Trayvon Martin had one thing against him in particular. He was black, walking by himself with his hood up at night through a gated community where he didn't live, and one fed-up neighborhood watch coordinator can get just a little suspicious. The one thing against him was the confluence of all those elements happening at the same time. If anything had been different, he'd probably still be around. Exactly how things played out after Martin and George Zimmerman met isn't entirely clear, and may never be clear. Some reports want us to believe the jury thinks Zimmerman got away with murder. Maybe he did, maybe not. We'll never be sure. Like I said before however, I sure as hell would hate to be Zimmerman.
In a completely different, less ambiguous light we find the most recent shooting victim. The facts could not diverge more broadly from those of the Trayvon Martin case.
Shaaliver Douse, 14 (fourteen!), was observed and recorded firing a weapon three times at a small group of people. The shots were heard by nearby foot patrol cops, who came running toward the sound. They saw Douse, who fired again. At this time it isn't immediately clear whether the kid was shooting at his intended target or at the cops. Whatever the case, he didn't drop the gun as ordered, and one of the officers shot him.
Douse is dead. Dead in a gang-related gun crime, dropped by police, at the age of 14. My wife just pointed out a very important observation, one that armchair quarterbacks would do well to remember: "A person with a gun is a gunman. He isn't a fourteen year old kid with a gun, he's a gunman. He can kill you." Age isn't a consideration in such life-and-death situations. You might want it to be, and after the fact people will try to make it one, but in the moment it cannot be. The issue at hand isn't the age of the hand holding the gun, it's the gun and the hand holding it. Age is a minor detail to be considered in the luxury of time, not in the emergency of confrontation.
The kid's aunt is quoted in the linked story as saying "the police get away with murder." Well, no. The cop that shot Douse is immediately placed on leave while the particulars of the shooting are sorted out. There are recordings from more than one angle that Douse had a gun out and was aiming at someone. And when the cops showed up, he didn't relinquish the weapon as instructed.
One thing I hear - and I heard this a lot when a person got shot and killed in the course of a shoplifting incident where the shoplifter pulled a gun - is that the people who are left behind when a person is killed by police complain that the police didn't just shoot them to wound.
That's dumb. Shoot me in the leg and I still have my hands. I can still shoot back. Shoot me in the arm and I still have another arm, I can still shoot back. The problem with guns is that they can kill, the person wielding a gun can kill someone else at a moment's notice from a distance. The one sure way to make sure he cannot do that is to kill him. If he won't put his gun down, there aren't many good ways to compel him to do so short of killing the gunman.
Douse wouldn't drop it. The policeman killed him.
I imagine that the policeman is having a bad day. Possibly worse than Shaaliver's family is having. Douse had a history of gun violence and even a court appearance pending for same. He's been in trouble before. The area where he lives is raddled with gangs. As upset as I know they are, I wonder how the family can be surprised. Certainly they must have known something like this could happen, given Shaaliver's history.
As awful as it is for the family of the slain, the policemen's condition must be considered. Sent as rookies to patrol a known hotbed of gang activity, they must have been nervous as hell. Out of the police academy only a month, and they're involved in a shooting. Not just a shooting, which is a tornado of paperwork in its own right, but one that results in a fatality - a whole 'nother tornado of not just paperwork, but stress. Holy cats. This is the kind of thing that can end careers, in this case almost literally before they've begun.
It just crossed my mind that the link above regarding stress talks about the psychological support provided for the policeman involved in the shooting. Is any support offered for the surviving family members of the deceased? I doubt it. Counselors come out of the woodwork for victims in a crime, counselors are provided by the workplace for policemen and security officers and soldiers. But what is provided for the survivors of the fallen criminal? I wonder if there is some unspoken desire to punish those who raised such a detrimental person. And yet, sometimes the families aren't that bad.
Was any kind of counseling offered to the families of Dylan Kebold and Eric Harris, the two kids who killed 13 people and injured over 20 more in the Columbine massacre? I don't think so. Not only do I not think so, I think maybe they were the ones who needed it most. On top of their children being dead, somehow they were blamed. "How could you produce such a monster," and "why didn't you see this coming" were common refrains they had to weather.
Douse's mom must be going through something similar. In fact she's probably been thinking this sort of thing already, and whether it's valid or not, it must be addressed. In a mess like this, everyone gets splattered, at least a little. And almost no one can settle the issues by themselves. We all need help in times like this.