Recently, a 13-year old boy was shot and killed by police. He was carrying a pellet gun replica of an AK-47 assault rifle. The police reportedly told the youth to drop the object in question, but he refused. As a result, the young man was shot dead.
Of course, this was a tragic situation for all involved.
But immediately, some began to imply that the police were somehow at fault. After all, the victim was only a young teenager, did not have a real gun and was part of a minority group.
As usually happens in these types of cases, the pot was stirred — perhaps by agenda-based reporting on the part of some media outlets. The result was that several folks rallied in support of the “victim,” all in the name of “justice.”
But no one seems to care about what these situations are like from a law officer’s perspective.
Stereotypes created by these repeated scenarios are that cops are out to “get” minorities and are insensitive to their plights. For the vast majority of law officers, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The primary objectives of officers are to do their jobs, be safe and get home to see their loved ones at the end of each shift. They are fully aware of obsessions with class and racial conflict in this country. They do whatever is necessary to avoid these types of situations for the sake of their careers as well as their own personal protection.
Many civilians have no concept of what it is like to look down the barrel of an assault weapon. They cannot comprehend the instantaneous threat to life that these instruments of death impose. Police-issued body armor can be effective against legal ammo, but worthless against illegal rounds that could be discharged from an AK-47.
Semiautomatic assault weapons already shoot fairly rapidly. But if they are unlawfully converted to their original purpose of being fully automatic, results may be catastrophic. An officer has no way of knowing the status of these situations until a weapon is closely examined.
Secondly, while standing several feet away, it is impossible to distinguish a replica rifle from the real thing. Several years ago, the California Legislature tried to solve this problem be requiring replica firearms to have a bright orange tips at the end of the barrel.
Exact replicas are illegal here. But of course, those with nefarious purposes can skirt these laws quite easily.
A small brush and black paint can quickly change that image. Also, some criminals have been known to paint orange tips on the barrel of the real thing and therefore confuse officers even further by delaying their reactive approaches to life an death situations.
If some people want to push an agenda, how about one that actually helps everyone in these potentially mortal confrontations? Rather than promoting victimization, how about encouraging people to actually cooperate with law enforcement directives? Would there have been a death in this case if this young man had simply complied? Chances are, there would not have even been an arrest!
In the rare event that an officer does give a unlawful command, it can easily be resolved after the fact with an attorney or in a court of law. Certainly, it is not necessary at the point of incident.
It’s time to return to principles of common sense for all — especially in circumstances where a needless death could have been so easily avoided.
Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and trains with the Weapons Training School in Tuolumne County.