Today is my nephew’s birthday. He’s a millennium baby in the truest sense: born 01/01/00. Isn’t that neat? That makes him a tad older than you would have been, but when I see your picture I think of him a little. You two don’t look alike, but still. I remember when people maligned President Obama for saying Trayvon Martin could have been his son. Sentiments like that are so visceral that they often all but defy words and therefore probably should be left unsaid, at least in the political sphere. But I think I might know what he meant.
We’ve never met, so this might be awkward. But I hope you won’t mind me taking a moment to apologize to you. Either no one ever taught you not to point guns at people, or you chose to ignore that wisdom. We’ll likely never know which, so that’s not why I’m apologizing. Many who say you were heinously murdered haven’t bothered to learn about the force continuum. They haven’t considered the families of slain police officers, much less the personal trauma of starting a shift with two-day-old coffee on your shirt and ending it with twelve-year-old blood on your hands. At the same time, many who say you sealed your own fate may not have honestly asked themselves about the tactical soundness of an officer’s decision to plow headlong into sudden handshake distance with an unknown, unsuspecting, and suddenly startled suspect.
I once worked a case where the police shot a drunk driver sixteen times. His brief flight had just ended with a few spins and a nose-first crash into a ditch, after which he was unresponsive but alive. As the police all converged on the car, one officer’s trip-and-fall led to an AD/ND, which led to another officer emptying his magazine into the perp’s disabled vehicle. He wasn’t alive anymore. A colleague of mine would later remark that if the guy hadn’t been driving drunk and hadn’t run from police, he wouldn’t have gotten himself killed.
It’s also true that the perp would still be alive if Officer A hadn’t hastily dashed from his squad car and bear-hugged the trigger of his service pistol while sprinting down a rocky embankment in pitch blackness. He might also have survived this encounter if Officer B had more accurately assessed the threat before blindly opening fire. He would have done a little time. Might have gotten clean. Might have continued to be a nuisance or even graduated to menace. We’ll never know.
Which truth is right? They both are. And both are wrong. Or at least, incomplete. Oversimplified. But because we’re all stuck in our respective corners, no one sees it. Only in platitudinous fiction novels does one person ever deign to “climb into [another person’s] skin and walk around in it.” Unless and until they do, that guy died for nothing. Regardless of how much or how little value one might put on his life, no one gained or learned a single thing from his death. Everybody loses. The same is true in your case, Tamir. And that’s why I’m apologizing. Happy New Year.
12 comments on “Dear Tamir…”
Excellent analysis. As an LEO, what you wrote about here is my worst nightmare, and I have personally removed those damnable realistic toy guns from the persons of juveniles at least three times. Each time concerned citizens called them in and each time they were painted/altered to look more like real guns.
I can also attest to receiving information from 911 which has been, shall we say, less than accurate. Sometimes the callers fault, sometimes the dispatcher. Unfortunately, this was a Perfect Storm of circumstances that led to an outcome where all involved lost. Even more unfortunate is using a tragedy to advance a political agenda.
Thanks, Redell. I couldn’t agree more. But I’m always encouraged to meet LEOs like you who approach the job (or the *calling*) with such patience, compassion, humility, and perspective. Thank you for your service, and be safe out there!
As a former police officer… I can tell folks that it’s so easy to Monday Morning Quarterback with facts not known at the time of the incident… the responding officers did not know he was twelve… they did not know the gun was not real… they did know that the dispatcher reported he was aiming it at people… some people don’t realize that an investigation has to consider the facts at the time of the incident… it’s really not fair to consider all the additional facts learned later on… it’s a tough job… and often a lose-lose situation for everyone involved… I’m sure no officer starts his/her shift wanting to be involved with shooting a 12 year-old boy… or spend years going through “what if’s”… well said, ma’am, well said…
Dann in Ohio
Thanks, Dann! 🙂
Your close, but are missing one point. The investigation revealed the police car slid 40-70 feet in the muddy/snowy/wet grass after trying to come to a stop (while driving 10-15 MPH). Would Tamir not have been shot, while reaching into his waistband to retrieve the realistic looking toy gun he had there, if the officers were at a further distance? Pure speculation. I have likened what happened to suicide by cop but you could also argue a 12 year old would not have that kind of mind frame. The only thing for certain here is that multiple errors, starting with Tamir waving the gun around in a park, led to the final result, as sad as that result is.
I appreciate you writing this, too. I think more voices are needed from people who are plugged into the firearms community, but who aren’t conservative white guys.
That’s the goal! Thanks, Sarah. 🙂
I have nothing to say except to thank you for writing this.
Thanks, Chase. That says plenty.
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