The Tamir Rice Shooting Is Rooted In Race Whether You Like It Or Not
In 1983, Los Angeles police officer Anthony Sperl shot and killed 5 year-old Patrick Andrew Mason when the child pointed a toy gun at him in a dimly-lit bedroom. The case became an instant cultural touchstone and dramatic cliché, reenacted in every cop show, and forming the crucial backstory for Sgt. Al Powell in Die Hard. “When you’re a rookie, they can teach you everything about being a cop except how to live with a mistake,” Powell tells fellow cop John McClane, a typical harnessing of this mythology to create empathy for the tough decisions cops have to make. The narrative also came to symbolize a public intent on “second-guessing” cops, and departments that hung them out to dry in the process. Sperl, years later, recounted how he was “forced to wear his blood-soaked uniform for five hours during his interrogation.”
A little more than 40 years later, that mythology endures, but the reality has changed in some dramatic ways. In the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, the Cleveland Police Department has released video of another police shooting, of 12 year-old Tamir Rice. A caller to 911 told the police operator that Rice was pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it people, but also said the gun was “probably fake,” and that Rice was “probably a juvenile,” although it appears the dispatcher did not pass this information on to the officers.
In the seven-minute surveillance video, you can see the caller in the gazebo at the beginning of the tape, as Rice plays with what turned out to be a pellet gun in the foreground. Six minutes later, the police show up, and almost instantly, Rice is shot twice, mortally wounded:
The officer who shot Rice, 26 year-old rookie Timothy Loehmann, says he told Rice twice to put up his hands, and that he fired when Tamir “reached” for the toy gun. In a press conference following the shooting, Deputy Chief Edward Tomba said that Rice made no “verbal threats,” and there was no “physical confrontation.”
The decision to release the video, at the parents’ request, has escalated public outrage over the shooting, as the video seems to show that Rice never really had a chance to surrender. Occurring so close to the Michael Brown grand jury decision, and after months of death raining down on unarmed black people, Tamir Rice’s killing is properly being viewed as just another example of the razor’s edge on which black lives rest. There’s a sense that if Tamir Rice had been white, he’d still be alive today.
That sounds like a snap judgment against a rookie cop who made a split-second decision…READ MORE[su_csky_ad]