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Tag: police shootings

Drive-By Journalism Obscures Truth About Police Shootings And Black Lives

Cable news programming suggestion: Instead of filling every broadcast with the latest presumptive police outrage, try covering the latest drive-by killings too. Show us more of what's really happening on the streets where we live. Newspapers and local TV are already on it.

For example, the lead headline in the Chicago Sun-Times on the morning after police released video of the fatal shooting of 13 year-old Adam Toledo by a Chicago cop read "Girl, 7, fatally shot at McDonald's drive-thru."

Witnesses told reporters they were astonished by the brazenness of the gang-bangers who opened fire on a rival in front of many onlookers and several security cameras. The little girl seemingly got in the way.

Young Adam Toledo, of course, was involved in a similar shooting episode immediately before his deadly confrontation with police.

Heaven knows, Chicagoans have reason to be leery of their city's police department, but context is crucial.

This morning's headline in the Little Rock newspaper was "Peace urged after man killed, toddlers hurt by park gunfire." The toddlers were aged three and four. More collateral damage, as it's called when soldiers shoot civilians. Two young men playing basketball were the intended target; one survived. The little ones are expected to recover. Last month, however, a ten year-old girl was killed in a similar incident in another city park.

In Miami last weekend, three year-old Elijah LaFrance was killed when a gun battle erupted at a children's birthday party — the third little kid murdered there in recent months. The others were girls, aged 7 and 6.

Gang-bangers, however, don't wear body cams, so TV footage is harder to come by. Also, because filing wrongful death lawsuits against street thugs is futile, CNN's roving cast of pundits and personal injury lawyers aren't primed to respond with appropriate indignation.

"When a suspect is a person of color, there is no attempt to de-escalate the situation," civil rights lawyer and ubiquitous talking head Ben Crump said regarding a recent incident in Knoxville, Tennessee. "Police shoot first and ask questions later, time after time, because Black lives are afforded less value."

Regarding the value of Black lives, here's some important information: According to an extraordinary piece of reporting by Rick Rojas in The New York Times, Anthony J. Thompson, age 17, killed by Knoxville police in an armed confrontation in a cramped bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School, was the fifth student from that campus to die of gun violence during this school year.

Five kids, all African-American, all shot dead at one school in one year.

"It makes it harder to get out of the house every day knowing another child has lost their life," one victim's older sister said.

So far, however, this ongoing tragedy has drawn little commentary on CNN or MSNBC. "Among our elites," my friend Bob Somerby writes, "no one cares about the gun violence which takes so many other lives. It doesn't matter if Black people get shot and killed unless it's done by police."

At his website The Daily Howler, Somerby has been writing acid commentaries about the melodramatic coverage given police/civilian shootings. In the wake of the Derek Chauvin murder trial, the sad and dangerous truth is that on anything regarding cops and race, you pretty much can't expect anything like accurate, dispassionate journalism from too much of the news media. Particularly not the cable networks.

Uncomfortable facts are routinely ignored or suppressed to preserve the good versus evil story line. Pundits appear on national TV to opine about complex life and death situations without having the first idea what they're talking about. Once the basic storyline gets laid down, it rarely changes.

Consider, for example, the tragic killing of Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb by a veteran officer who says she mistakenly fired her handgun instead of a Taser—a story so improbable it almost has to be true, and will almost certainly result in a felony conviction. Wright apparently told his mother that he was stopped for having an air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror.

Pundits on PBS, MSNBC, the New York Times, and Washington Post have given the air-freshener angle a workout. Al Sharpton mentioned it during an emotional eulogy at Wright's funeral. So why were Brooklyn Center police arresting Wright, and why did he flee?

Well, it turns out that Wright had been charged with aggravated armed robbery in 2019, released on bail, subsequently picked up for carrying a pistol and fleeing police, released again, and then blew off a court hearing on the gun charge. He had to figure they'd keep him locked up this time.

So he tried to run. Terrible decision.

Not a capital crime, no. And still a tragedy.

But if you're one of those posting indignant Facebook screeds about cops stopping drivers for minor infractions, now you know why.

Gun Lobby Ignores The Tragic Facts Of Shootouts

The death of New York City police detective Brian Simonsen, who was fatally wounded Feb. 12 in a friendly-fire incident, is tragic. The officers whose shots struck their fellow officers — not only killing Simonsen, but also wounding another, Sgt. Matthew Gorman — are unlikely to ever fully recover emotionally and psychologically. They killed or wounded their own.

But the tragedy also presents a profound lesson for those who care to learn it: The gun lobby’s dogged insistence that more guns will make us safer is lunacy. The fanatics among gun owners continue to insist that “good guys with guns” can prevent mass shootings, strike down criminals and contribute to the peace. That’s just foolishness, the fantastic thinking of children who watch superhero movies. Studies show that even police officers often miss their targets in a live-fire scenario.

That’s apparently what happened Tuesday night in Queens, when several officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at a cellphone store. Simonsen and Gorman were among the first to arrive, according to published reports, and saw a man with a gun pushing employees of the store toward a back room. Gorman entered along with another officer; when the suspect saw them, he pointed his weapon at them. They started to back away.

By then, though, several other officers had arrived on the scene. When they saw a suspect with his gun raised, pointing it at police officers, they fired. After the suspect, Christopher Ransom, was arrested, they inspected his weapon. It turned out to be a fake firearm, The New York Times has reported.

New York City employs more than 36,000 police officers; its police force is as large as the armies of some small countries. As the largest and oldest police force in the United States, it takes professionalism seriously. (That doesn’t always prevent police brutality, as the deaths of unarmed civilians such as Eric Garner have shown.) It spends tens of thousands of dollars on training for each new recruit. Yet, the department’s own study of officer-involved gunfights between 1998 and 2006 found police had an average hit rate of 18 percent.

Somehow, those basic facts have not penetrated the stubborn and irrational minds of gun lobby fanatics. A year after the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and just over six years after the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the National Rifle Association and its allies continue to insist that teachers should be armed.

President Donald J. Trump is a proponent of that strange and dangerous tactic. After the Parkland shooting, he endorsed the gun lobby’s call for arming teachers. That’s also what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis supports. “If you’re somebody who’s working at a school and you’re somebody who’s trained and who has the ability to do it, then you shouldn’t be precluded from carrying a firearm that could potentially deter people,” he said recently.

Never mind the potential for killing children caught in the crossfire. The Florida Legislature is pushing ahead with a proposal to arm teachers, despite the fact that the majority of Floridians are opposed to more guns in schools, according to polls. The state’s teachers’ union is dead set against the idea, the Miami Herald reports.

If the proposal passes, Florida would join eight other states that allow certain categories of licensed gun owners to carry their weapons into the classroom. In fact, according to The New York Times, hundreds of school districts across the country, most small and rural, have already armed at least some of their teachers. The havoc and harm created by more firearms will certainly increase in those schools.

Even confident and experienced hunters would have a difficult time in a gunfight. After all, deer and turkeys don’t shoot back. Nor are there children running and screaming on a typical hunting excursion.

Are these gung-ho school districts prepared for the first time a teacher or school security guard mistakenly shoots a child?

IMAGE: Emma Gonzalez, a student and survivor of the Parkland speaks at the first-ever March for Our Lives to demand stricter gun control laws on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ Abaca(Sipa via AP Images)

Danziger: License To Kill

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.

Better Regulation Of Guns Would Reduce Senseless Violence

When Donald Trump speaks of the “inner city” — as when he talks about so many other things — he reveals his ignorance. His oddly retro term fails to capture the renaissance that has swept so many urban centers; it overlooks the last three decades’ dramatic drop in violent crime; and it suggests that most black Americans live in urban ghettos, which is certainly not true.

But Trump’s insensitivity and shallowness aside, there are serious problems lingering in some urban centers, the most troubling being an uptick in the homicide rate. Over the last year or so, as criminal justice experts have noted, murders are up in several cities around the country, including Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago.

And it’s not only the nation’s larger cities that have seen an upsurge in violence; so have smaller ones such as Mobile, Alabama, where I live. According to local law enforcement authorities, Mobile has already surpassed its recent high of 31 homicides in 2014. By mid-October, police were investigating the 35th.

Why aren’t we more upset about these murders? Why aren’t we holding daily protests and demonstrations to demand better police tactics to ameliorate the violence? Why aren’t we insisting that the presidential candidates outline plans to deal with poverty, joblessness and persistent hopelessness, which allow violence to flourish? And why, oh why, aren’t we holding weekly conclaves with leading politicians to demand reasonable gun control?

Yes, we ought to react with anger and alarm when a poorly trained, trigger-happy police officer shoots down an unarmed black man. But we should also be angry and alarmed when a lovely teenage girl like 15-year-old Trinity Gay, daughter of Olympian Tyson Gay and a rising track star herself, is gunned down in the parking lot of a Lexington, Kentucky, restaurant, apparently caught in the crossfire between two groups of men shooting at each other earlier this month.

To keep this in perspective, violent crime is still trending downward from its lofty and frightening heights in the 1980s and early ’90s. Chicago’s murder rate, for example, is only about half as high as it was in 1990. (And it’s always wise to reiterate that most homicides are intra-racial: The vast majority of black victims are killed by black assailants, while the vast majority of white victims are killed by white assailants.)

Still, some neighborhoods are suffering staggering losses. Those caught in gang wars, turf battles and revenge slayings over dumb insults include children on the playground, mothers driving to work and elderly couples out for a stroll.

And that doesn’t even take into account the actual targets (and perpetrators) of most of these crimes: young black men who have been seduced by the siren song of the streets, who have little hope for productive lives (or long lives, for that matter), who have so little self-respect that they cannot manage any respect for others. They are killing each other with a callousness that is chilling.

While the phrase “root causes” went out of vogue a long time ago (just as “inner city” did), it remains true that young men consigned to lives of poverty and despair will frequently turn to crime. The nation needs a new plan to tackle the intergenerational poverty that has left so many of them behind. That makes more sense than spending billions on incarceration, which leaves families bereft of husbands and fathers and produces better-trained criminals.

But the single best weapon (if I may use that term) against this senseless violence would be the better regulation of firearms, a goal that shouldn’t be beyond our reach. Gun rights advocates note that Chicago already has tough firearms regulations, but that doesn’t prevent nearby jurisdictions from selling weapons to Chicago residents. That means that state politicians, in Illinois and elsewhere, will have to be persuaded to crack down on gun sales.

Impossible, you say? Not if enough voters started to care about the lives of poor black people lost to street violence. Black lives certainly ought to matter, regardless of the way those lives are lost.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

Photo: Activists hold a protest and vigil against gun violence on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting, outside the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia December 14, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Charlotte In State Of Emergency After Second Night Of Violence

 

By Greg Lacour and Andy Sullivan

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents of Charlotte, North Carolina, woke to a state of emergency on Thursday with National Guard troops deployed on the streets after a second night of violent protests over the fatal police shooting of a black man.

One person was on life support after being shot by a civilian late Wednesday as riot police used tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades to try to disperse demonstrators who looted stores and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks.

Four police officers suffered non-life threatening injuries, city officials said.

The latest trouble erupted after a peaceful rally earlier in the evening by protesters who reject the official account of how Keith Scott, 43, was gunned down by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities say Scott was wielding a handgun and was shot after refusing commands to drop it. His family and a witness say he was holding a book, not a firearm, when he was killed.

A spokesman for the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police told CNN on Thursday he had seen video from the scene showing Scott holding a gun.

Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, said on Wednesday evening that her family was “devastated” and had “more questions than answers” about her husband’s death.

She said she respected the rights of those who wanted to demonstrate, and asked that they do so peacefully.

But the pleas appeared to go mostly unheeded. Overnight, protesters smashed windows and glass doors at a downtown Hyatt hotel and punched two employees, the hotel’s manager told Reuters. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted on windows.

Looters were seen smashing windows and grabbed items from a convenience store as well as a shop that sells athletic wear for the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets. Protesters also set fire to trash cans.

It was the second night of unrest in North Carolina’s largest city and one of the biggest U.S. financial centers. Sixteen police officers and several protesters were injured on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday.

‘VIOLENCE NOT TOLERATED’

Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency late Wednesday night and began the process of deploying the National Guard and state highway patrol officers to the city to help restore peace.

“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” McCrory said in a statement.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts was considering a curfew and Bank of America Corp , which is headquartered in Charlotte, told employees not to report to work at its uptown offices, local media reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the police in Charlotte to release camera footage of the incident. Authorities have said the officer who shot Scott, Brentley Vinson, was in plainclothes and not wearing a body camera. But according to officials, video was recorded by other officers and by cameras mounted on patrol cars.

Todd Walther, the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police official, said the plainclothes officers were wearing vests marked “police” and that he saw them do nothing wrong. Releasing the video would satisfy some people, but not everyone, he added, and people will have to wait for the investigation to conclude.

“The clear facts will come out and the truth will come out. It’s unfortunate to say that we have to be patient, but that’s the way it’s going to have to be,” Walter said.Mayor Roberts said she planned to view the footage on Thursday, but did not indicate if or when it would be made public.

The killing of Scott came just days after a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was recorded on video. Protesters have held peaceful rallies demanding the arrest of the female officer involved.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with the mayors of Charlotte and Tulsa, a White House official said.

The two deaths were the latest in a series of police shootings over the last couple of years that have raised questions about racial bias in U.S. law enforcement. They have also made policing and community relations a major topic ahead of the presidential election in November.

William Barber, president of North Carolina’s chapter of the NAACP, called for the “full release of all facts available,” and said NAACP officials planned to meet with city officials and members of Scott’s family on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Photo: Two women embrace while looking at a police officer in uptown Charlotte, NC during a protest of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

Tyree King: Police Shoot 13-Year-Old Who Had BB Gun

(Reuters) – Columbus, Ohio, police fatally shot a 13-year-old boy after he pulled out a weapon they later learned was a BB gun as officers tried to apprehend him after reports of an armed robbery, police said on Thursday.

Tyree King, 13, was shot multiple times in an alley east of downtown when he pulled what appeared to be a handgun from his waistband during a confrontation with police on Wednesday, police said.

Police did not release information about King’s race or those of the officers.

Detectives retrieved the weapon from the scene of the shooting and later determined it was a BB gun, which shoots small round pellets, with an attached laser, police said.

The incident began just before 8 p.m. EDT when police responded to reports of an armed robbery. The robbery victim told officers that a group of males approached him and demanded money after threatening him with a gun, police said.

Officers located three males, including King, matching the description of the suspects a short time later, police said. While attempting to question the group, police said King and another male fled into an alley.

Police followed them and attempted to arrest them, police said. One of the officers shot King, police said, after he pulled what appeared to be the handgun from his waistband.

King was transported to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The second male who ran into the alley was interviewed by police and released, police said.

“Additional suspects are being sought,” said police. Columbus authorities were not immediately available for further comment.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Alison Williams and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Photo via Flickr/Heather

Republicans And Democrats Reside In Different Galaxies

It’s often noted that liberals and conservatives tend to see the world differently. But if the Republican National Convention is any indication, liberals and conservatives inhabit not just different worlds but different galaxies — far, far away from each other.

The world in which Republicans live is a grim and frightening place, a landscape of constant terror and crime, of collapsing moral values and inept and unethical government elites. The nation they live in is in free fall, no longer respected by allies or feared by enemies, no longer a leader in world affairs.

The Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, has said that the U.S. military is “depleted,” that American cities have “exploded” with crime, that American leaders are “stupid.” He put it this way in a recent speech: “If we don’t get tough, and if we don’t get smart, and fast, we’re not going to have our country anymore. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing, left.”

It’s no wonder that Trump’s campaign theme is “Make America Great Again.” If the nation is coming unglued, there should be plenty of support for a man promising to restore its former glory.

But what if there is a polar-opposite view of the current state of things, an analysis of our domestic and foreign affairs that suggests things aren’t so bad? Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, certainly has a different view than Trump; she can point to a raft of statistics that show the gloom and doom in which her opponent trades is more than a bit exaggerated.

Let’s start with security, which has been a top concern among Trump’s supporters. Several speakers, notably former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, devoted their time at the podium to nerve-fraying rants about the threat of Islamist terrorism. Others insisted that Trump would restore “law and order” to a land where precious little of that now exists.

Certainly, attacks by radical jihadists have frightened American voters, pushing even some dovish liberals to call for a more aggressive military response to the Islamic State and its followers. Still, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil are hardly routine. In the years since 9/11, fewer than 100 people have been killed in assaults here at home by terrorists associated with radical Islam. For the sake of comparison, more than 38,000 people were killed in car accidents in 2015 alone.

As for ordinary crime, the United States is much safer than it used to be—even factoring in the recent uptick in homicides in a few American cities. In 2015, the violent crime rate continued to decline, according to FBI statistics, as it has for the last three decades. The rate of violent crime in the country is about half what it was in 1990.

What about police officers? Aren’t they victims of what some have called a “war on police”? Certainly, there is no overstating the sense of siege that has overwhelmed police departments around the country after separate barbaric attacks killed five officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge.

But the data don’t suggest any war on police. In 2015, according to the Officers Down Memorial Page, 39 officers were killed by gunfire. In 1990, 60 officers were lost to gunfire; in 1995, 70. Again, the broader trends seem headed toward police work as safer, not less so.

Fear, though, isn’t the only emotion that infuses the GOP universe. There is anger, too—a rage against lost status and imagined slights that has found a convenient target in Clinton, Trump’s rival. Though she has never even been charged with any crime—FBI director James Comey criticized her for being “extremely careless” with her emails—she has been indicted and convicted by Republican activists, whose chant on the convention floor, “Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up,” was chilling.

This fearful and angry worldview cannot be attributed simply to political polarization. Nor is it merely the inevitable consequence of years of escalating rhetoric by pols seeking money and votes, though that has certainly played a part. This is a sign of something deeper and more troubling: a nation whose citizens are separated by a light-years-wide chasm that seemingly can’t be bridged.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

 

Photo: U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump supporters carry a banner at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Cop Killers Serve No Cause

How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

 

Photo: Police officers attend a vigil after a fatal shooting of Baton Rouge policemen, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, July 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky