I don’t remember the specifics of the case, but I remember a friend of mine and I talking about an officer-involved shooting in New York City. The media was making a thing over the shooting of a man on the day of his wedding. The media was all over the fact that the victim was unarmed.
However, my friend had seen Massad Ayoob talk about the case and that the guy was behind the wheel of a car. He was armed.
I thought about that, and while just being in a vehicle is far from justification for gunning someone down on general principle, it’s also true that cars kill more people than guns do every year. To use one as a weapon is certainly something that can and does happen.
But the good people over at the New York Times aren’t so understanding, apparently.
On a Sunday in May 2017, a patrol car sat outside the city’s oldest public housing project, waitingfor anyone acting suspiciously. The two police officers heard Cedric Mifflin before they saw him, blasting music from a silver Mercury Grand Marquis. Then they tried to pull him over: He wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.
Mr. Mifflin, a 27-year-old Black man, kept driving. What happened next is disputed, but how it ended is certain. Officer Michael Seavers leapt out of the patrol car, drew his gun and fired 16 times at the moving car. He thought Mr. Mifflin intended to run him over, he said later.
“I had never felt the fear that I had at that moment,” Officer Seavers, who is white, told investigators in a statement. He said he thought of what a vehicle can do “to a human body and how I would die if I didn’t react.”
The officer’s defense of killing Mr. Mifflin, who wielded neither a gun nor a knife, is one repeated over and over across the country: The vehicle was a weapon. In a New York Times investigation of car stops that left more than 400 similarly unarmed people dead over the last five years, those words were routinely used to explain why police officers had fired at drivers.
Now, I won’t say all of the cases are actually justified.
However, what the Times should remember is that 1.35 million people are killed in car accidents each year. The idea of a car killing someone isn’t new. It’s especially not new to police officers who work these fatal accidents all the time.
And these are drivers who have no reason to wish harm to the other party. Imagine what kind of damage can be done if someone wants to hurt someone with their car. Especially since it’s not like no one ever has.
The truth is that if a vehicle is being used offensively or even threateningly, police officers are absolutely right to consider the car to be a weapon.
So why is the Times apparently trying to argue that it shouldn’t be?
Well, let’s remember that we had a strong anti-police bias this time last year, a bias the “journalists” at the New York Times generally share. However, the surge in violent crime has reversed that trend. People want more police, not less. They want law enforcement to step in and save them, which means the whole “defund the police” has become “defend the police.”
That means there’s a need to turn public sentiment back against law enforcement. One way to do that? Claim that officers are killing unarmed people, particularly black men, even if that’s not really the case.
Again, the mere presence of a car shouldn’t be taken as a threat in and of itself. On that, I’ll agree completely. Yet to argue that a police officer’s claim that a vehicle represented a threat simply because it’s not a gun or a knife is beyond ridiculous.