I have several times been subdued under duress by armed cops under worst-case assumptions. It is almost impossible to stay calm and rational when you have several hostile voices yelling direct commands at you, knowing that if you don’t fully comply, they will shoot and kill you. It doesn’t help that they are yelling those threats to you, that they will shoot and kill you.
Try to imagine, you are in no way in the act of committing a crime, you may be intoxicated, high, or just otherwise unfrosty, when without warning, there is an explosion of cacophony, you are surrounded by visibly armed and excited men, who are yelling unintelligible demands at you. The only things you can make out clearly is that they will shoot and kill you if you do not comply.
There was never such a scenario when I was nothing less than scared shitless, nothing more than pure panic. Not because I was guilty of anything. But because guys with shotguns and rifles are screaming and yelling at me who are itching to kill me. I can easily understand how anyone in this situation, against all rationale, would just try to run. Because I have fought that urge with every fibre of my being.
In the hands of even-tempered trained professionals, I get it. You want to keep a potentially dangerous subject off-kilter, vulnerable, and compliant. But three out of three times, I can tell you, it did not feel even-tempered or professional. Three out of three times, it felt like a death trap. I felt like game being flushed out for a clean shot. Three out of three times, I feel far beyond lucky to be alive. I seriously don’t think I will survive a fourth. For anyone who wants to advise me to avoid being in such situations, I will simply say there is no rational way for me to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I seriously feel for the young Americans who have to deal with regular hostile peacekeeping in their own neighborhoods.
I cant say it’s wrong for law enforcement to exercise such practices. There are plenty of scum out there that necessitate extreme prejudices to be taken into custody. It is a jungle out there, filled with men who should be considered monsters. A simple knock on the door and announcement of warrant can get (and has gotten) good cops killed. Like Officer Kenneth Copeland just last week. Closer to home, CHP Deputy Robert French last August here in Sacramento. I want every public servant to make it home to his/her family every day.
But I, myself, also want to make it home every day. I want my family and friends to make it home, every day. I have lost too many to violence, either by cop, by crook, or by self, in my lifetime. I have feared for my own life beyond circumstance, far too many times. I don’t feel like I am alive today because I complied. I feel like I am alive by sheer miracles.
Daniel Shaver’s story is a stark reminder that this isn’t just a cruel fate for young Black males who “fit the description.” It’s a sobering reminder that it can happen to any American, with impunity. Like many others, he died, on his knees, scared shitless, begging for his life. The tactics that led to his tragedy were justified because he owned a work-related pellet gun that he didn’t even have in his possession at the time. Not a concealed carry or open carry. Not a legal or illegal firearm. A pellet gun.
Legally, I can see how the charged officer got off. He followed protocol. It was a split-second decision. The team based their actions on the intel they had upon arrival, NOT the whole story after-the-fact. I don’t think it’s fair to label the shooter a coward. We are all making armchair judgments with the luxury of time.
Having said that, time would have saved the victim’s life. Just like time would have saved Tamir Rice and John Crawford. I personally feel that there is a cowboy mentality that unnecessarily ups the ante in the heat of the moment. There is a fine line between trying to save innocent lives and inadvertently taking innocent lives.
Now, I am not a trained professional who has to make such decisions on a regular basis. I am just a citizen who has been on the receiving end of bad decisions far too many times. Living in a society that loses too many of our own to cops and criminals alike, moreso than any other democracy in the world. I don’t know exactly how to change the status quo, but the alarming numbers definitely require us to start working in the right direction.