Of course, this is a tragic story...
SEE | http://cbsn.ws/1eQnwG8
(CBS This Morning)
...that's big in the San Francisco Bay area, where I am, right now because it happened just 41 miles (by car; just 24 miles, as the crow flies) from me...
SEE | http://goo.gl/maps/3XEYU
...and just 55 miles from downtown San Francisco.
SEE | http://goo.gl/maps/iYtCB
Last night, several hundred protesters rallied at the site of the killing in both memorial for the teen, and also in protest against police. The teen's largely hispanic community is citing its increasingly bad relationship with police...
SEE | http://cbsloc.al/17jqJP0
...and claim that police fears of gang activity in the community are unfounded. The teen's father stated his belief that if it had happened in a white neighborhood, and had the kid been white, he'd still be alive.
And the attorney vultures are already circling: An attorney from the firm that won the $24 million judgement...
SEE | http://mbc4law.com/
...in the 2012 case of a Los Angeles police officer shooting and paralyzing a teen who had a toy gun in his hand which the copy claimed he mistook for a real one...
SEE | http://lat.ms/17jqtzJ
(Los Angeles Times)
...visited the home of the Santa Rosa teen yesterday; obviously sniffing around to represent the family in what will almost certainly be a wrongful death and excessive force lawsuit against the city.
SEE | http://cbsloc.al/1aKmjfg
Another protest march of students happened today.
SEE | http://cbsloc.al/1aKmkQi
The thing is, though, that if what the police have said so far (which no witness has refuted) is true, then this case is *NOTHING* like the one in the aforemention $24 million Los Angeles case in 2012 which netted the teen victim and his family some $19 million dollars after the Court found that the teen victim's mother was 15% neglegent for purchasing such a real-looking toy gun!
In Eriza v. Abarca, BC-453870, Superior Court of Los Angeles County, December 14, 2012, officers told investigators they were in search of graffiti and gang activity, and came upon 13-year-old Rohayent Gomez Eriza, and two of his friends, on a street. The kids were playing "cops and robbers" airsoft pistols that fire small plastic pellets and are made to look like actual firearms... but with orange barrel tips to indicated that they're not real; that they're just toys.
Witnesses said Eriza (also called "Gomez" in most news stories, and so that's what I'll call him, from here, on) was hiding behind a parked van to reload his pellet gun, and was unaware of the presence of the officers.
The officers said that in the darkness they were unaware they were confronting a mere teenager; and they claimed that Gomez was, to them, an adult male suspect hiding behind a van in the dark. The officers claimed they made repeated commands of the man to come out from behind the van, showing his hands. The officer claimed Gomez “had both hands concealed within his sweatshirt and was bent slightly at the waist,” and only then did they unholster their weapons.
One of the officers claimed he then fired a single round when Gomez alleged pulled what appeared to be a pistol from his waistband. The officer told investigators that he had not been able to see the orange-colored tip of the airsoft pistol which indicated that it was a mere toy.
Witnesses, though, testified that it was "glaringly apparent they were kids and that they were playing cops and robbers;" and that Gomez was both surprised and startled by the officer coming around from the side of the van to its back, without having said anything, and with his gun already drawn. According to witnesses, the officer then gave one command of "Don't [effing] move" and then fired a single shot at Gomez as the boy took a step out of surprise.
The boy's wounds also refuted the officer's version of events, as Gomez was shot in the left clavicle and the bullet traveled downward into his spine -- a trajectory that would have been impossible if the boy Gomez had squared off with the officer as said officer claimed.
The jury found the officer negligent, and that he had used excessive force, awarding $24 million to Gomez and his family, adjusted down to $19.2 million after the Court found the boy's mother 15 percent negligent for buying her child such a realistic looking toy gun, and the boy 5 percent negligent. The officer was found the remaining 80% negligent. The award is believed to be the largest sanction ever against the LAPD for a single event; and perhaps the largest of any kind against the department. It ranked as the 19th-largest over-one-million-dollar verdict of any kind in California that year by the | VERDICTSEARCH.COM | and the | THERECORDER.COM | websites.
THIS CASE IN SANTA ROSA, though, is different. For starters, it happened in broad daylight, with no nearby vehicles. Officers saw the 13-year-old Santa Rosa teen -- named Andy Lopez -- walking while carrying a realistic-looking AK-47 automatic assault weapon. And when I say "realisitc looking," I mean it. Please view from 1:08 to 1:16 of the below-linked-to CBS This Morning video, and see just how much the fake gun on the left looks like a real one on the right.
More importantly, note in that video snippet that the toy gun on the left does not have an orange tip on it to indicate that it's a mere toy. Lopez's friends said that he had painted away the orange when he made then entire barrel of the toy weapon a uniform color. So police had no way of determining that what they believed to be a real gun was actually a toy.
When police ordered Lopez to stop and freeze and drop what they believed was a real assault rifle, Lopez, likely startled, naturally turned toward them and (likely inadvertently) slightly raised the muzzle of the weapon what ended-up being toward the officers. Multiple orders to stop, freeze, and drop the weapon were given, but Lopez -- again, likely startled and still trying to get his mind wrapped around what was really happening, and who, to his side, was yelling at him -- kept turning his body toward them, and with it so too did the muzzle of the toy weapon (which had no orange tip on it to convey that it wasn't real) turn toward them...
...and so the officers, feeling in mortal danger, dropped him with seven shots; the ones through his chest and hip being, sadly, fatal.
If that account of the story is accurate -- and no witnesses say it isn't; but, of course, who knows what will finally come out -- then, I'm sorry, but the officers were justified in what they did; and behaved appropriately, and according to training.
One does not get to turn a weapon toward police and live to tell about it. It's as simple as that.
This kid shouldn't be dead; but -- and this is important -- he's dead by his own doing, and not that of police. I know that seem harsh, especially to my fellow liberals/progressives. But not all police shootings are "the man against the oppressed masses." I know *MANY* cops, and, trust me, every last one of them wants to be one of those majority of officers who get through their entire 20-year stint on the force without ever unholstering his/her weapon other than at the firing range. Every last one. Not a one of them -- not even the ones who were, when they entered the police academy, gung-ho and thought being a cop was like they see on TV -- wants to shoot (and espcially to kill) anyone... especially a kit.
These officers, I promise you, are feeling godawful about what happened; and if they're not, yet, then it's likely only because they, too, saw on the TV news, that the same Los Angeles lawfirm that won the $24 million suit against the LAPD are already sniffing around, and has likely already been retained by the boy's family.
This isn't about overly-zealous police; or its allegedly bad relationship with the hispanic community in that neighborhood. It's about a kid who appeared to police to be an adult, and who was dressed like what police know to be gang members (in a town with a legitimate, albeit not very big gang problem), carrying what looked to police like one of the most dangerous and rapid-firing lethal automatic assault weapons on the face of the earth (bearing no orange muzzle tip to indicate that it's just a toy); and then that seeming armed gang-member man turning toward police when they ordered him to freeze and drop his weapon, bringing the muzzle of it to a place where he could rake them with, if in automatic mode, approximately one round per second or so, each having a muzzle velocity of nearly 2,500 feet per second, and capable of traveling 400 yards; and so could easily drop large game with a single round.
By comparison, assuming the officers had the now fairly standard issue Glock, Sig Sauer or Baretta 9mm service weapon, they could each only fire as often as they could pull and release the trigger, and then re-aim; with each round leaving the muzzle at only around 1,200 feet per second, and capable of traveling only around 50 years. Such weapons typically require multiple rounds in order to drop a human being; hence the reason the officers put seven into young Mr. Lopez...
...else, they feared, with hearts racing and adrenaline flowing, he'd cut them both in half with a single burst of rounds side-to-side rake of what they believed to be his AK-47 which could -- likely was -- capable of firing 100 or so rounds per minute in full automatic mode...
...killing, additionally, anyone in any of the homes behind them.
Yes, this shooting is tragic; and I'm sure that there's not one person involved -- especially the officers -- who don't want Andy Lopez alive and unscathed. But Andy made a serious mistake... four of them, actually, to wit:
1) He painted-over the orange tip on the muzzle of his toy AK-47, thereby making it look to any reasonable person as though it were real; and, then,
2) he walked around on the street with it, looking like a gang member in a neighborhood with legitimate gang activity; and, then,
3) he failed to literally freeze and then just open his hand and let the toy gun fall to the ground when ordered by police to so do; and, then,
4) he turned his body -- and the muzzle of the weapon along with it -- toward officers who had already drawn their weapons on him, according to their training; and who were multiples times demanding that he FREEZE and DROP THE WEAPON (and likely get on the ground, too).
Officers didn't just shoot Andy in the leg or something, like stupid TV and movie script writers imagine is possible. Police are trained to shoot only one way: to kill, starting with the first shot, if possible. There's no "shoot to wound." Wounded people with automatic AK-47s in their hands can still kill officers. And so if the officer deigns to fire, s/he's as serious about it as a heart attack; s/he shoots to kill from the outset; and fires multiple bullets to make sure it gets done. As per training.
And so they killed young Andy Lopez. Per their training. Because he gave them no choice.
People demanding the officers' heads on a silver platter should learn a thing or two about the realities of situations like this; and should imagine themselves in the officers' shoes.
That is not to say that officers are always right. There are MANY dirty and crooked officers in the world. Clearly the ones in the aforementioned Eriza v. Abarca case in Los Angeles in 2012 were bad, lying cops... or at least so that jury found.
But these cops seemed to have done exactly what they were trained to do; and, trust me, they're trained to look for that orange tip! They didn't see one. All they saw was what looked like a real gun, in the hands of what appeared to be a real gang member, turning toward them, to end their lives. And so they ended the life of the seeming gang member first. Per their training.
Or would those at Lopez's protest last night prefer that officers let themselves be killed to give what could turn-out to be a nice kid like Andy a sporting chance?
Life's complicated. And let's just stop pussyfooting around, here: Andy Lopez, nice kid though his parents say he was, knew what he was doing. He deliberately made that toy gun look real; he deliberately dressed in gang colors, in a gang neighborhood; and he deliberately walked around with what looked like a real assault weapon, so dressed, in such a neighborhood.
What could possibly have gone wrong?
I'm sorry he's dead. But he made his own bed. It's time we stopped the apologia.
Gregg L. DesElms
Napa, California USA
gregg at greggdeselms dot com