Thank you for this detailed, unbiased article ("Gun Crazy," Oct. 30) about the sickening, unnecessary death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez.
Two thoughts occur to me as I consider the shooting of Andy Lopez by a law enforcement officer. First, some people think that because Andy's toy gun looked like the real thing, the officer was justified in shooting him. However, considering that the officer in question is a so-called firearms expert, he should have been able to tell the difference between a real AK-47 and a toy. For example, Andy was effortlessly carrying the rifle with one hand by the grip, which is difficult to do with a real AK-47. (Firing an AK-47 with one hand is very difficult and requires advanced training to be able to do so accurately.)
Secondly, some people say they would have done the same thing if they were the officer. Well, if I saw someone carrying what looked like an AK-47, I would not be so quick to confront such a person, even if I were a police officer. A more prudent approach might have been to observe the subject from a safe distance, and perhaps try to get their attention using the patrol car's PA system while waiting for backup. The officer really didn't need to put himself in a position of potential danger.
Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and I am Monday-morning quarterbacking, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to figure out what went wrong and fix it so it doesn't happen again. If we don't change law enforcement's engagement policies and we don't change officers' training and we don't hold officers accountable for their mistakes, then we are all in very real danger of being killed anytime, anywhere, just because we're holding a toy gun or a cell phone that an officer thinks is a gun, or a wallet that an officer thinks is a gun, or a broom that an officer thinks it might hurt to be hit with (all of which have actually resulted in people being killed by police officers, none of whom were charged with a crime).
There are situations where a police officer should be warranted to engage in open fire: (1) to retaliate when fired upon; (2) to save the life or well-being of a hostage held by someone with a weapon, after repeated verbal attempts to reason had failed; (3) to stop an armed suspect from fleeing the scene of the crime after committing a confirmed serious felony—after yelling a warning; and (4) in response to imminent risk during a dangerous event such as a drug bust, bank heist or prison revolt where a serious crime has already been committed.
However, is it appropriate that an officer opens fire in a routine drive-by when encountering a person of interest, where none of the above factors pertain? If personal safety becomes a concern, aren't there other initial options available, including calling for backup, communicating via loudspeaker and using the patrol car as the shield it is? If official police training/protocol dictates otherwise, is it time for a re-evaluation by the community served?
How come we're encouraged by some to own/hold/use guns proudly, while simple possession (toy or not) can get us killed? Is it appropriate that the existence of a removable colored tip on a toy be the deciding factor on whether a child's life is in danger?
Finally, why would we try to equate the sadness a deputy surely feels following his shooting of an innocent toy-gun-toting child with the horrible grief of the dead child's family? Doesn't one involve a bad memory which in time will fade, while the other involves an everlasting agony like no other we could imagine?
A few days ago, without a public forum or announcement, the state parks department burned down all the driftwood structures that have stood on the beach in Jenner for some 50 years. A part of Sonoma County history, these whimsical lean-tos, buildings and sculptures represented a cultural moment in California history.
It took four fire trucks and two helicopters to clean up the mess after the "controlled burn" went out of control. Besides the structures, the fire burned up the entire hillside and threatened the 101 bridge. As one witness reported, "They told me they were gonna burn up the wood on the beach so no one would burn the wood on the beach." Yeah—that about sums it up.
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