my service weapon. It's probably pretty similar to what the kid had. And here's real Glock 17.

Can't tell the difference? Well, neither can cops!

So please do correct anybody who says this kid was shot while holding a "toy gun." This is a toy gun.

Update: from Campbell's comment, this is the gun that the kid had:

[Update: here's a later post on this subject]


campbell said...

Man, it's like you're reading my mind. This is the gun the kid had. What a mess.


PCM said...

Actually, I am.

But seriously. I can't believe his parents (or mom and step-dad or whatever) have the nerve to criticize the police.

I wish they would leave the police criticism to me and perhaps spend a bit more time raising their friggin' kid!

If parents these days get arrested for leaving kids in cars and letting kids walk to school, can we not charge these parents for letting their kid wave a gun around?!

David Woycechowsky said...

I don't like how they said (before the vid came out) that they said three times, before shooting the kid, for the kid to "freeze and put his hands up." Not only was that a contradictory command (had it actually been given), but, more importantly, given the timeframe, there was no time to give these commands, which means the policemen lied about a very material fact. Really, really bad. Prison time bad, I think, even if the shooting was otherwise justified.

Noumenon said...

I'm like "That's obviously a plastic gun. Maybe from a distance... Oh." Are you sure they didn't issue you a plastic gun?

PCM said...

Except for the slide and some internal parts, the Glock *is* plastic. And yeah, I shot it. It worked! I also thought it was a great gun.

Anonymous said...

Pretty related:

Lenna said...

How do you feel about states with open carry laws, and the open carry "activists" (as in, the a**holes who liked to parade around in public spaces with assault weapons)? Recently, here in Georgia, I read a news story about one of those wing nuts waving a rifle around at a kids baseball game (you know, because he can), and after all the terrified parents grabbed their terrified children and ran for cover, the police came and just stood there because legally they could do nothing.

When should they (the police) shoot? Why is it that these people (white people) can taught their rights to wave guns (assault weapons) around in public spaces, places populated with families/children, and fear no consequences? You say, "You wave a gun, you get shot. That is the way it works. Because you can't -- or at least I wouldn't -- roll the dice with your own life. You can't give the person a chance to shoot you because then it's too late."

I don't want the tone of this comment to sound critical, I am honestly curious what you think. I realize the open carry laws vary by state...but seriously, what would happen if black citizens latched onto this movement. I wonder.

Moskos said...

I think it puts police in a horrible situation.

But the big difference is that one scenario involves a criminal and a crime (where open-carry is not permitted) and the other involves neither a criminal nor a crime (the open-carry asshole).

In a place where open handguns are not permitted in public, a cop already knows they're dealing with a criminal who is in the act of committing a crime (waving a gun around).

The difference it between a gun and a criminal with a gun.

So you react differently.

I think it would be interesting if anybody could look at open-carry areas and determine 1) if cops get shot more because they're not a quick to shoot and 2) if criminals with guns get shot less because cops are more likely to assume the gun is being used legally.

I'll also say this: if criminals were smart enough to start using proper gun holsters, a cop's job would get a lot tougher!

And it also needs to be said that a lot of people wave guns around and don't get shot by police. They show their hands. They drop the gun.

So it's not automatic that you get killed if you wave a gun around. It's just that I won't criticize a cop for shooting somebody who is.