It has happened again, this time in Cleveland: a tween playing with an airsoft gun in a park becomes the subject of a craven citizen’s 911 call to police. Officers arrived, and when the 12-year-old failed to respond to police commands precisely as they wanted, as fast as they wanted, he was shot and killed.
A 12-year-old boy shot by police after grabbing what turned out to be a replica gun died from his wounds on Sunday, one day after officers responded to a 911 call about someone waving what the caller described as a “probably fake” gun at a playground.
Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said one officer fired twice after the boy pulled the fake weapon — which was lacking the orange safety indicator usually found on the muzzle — from his waistband but had not pointed it at police. The boy did not make any verbal threats, but grabbed the replica handgun after being told to raise his hands, Deputy Chief Tomba said.
“That’s when the officer fired,” he said.
The Cuyahoga County medical examiner identified the boy as Tamir Rice.
There are a number of things worth talking about with this tragic shooting. Let’s first list them, then unpack them.
- Why did the 911 caller, who said twice on the recorded call that he thought the gun was fake, feel compelled to call 911 for a toy gun? Doesn’t this amount to SWATting a child?
- Did the dispatcher relay to responding officers that the caller believed the gun to be a fake? Would it have changed how officers responded if they thought they were dealing with a toy?
- Should officers have been able to tell the gun was a toy by looking at it?
- Did the officers responding to the call give Rice time to drop the weapon?
- Were officers trained to understand that juvenile brains do not process information the same as adult brains, and that juveniles may process commands differently, leading them to do what they think officers want, and not what officers say?
- Will passing more laws solve the problems?
- Who is really to blame? Is anyone to blame?
From all early media accounts that we can find, Tamir Rice was a good kid, from a stable home out playing with his friends in the park.
An older white man (by his voice) called 911 to report that Rice was pointing a “probably fake” gun while playing with friends, and was “scaring the sh*t out of people.”
His definition of “people” probably meant just himself, as no one else made a similar 911 call.
What kind of person calls the police for a toy gun that he even believes to be a toy gun, merely because toy guns make him uncomfortable?
This may not have been an intentional SWATting call where the caller was hoping to get the young man hurt or killed. It was clearly an incident where a person who doesn’t like even toy guns felt compelled to call police on an emergency line to report a child playing with a toy.
The results are the same. Tamir Rice was effectively SWATted to death by a man we can reasonably suspect is a supporter of gun control.
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