There’s a case here in California that involves the death of a 13-year-old boy who was shot by a Los Angeles police officer when he smashed his stolen car into a police cruiser.
According to police, LAPD Officer Steve Garcia and his partner were on routine patrol when they saw the driver of a maroon Toyota Camry run a red light. The officers followed the car onto the Harbor Freeway and tried to pull the driver over.
After a three-minute chase the driver, who had exited the freeway, lost control of the Toyota and drove onto a sidewalk, then backed his car into the police cruiser the officers had parked behind the stolen vehicle. Garcia fired 10 shots, killing Devin Brown.
The incident has created a firestorm of protests and Brown’s mother has filed suit for wrongful death against the City, claiming that Officer Garcia had not been properly trained and had used excessive force in the shooting in violation of her son’s civil rights. Her lawyer, an associate in Johnny Cochran’s law firm, says his client is asking for “substantial” damages.
The shooting is being investigated by the FBI, the district attorney’s office and Los Angeles police.
To get an idea of just how this issue is being demagogued you have only to know that one New York publication, The Militant, described the incident as “the cold-blooded police killing of 13-year-old Devin Brown in the early morning hours of February 6.” Cold blooded?
This is part of a nationwide problem where police are routinely second guessed for their actions when they have to respond instantly and on the spot to a perceived threat. In the majority of cases, it is almost always the police who are blamed and not the criminals they are attempting to deal with.
Take this case. The facts are beyond dispute. Devin Brown was driving a stolen car – that made him a felon right off the bat. His supporters say he was merely “joy riding,” ignoring the fact that joy riding in a stolen car is a crime. Devin Brown refused to stop and led police on a chase. When the car Brown was driving skidded 102 feet to a halt on a sidewalk, Garcia told him to get out of the car. Instead he raced backward, striking and badly damaging the police car. Garcia fired 10 shots, some striking his own cruiser. It was 4:00 a.m.
May I ask just what a 13-year-old boy was doing out on the streets at 4:00 a.m.? And why is this car thief being elevated to the status of hero? And what about the person whose car was stolen and damaged? Weren’t his civil rights violated?
Again, just what was Devin Brown doing out at 4:00 a.m.? Was it Steven Garcia’s fault that the boy was out committing crimes at that hour of the morning? And wasn’t it his mother’s responsibility to keep him home at that hour?
Devin Brown was not a child. Devin Brown was a gang member. Gang members are not children- they are thugs, no matter how old they are. And they are dangerous.
Yet it’s the police department that’s being demonized, cops are being turned into objects of hatred, and sooner or later this sort of thing is going to make America’s streets a lot less safe than they are now.
Every time a police officer puts on his uniform and goes out in the streets to protect the rest of us, he’s putting his life on the line. He gets little or no credit for that, but let him get into the kind of thing Steven Garcia faced, and he’s in a no-win situation. Had he stood by and allowed Brown to remain in control of that car no one knows what further crimes he might have committed but whatever they might have been, Garcia would have been blamed for failing to stop him.
Yet when Garcia took what seemed to him to be the appropriate action, he found himself the center of a firestorm of hatred. Sooner or later either cops on the street are going to fear doing the job we want done, or we won’t even be able to recruit the kind of officers we need to keep us safe.
©2005 Mike Reagan. You must contact us if you would like to print this column in your publication or post on the internet. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561