Two Perspectives on Tamir Rice


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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109 Responses

  1. Avatar Sam says:

    That first defense isn’t being made seriously, is it? The “confrontation” – such as it was – lasted for a second. There was no back-and-forth. There was no interaction. Describing it as anything other than what it was gives the author’s game away. (As does asking for us to have sympathy for the murderous officer.)

    It is worth noting, for perhaps the billionth time, that Ohio is an open-carry state. If anybody is dumb enough to go along with the horseshit claim that the police didn’t realize that they were dealing with somebody so young, then the question that must be answered is this: what was Tamir Rice doing illegally? If they thought he was an adult, then he’s allowed to have the gun (especially as the gun wasn’t a real gun). But then I suppose that if we bothered to deal with that question, we might be forced to conclude that what motivated this execution was something other than what has been claimed, and god forbid we go down that road.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      the horseshit claim that the police didn’t realize that they were dealing with somebody so young

      I am only two inches taller than Rice, and he outweighed me by 15 pounds (and I myself am overweight). He was wearing bulky winter clothing, which would make him appear even larger. I find it plausible that they did not realize how young he was.

      Which is not to say had they approached him at a distance, instead of rolling right up on top of him like that, they might not have figured it out.

      General question to anyone, divorced from the particulars here – my understanding from films and TV is that “hands-in-pockets” is still considered a “threatening” stance (hence the command, “show me your hands”), since a gun can be surreptitiously aimed & fired from inside a jacket pocket – if a police officer has already been told a suspect is armed, and the suspect’s hands are in his jacket pockets, which way does that cut as far as reasonable threat assessment?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        A second general question, about open-carry laws. I assume that “open carry” means I can wear my gun openly on my hip, but that even in an an open carry state if I unholster it and start pointing it at people until they call 911 on me, I may still have broken some sort of law (“disturbing the peace”, at minimum). Is this true?Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Honest question: are there other witnesses stating that he pointed the gun at people? I ask because I’ve heard the John Crawford III 911 call and seen the video, and what some people consider pointing a gun at people isn’t really anything like pointing a gun at people.Report

          • Avatar notme says:

            “I ask because I’ve heard the John Crawford III 911 call and seen the video, and what some people consider pointing a gun at people isn’t really anything like pointing a gun at people.”

            So the 911 dispatch is supposed to ask the caller if the person is pointing the gun at others or “is pointing the gun at others?” Clearly the caller thought Rice was enough of a threat to call 911 in the first place, which tells me they me were concerned.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I really don’t know. The 911 caller stated he was doing it and scaring the sh*t out of people, and I thought on one of the videos it looked kind of like he did it (but it was very blurry and far away video so you really can’t tell for sure; and I’m not sure why someone would have walked past him so close if he was).

            Still, in general where should the benefit of the doubt go here? To the guy who has the “gun” (though it was only a pellet gun) or the people around him who are afraid he’s not being careful with it? He doesn’t have to be training it on people to be inadvertently, carelessly pointing it at people; and accidents do happen, which is why you don’t point guns at people. Someone waving a gun around carelessly in a populated area is like someone doing donuts in their car in an occupied parking lot. Maybe nothing will go wrong, but…

            It seems to me that even in an open-carry state, you’d want the carrier to have his gun holstered or otherwise secured at all times unless there was a damn good reason not to, since the minute he pulls it out things can go wrong (if nothing else, stupid 911 calls may get made). But I don’t know what the law is.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Oh, open carry definitely requires you to not brandish it. I’m more curious about whether Rice was pointing it at anyone (or just playing war or something). Like in the Crawford video, the people we see don’t seem at all afraid of him, only the 911 caller does (though the Crawford 911 caller was lying his ass off).Report

            • Avatar Sam says:

              Here’s the 911 call –

              Note that the caller says it is probably a fake gun. That wasn’t communicated to the responding officers for, ummm, reasons, which I’m sure were absolutely genuine but ended in a dead child whose family will never receive justice.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                It’s common knowledge that the 911 dispatch didn’t give the police all the info and yet liberals still think the police are the bad guys. Maybe the DA should have made up some charges and indicted the 911 dispatch and not the cops?Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                Just to be clear – you’re comfortable with police shooting an unarmed 12-year-old within a second of arriving on the scene?Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                If the cops had actually known they were shooting an unarmed 12 year old and still did I would not be comfortable with that. But those weren’t the facts as the cops knew them, so it is pointless to judge them on a different set of facts.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Indeed, how could anybody have known or even possibly ascertained it? The answers to some questions are simply unknowable. Surely, “Is this a dangerous person with a real gun?” will go down in history as one of those problems philosophers point to as pushing the limits of epistemology.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              Open carry varies, but generally the firearm does need to be secured in a holster, so having it in a pocket (without a pocket holster) or in a waistband absent a holster can range from just generally stupid to criminally stupid.Report

        • Avatar Damon says:

          Actually, waving a real gun around and pointing it at people would most likely be assault or aggravated assault, regardless of whether the state was open carry or not.Report

          • Avatar Sam says:

            It wasn’t a real gun.Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              The cops that responded to the call didn’t know that. You can’t judge them for not acting on knowledge they didn’t have.Report

              • Avatar Sam says:

                You can judge the hell out of them for not bothering to find out.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


                Cops know that 911 callers leave out information, and they know that 911 dispatchers leave out information, so it behooves them to enter a situation in such a way as to allow them to gain as much information about the situation as possible.

                They could have pulled up a ways away from the scene and walked in, using their eyes to fill in the knowledge gaps. Or, if they felt that rolling up like that was justified, they could have used their car for cover while giving the kid a chance to respond in a clear manner.

                About the only way I can see the shoot as justified is if the kid was holding the gun in a ready position, or if he had already taken a shot at the police as they arrived.

                And before you repeat this:

                The cops that responded to the call didn’t know that. You can’t judge them for not acting on knowledge they didn’t have.

                I will remind you that no one makes them put on the badge. They do the job voluntarily and have a duty to use force as sparingly as possible, even if it puts them at risk. If they are uncomfortable with that risk, they should resign and work a safer job, like North Pacific Crab Fisherman.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Dispatch, Unit fifteen, is it a real gun or a toy gun?”
                “How the fuck am I supposed to determine that over the phone?”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                “Dispatch, Unit fifteen, is it a real gun or a toy gun?”
                “Unit 15, Caller suggests it might be a toy, approach with caution.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I love how you suggest that the cautious approach is to assume it’s not a real gun.Report

              • The cautious approach would be to nuke him from orbit.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                It is the only way to be sure.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of ways to assume that its “gun” status is up in the air and yet resolve the situation without shooting someone within 2 seconds of arriving.

                For example, they could pretend that he’s a white militia guy in a Federal Building and yell things at him through a bullhorn. If done right, the kid might even put his hands up.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                No, absent any other information, assuming it’s a real gun is prudent. Hell, even if dispatch had reported to the officers that the caller suspected it might be fake, prudence would suggest that it be treated like a real gun.

                But as someone up above stated (& I agree with), these cops had already decided that not only was there a real gun in play, but that they were going to have to shoot someone. Had they had that last bit of information, that a person at the scene suspected the gun might be fake, perhaps it would have factored into their decision making process (which was quite obviously over & done with before they got on the scene). Perhaps they would have approached more cautiously.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                When we ask the police to be “cautious” it’s for everybody’s safety, not just their own. A lot of them seem to have the perspective that a tiny reduction in risk to them is worth an enormous increase in risk to everybody else.

                I think that’s reflected in a lot of the police comments about how, now that they’re under increased scrutiny, they’re less inclined to go into risky situations. That reads to me as, “When the only consequence of me getting it wrong and shooting an innocent person is that somebody other than me dies, I was ready to take the risk. Now that the consequence is that somebody other than me dies and I might face disciplinary action I’m way more cautious and I’m having a hard time doing my job.”

                Maybe instead of, “Approach with caution,” we should say, “Approach like you’ll be asked to account for your actions.”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Approach like it’s a loved one you are about to engage with.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                You know, I can actually get behind this. Can we also require them to drop some acid in a field somewhere at least once? I’m really not kidding in the least when I say that hippiefying our police forces by about 10% is probably the best overall approach we could take for a lot of problems, over any specific engagement policy change. Chill. The. Fish. Out.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Balko echoes that sentiment (if not exactly like that). And he has data to back up the fact that if the police are actively engaged with the communities they patrol, rather than just the criminal element, they get better results and a lot less violence all around.

                Less violence => officers less on edgeReport

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                They could have pulled up a ways away from the scene and walked in, using their eyes to fill in the knowledge gaps. Or, if they felt that rolling up like that was justified, they could have used their car for cover while giving the kid a chance to respond in a clear manner.

                This is the thing that gets me. Police cars are *bullet-proof*. And, yes, bullet-proof isn’t infinitely bullet-proof, but at the very least, starting a gun fight while inside a police car is much better than not doing so.

                If some guy has a gun on street and there doesn’t seem to be anyone near, the thing to do is pull up near to him and shout at him to drop the weapon, not leap from the goddamn car while it’s still moving.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                “Police cars are *bullet-proof*.”

                Really, that would be news to most cops. I’m sure cops would like it if that were true.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC says:

                From what I understand, police cars are normally built with bullet-proof panels in them, at least in the doors. (The front and back hardly need bullet-proofing, bullets are not going through there.)

                The glass, however, is not bullet-proof.

                Even if those specific cars did *not* have bullet-proofing, it is still much safer to be inside the car than outside if a gunfight starts. Going through even a normal car door removes a lot of energy from a bullet.

                There is a reason that cops use the doors as shields in a gunfight.

                If you are a cop and planning to enter a gun fight, there is no reason to get out of the car. That is, actually, very stupid.

                Of course, the alternative is that the cop was *not* planning on entering a gunfight. So it is very odd that 2 seconds later he had entered one and already shot someone dead.

                My point is that the cop was clearly very poorly trained, not just because he lept out of his car and *immediately shot someone*, but because he *immediately lept out of his car* when he arrived somewhere instead of pausing to assess the situation from the partial safety of his car. (Presumably from a slight distance.)

                I mean, hell, forget the actual facts of this case. There’s *plenty* of possible situations that the police couldn’t possibly know in that time. Perhaps someone else was the gun-waver, and *this guy* had just taken the gun off him, with the original gun-waver laying slightly out of sign behind that wooden structure. Perhaps this guy was currently *chasing* the gun-waver. Perhaps this was some sort of film shoot and the permit office screwed up in notifying the police.

                Nope. The immediately, reflexive action is ‘drive as close as possible’ (Which isn’t even something we can blame on the cop that did the shooting!), leap out of a car, supposedly yell faster than anyone could process instructions, and then shoot the guy.

                And it is really hard to see what danger *hesitating* at the start of all that would be.

                EDIT: Hell, perhaps it was one of those ‘police ambushes’ that police seem to think happens all the time, despite literally being one of the least statistically likely crimes to ever happen. (It’s probably happened like 10 times, ever.) Might want to, I dunno, *pause* before driving up and leaping into the open.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Maybe handgun bullets can’t make it through the back of a car (okay, yes, the lightweight kind, not the old school cop car), but rifle bullets can.Report

              • Avatar notme says:

                Yes, the cops could have done lots of things differently. The fact they didn’t follow what you consider to be the best practices doesn’t make them guilty of murder.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I never said they are guilty of murder.

                Negligent Homicide, perhaps…Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                @oscar-gordon They do the job voluntarily and have a duty to use force as sparingly as possible, even if it puts them at risk. If they are uncomfortable with that risk, they should resign

                I agree with this, to a point; but I disagree that the calculus is as simple as you make it out to be here.

                It looks so, because in this case Tamir Rice turned out to be a child with a pellet gun; but had Tamir instead been a Dylann Roof or a Dylan Klebold or a James Holmes, and the first responding officer hesitated for that extra second and assumed all of the risk onto himself and was shot for his troubles, it’s easy for us to say that the officer assumed that risk to himself voluntarily. That’s great as far as it goes.

                But what about the other people that will now be shot, while the officer lies bleeding? The nearby multiple civilians, whom it was that officer’s responsibility to protect from getting shot by a presumed active shooter – a responsibility he now cannot fulfill, because he took on all risk to himself?

                When he hesitated that extra second and got shot, he arguably let *them* down.

                If this was not true, then we should not arm police with guns at all – they should walk towards firearm-wielding suspects with only their nightsticks, and hope for the best. We arm them with guns not just to protect themselves; but to protect and serve all of us. In our overall basic criminal justice calculus, it is deemed better that a criminal get shot, than a non-criminal.

                Now, even THIS expanded calculus is further complicated by the fact that when an officer starts shooting unnecessarily, HE might be the one to hit civilians, and not the suspect (and of course, the suspect may ALSO turn out to be innocent, as happened here). I concede all this fully.

                But we are certainly comfortable here doing a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking, when we were nowhere near the incident as it happened, knowing what the participants knew at that time, and what the appropriate calculus at that time should have been.

                It looks simple to us; but I think law and custom appropriately acknowledge that it’s not.

                So far, all of the official reviews (AFAIK) of the tragedy at city, county and state level have deemed it within legal bounds. It’s certainly possible that the conspiracy goes all the way to the top, but is it likely?

                If I go to the park this afternoon with a realistic-looking gun and show it off until I scare the s**t out of someone enough to call 911, will anyone be surprised if something bad happens to me when the cops show?

                If some miniscule-chance, unthinkable sequence of events occurs and something bad does happen to me, will all be confident that it must have been the fault of somebody else?

                I’ll say again that it doesn’t appear to me that the officers are 100% blameless in all this; by rolling up right on top of Rice like that, they appear to me to have immediately radically-narrowed the range of outcome possibilities; made it far more likely that the situation would escalate rather than de-escalate. If I were the PD, among other things I would be questioning if that is the appropriate engagement tactic for an armed suspect. I strongly suspect it isn’t, but maybe someone who has knowledge of appropriate police tactics can say – maybe engaging an armed suspect at a distance gives him room to take hostages, or shoot himself. When we were discussing that tennis star who got tackled because he vaguely-looked like some fraudster, I said my biggest issue wasn’t the mistaken identity itself (since that happens sometimes), but that a fraudster isn’t violent, so don’t tackle him unless he runs.

                But had he been suspected of being armed/violent, tackling him before he realizes what’s going on is maybe the best option.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                More seriously, I’d say that the presence of a second officer negates much of your objection here, @glyph .

                If there was one cop and he was solely responsible with securing the scene, yes, more drastic action might be warranted. But with two (or more) cops on the scene, I think it behooves them to take a more tempered response given the reasons Oscar offers. If the person-in-question drops both officers before either can get a shot off, that would show him to be quite the formidable foe. Do we want cops engaging all members of the public — even those acting irresponsibly with a weapon — as if they are super villains?

                Because that is ultimately what seems to be the dominant mindset among cops… that they face unique and indescribable threats. Couple that with an apparent disregard for the responsibility and liability/risk assumed by their voluntary position and you have a recipe for situations just like this.

                “No more dead cops. And a city teeming with violent offenders hell bent on killing us. Let’s fucking do this.”Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I know I look like a naive Pollyanna here for not being willing to immediately assume the worst of all cops, but IMO it’s actually sort of the opposite problem.

                I am usually far more surprised when things go *right*, than when they go *wrong*.

                Above, I asked what you guys think would happen if I waved around a gun at a park.

                Me? I’d be shocked to walk away from that. My probability estimation of how things are likely to go for me, tends towards the negative. And I’m a middle-aged white guy. If I give my kids any version of The Talk, you bet yr ass part of it is going to be “and for God’s sake, don’t wave around realistic-looking guns in a public place! It probably won’t end well!”

                When we were kids, one day my younger brother and a cousin took a BB rifle to a field near my grandma’s to shoot at…well, who knows. Rocks and trees and squirrels or whatever.

                A neighbor saw them and called the cops, who brought them safely home in the back of a squad car.

                My brother and cousin were, of course, white; they were very young (probably 10 or so IIRC; maybe a little younger) and of skinny build; they were dressed in warm-weather clothing in the middle of a hot clear day, all of which would have made it clear that they were kids.

                The caller probably (I’m speculating, obvs.) said something like “they are just kids, and it’s probably a BB gun”; though who knows if this is true, or what the responding officer was told.

                This was also in a more rural area, where the sight of kids with long guns was no big deal; this was also long before Columbine or anything like it.

                I suspect the caller called more due to their very young age and/or fear that they’d get up to some sort of mischief/vandalism, than any fear of the threat of serious bodily harm.

                And still after the cops dropped them off, my mom was like, “Thank God you two didn’t get yourselves shot!”Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’ll sign on to Kazzy above, and add this:

                First, disabuse yourself of the notion that an officer is shot and falls down dying immediately. It makes for fun action movies, but the reality is, unless you are hit in the heart or head, it will take your body a few moments to realize it was shot, and since patrol officers almost always wear body armor sufficient to stop handgun rounds, the chances of your scenario actually happening are significantly reduced. Not impossible, but small enough that an officer can risk a moment to understand the situation, especially if they are smart and get behind cover.

                Now, my legitimate ability to use force to protect myself & others rests heavily on the threat I responded to being reasonable. That is, if I had been a citizen in that park, and Tamir had been waving the gun around, and I had shot Tamir in a manner similar to the officers, I would very likely have been indicted, and rightly so.

                I am willing to give the police a measure of the benefit of the doubt with regard to shootings, because they are responding to a complaint, so they are walking into it, instead of running from it. As a citizen, SYG laws aside, there is a measure of prudence in taking my leave of a spot of trouble if I can, but we do socially require that police actually go in there and at least assess it (even if there is no truly legal obligation for them to do so).

                So with that in mind, watch this video. Here is an officer demonstrating exceptional restraint, even though the suspect is making threatening and furtive movements, and clearly challenging the officer, he holds his fire until it is clear that the person is moving to draw something.

                That is a good example of what I would call an upper watermark for how I expect police to behave. The shooting of Tamir falls far, far below the lower watermark.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                if I had been a citizen in that park, and Tamir had been waving the gun around, and I had shot Tamir in a manner similar to the officers, I would very likely have been indicted

                Without taking a position on whether you should be indicted, I’d be surprised if you actually were. Do we have examples of this?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Florida case, Dunn, comes to mind.

                Most such cases seem to involve the policeReport

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Hmmm. Dunn is the only one who claimed the other guys had a gun; one was never found, and AFAICT no one else really backed him up (Dunn’s girlfriend testified he didn’t even mention a gun that night or the next day, which you’d think he would’ve if it were true), so that seems a bit different to me than a case where witnesses saw what appeared to be a gun and called 911.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Like I said, only one that came to mind.

                Seems most people just call the police, so the reasonable standard seems pretty set.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The first of the most recent Co Springs shootings is a bit of a counterpoint, I think: a neighbor of the shooter called 911 and was talked down from the perceived threat an armed person poses based on the following guidelines:

                The [Colorado Springs Police] department also released a 2011 training document with respect to how it handles the open carry issue:

                “The mere act of openly carrying a gun in a non-threatening manner is not automatically to be considered suspicious behavior. Therefore, if we get a call from a citizen about a person who has a firearm in plain sight and they are not acting in a suspicious manner, they have not brandished it, discharged it, or violated any of the previous conditions; CSPD will not respond.”

                Course, the guy went on to kill three people…

                The obvious conclusion is that if Tamir were living in the Springs, the cops wouldn’t even have responded to the call!Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Waving a gun around and pointing it at people is threatening behavior, they would have responded.

                IIRC, the shooter you are referring to was carrying a rifle as well as handguns. I believe the rifle was in his hands (not slung on the shoulder or in a case). It’s also a good example of why I take issue with the open carry of rifles in urban areas.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What needle is being threaded here?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                One I’m not really comfortable asking people not familiar with firearms to thread.

                Open carry of handguns, as long as they are holstered, is not a huge deal, since unless your sidearm and/or it’s holster is ostentatious, most folks won’t notice it, and even if they do, it’s pretty clearly in a holster, so while it could certainly make some people uncomfortable, most people will not see it as a truly overt threat (an implied threat is another matter, depending on the circumstances).

                Rifles, on the other hand, are hard to miss. Rifles aren’t “holstered” in a manner similar to sidearms. And most people can not tell at a glance if a rifle is loaded or not, if a round is chambered, if the safety is on, etc. So asking people to determine from a distance if a person with a rifle (in an urban setting) is a public threat is asking a lot of those people.

                Which is why I think open carry of long arms is problematic and should be discouraged.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                One I’m not really comfortable asking people not familiar with firearms to thread.

                Is it possible to have “familiarity” with firearms and still reject the lion’s share of rhetoric and actions (and policies!) that GRAs are engaging in? What’s familiarity got to do with anything substantive in these debates?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Most people have familiarity with cars (or perhaps better yet, motorcycles). We know when a person is being careless or reckless with a car, and represents a danger to others. Someone who has little experience with cars might think that traveling down the highway at 60+ mph while mere feet from another car doing the same is the height of recklessness. People misjudge the recklessness of motorcycles all the time and assume their behavior is dangerous.

                Asking that person with little experience to somehow be able to judge the rightness or wrongness of a drivers actions is asking a lot of them, probably too much of them. This is true of any thing that has significant physical risk, and trust, associated with it. We trust that the other drivers are rational and want to avoid causing a collision, so will take action to avoid one. Obviously that fails from time to time, but still. If a driver is acting strange, we call the police to report them, in the hopes they pass a cruiser and get pulled over. Hell, our movement toward self-driving cars is mostly a way to take that trust factor away from others and place it in a system.

                Firearms are quite a bit more problematic than cars.

                ETA In short, if everyone was familiar with firearms, it would be less of an issue.

                And yes, I can be familiar with firearms and still disagree with proposed policies, etc.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Eg, folks who are opposed to smoking just lack a familiarity with it. If they were familiar, their views would be different.

                Familiarity is doing a lot of work in these types of claims, reducing what would otherwise be conclusions of arguments to sentiments based on personal experiences. “If people had the experiences and beliefs about guns I do, they wouldn’t hold views differing from mine!!!”


              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                As I said,

                This is true of any thing that has significant physical risk, and trust, associated with it.

                Smoking has risk, but is there an element of trust? Perhaps I should tack on an ‘immediate’ qualifier there as well.

                And remember I’m not talking about policy as much as what we can reasonably expect a population to do in regards to how they should perceive a danger. If a person was unfamiliar with the concept of smoking, would we be surprised if they saw a person smoking and took action to extinguish the fire?

                So relating this to smoking doesn’t really work. Smoking was, at one time, extremely popular. Even if you didn’t smoke, a person smoking was not an emergency that needed prompt action.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Hmmm. We’ll never agree on this stuff, Oscar.

                We can’t even agree on the framing of our disagreement. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                If you ever come to Seattle (or I make it to your part of CO?), we shall have to find a bar and discuss proper framing.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                funny, longarms are why we have open carry.Report

            • Avatar Damon says:

              I was answering glyph’s question about open carry and brandishing.

              But since you brought it up, brandishing a thing that looks like a real gun can still be a crime.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          True. Either brandishing a weapon or assault with a deadly weapon for pointing it at people. Having a CCW or being in an open carry state doesn’t allow you to point the weapon at folks for grins.Report

        • Avatar Sam says:

          @glyph We know that it really doesn’t matter what Tamir Rice was doing, because there was never any attempt to anything other than kill him and then to make sure that he and his family family suffered as he was dying.

          As for how he was holding the gun: it certainly didn’t trouble the police or the prosecuting attorney. At no point was there any acknowledgement of the fact that this was anything other than the police executing an imagined threat.

          To put that another way: let’s take the police at their word that they believed this person was “older” – the police clearly then didn’t say to themselves, “This person is legally allowed to possess a firearm.” Why didn’t that happen? The allegedly botched translation of the 911 call? Deep-seated prejudice? A combination of the two? And there’s no real explanation for why the 911 call was botched.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            What’s more, pretty much every cop who commented on the case said that their tactic — driving within feet of a suspect they believed to be armed, leaping out of the car gun drawn, and shooting immediately, goes against pretty much every principle of police training.Report

            • Avatar DavidTC says:

              driving within feet of a suspect they believed to be armed, leaping out of the car gun drawn, and shooting immediately, goes against pretty much every principle of police training.

              Yeah, that’s what I just said above.

              In fact, it’s absurd even *without* that last bit:

              driving within feet of a suspect they believed to be armed, leaping out of the car gun drawn…goes against pretty much every principle of police training.

              Even without the ‘shooting someone immediately’, it *still* isn’t correct. That can’t be the right way to handle someone *actually* waving a gun around, much less someone that *might* be the person they’ve been *told* is doing that.

              They should have driven to where they could see things, pause, (Perhaps notice it was a child, but maybe not) and grabbed their car PA or, if they didn’t have that, just yelled out the window ‘Put the gun down and step away from it’.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I agree they should not have rolled up right on top of him like that. And if they failed to administer or request timely first-aid after shooting him, that is also deplorable. And if this cop was known to be incompetent and hired/fielded anyway, that is also a problem.

            But even in an open-carry state, where an adult is legally allowed to carry a firearm in public, he still can’t (I don’t think) wave it around. If he does, and someone gets scared enough to call 911, bad things will probably happen to him. They would probably happen to you or me too.

            As far as the call being “botched”, I am not sure what net difference that info would have made, had the gun been real; which no one knew for sure, until too late.

            IOW, let’s say the police dispatcher HAD said, “Caller thinks gun may be fake and carrier may be a child”, and either or both of those speculations on the part of the 911 caller had turned out to be untrue: in that case, Rice would probably still be dead, and possibly others too.

            So a responding officer should probably proceed on the assumption that there may be a real gun, until proven otherwise. Dispatchers don’t say “we have reports of shots fired – though they might also have been firecrackers, or backfiring cars”.

            In the moment, a person has to deal with what they believe to be the case at that time; not what they’ve been told third-hand may or may not be the case, nor what they learn later.

            Honestly, I’d even discount the “child” aspect, since a twelve-year-old is old enough to pull a trigger (even smaller kids can).

            The main thing that would matter to me in the moment is, “is there something that looks exactly like a gun here, and does the person appear to be going for it?”

            I’m cynical about cops (and as I said at the outset, I am willing to believe one or more serious errors may have been made here), but not so cynical as to believe that they get their jollies shooting twelve-year-olds for fun.

            The other thing that bothers me about all this is – and I know that the system is stacked, and miscarriages of justice happen all the time, and twice as often when you’re black – but at what point can we say that due diligence has been done, and even if we can’t say for sure the shooting WAS justified, we also can’t say the opposite?

            The Cleveland PD investigated, then the county/Sheriff’s Office, then the Grand Jury that didn’t indict; there were two independent exonerating reports from an FBI agent and a Colorado prosecutor (I am aware the Rices also commissioned their own reports which came to different conclusions).

            As citizens it seems that at some point, we do have to grudgingly accept the outcome of the grinding wheels.

            Would anything at all suffice to get you to say “this was a tragedy and an error that needs to prompt changes in police practice; but it wasn’t murder”?

            Or is your view of the state of the entire system so jaundiced that no other conclusion than “murder” is possible? It’s OK if it is. It’s even understandable, police have lied for so long and so often I feel sort of stupid for even asking the question.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              “In the moment, a person has to deal with what they believe to be the case at that time…”

              Even given evidence for how pervasive subconscious bias informs what people believe?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Unfortunately, yes. How else could it be? That bias needs to be something we are aware of, and train with the aim of correcting or compensating for as much as possible; but it doesn’t change the fact that if I am facing someone with a realistic-looking gun, he might get shot. Even if I later learn it was only a pellet gun.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Was any attempt made at training or correcting for the bias?

                This is why these issues are systemic.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I never made any argument against systemic issues.Report

  2. Avatar Sam says:

    The need for people to justify this killing is impressive. There must be a reason a kid was executed within a second. There must be. And there must be a reason his family was kept from him while he lay bleeding out in the snow. And there must be a reason his sister was handcuffed and shoved into the back of a vehicle. And there must be a reason that the prosecuting attorney did everything imaginable to exonerate the murderous police. And there must be a reason that this can be justified. There must be.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Wait… why was the prosecutor arguing that Rice was reaching for the weapon? Was he prosecuting the cop? Or Rice?Report

  4. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I can’t help but notice that with the Oregon standoff, there are all sorts of calls for the police to react with caution, restraint, and to end the situation peacefully.
    To a bunch of men heavily armed and openly threatening violence and rebellion.

    If we consider it possible to resolve such a situation peacefully, why can’t we imagine the same for Tamir Rice?

    The defenders of the cop are asking us to prove a negative, to somehow prove that there was no possibility that Tamir couldn’t have been reaching for a real gun, that there was no possibility that the cop was in no danger.

    Yet as has been pointed out many times, we have videos of white guy swalking around grocery stores with guns- if we apply the Tamir Rice rules, anyone could legally just shoot one of these guys on the grounds that he could have been reaching for the gun in his holster, that he could have had homicidal intent, that we could be in danger.

    Its perfectly reasonable that we second guess the cops, because “I thought he was reaching for a gun” is the weakest and most easily abused excuse in the book.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      From the video, it was clear they rolled up with the intent on shooting him no matter what. That decision was made before they ever arrived on scene.

      That was not cops “checking something out”. Not a moment’s hesitation. They even rolled in fast and close to make sure.

      But we don’t want to admit that, either. That this wasn’t a split-second decision, a life-or-death call we can’t judge because we weren’t there. This was premeditated. I’m sure they had it in their head that they were gonna be taking down an armed black thug and not a 12 year old, but they went in knowing they were going to shoot.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        Yes, that seems to be what happened.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          They rolled up and came out shooting. What, two seconds max between hopping out of the car and firing?

          If you have another explanation, please share with the class.

          But I see a cop roll up on a suspect that close, and the guy get out shouting in shooting inside of a a pair of heartbeats? That was a guy who came INTO the situation figuring he was gonna have to shoot someone.

          Maybe he didn’t like the idea, but he sure as heck didn’t come in with the intent to find out what was going on, or defuse the situation, or give Rice any time to respond.

          There was literally nothing Rice could have done in the few seconds he had that would have prevented him from being shot. He was only human, and even an adult wouldn’t have got past the “huh, what?” confusion in the time they gave him.

          I realize it’s an ugly truth, but pretending it isn’t real helps no one.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      The difference that you refuse to acknowledge is that Rice was reported to be pointing the gun at people. Those white guys in starbucks you keep whining about aren’t pointing their guns at anyone.Report

      • Avatar miguel cervantes says:

        it doesn’t matter to them, any more then ‘hands up’ or the other subterfuge in the sanford case. this is perhaps the more dubious of the incidence, a life tragically cut short by illconsidered behavior,Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        “reported to be pointing it at people”?

        He was pointing at people. Um, not now, but a while ago!

        The guys at Bundy ranch brag now about having pointed their guns at BLM agents.

        So I guess anyone can just roll up to their house and shoot them now.Report

        • Avatar notme says:

          The 911 call got the cops out to the scene but it was Rice not putting his hands up when told to was what got him shot.Report

          • Avatar Sam says:

            Are you really THIS desperate to justify the execution of a child?Report

            • Avatar notme says:

              How were the cops supposed to know that a person who weighs 195 pounds at 5’7? tall is just a 12 year old?Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              I suspect it’s just denial. Who wants to admit the cops are this bad? That this stuff goes on?

              It’s not the sort of world you want to live in, and besides we’ve all been raised to respect the Thin Blue Line. Told stories about heroic cops. I’d bet half the people on this board had a “I want to be a cop!” phase in childhood.

              Who wants to admit they’re trigger happy, racially biased, and apparently pretty routinely kill people and lie about it?Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                Also, remember the cop-killer in PA who made law enforcement look silly by disappearing into the wilderness and evading a manhunt for a month?

                They took him with the gun he had used – to actually kill a cop – and lest one think that someone at the scene of the arrest didn’t know, they brought the dead cop’s handcuffs to cuff him with.

                But they talked him down. Because he wasn’t a black pre-teen.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            So you want to live in a world where failing to raise one’s hands less than a second after being given a command is grounds for being shot to death? Cool.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Maybe it goes back to that weird bias whites seem to have that black people are physically superhuman. (I don’t recall the specifics, but polling indicates that plenty of white people think blacks are tougher, faster, stronger, and less able to feel pain than whites.)Report

  5. Avatar trizzlor says:

    I have a feature suggestion for OT: the ability to automatically collapse/hide comments (and any replies) from specific users.Report

  6. Avatar Lurker says:

    You roll up and park further away. Wacth for a few more moments. Use microphone system in car to say drop your weapon and/or get down on your face.

    I have seen cops do exactly this with white people.

    IMO, cops can and will hide behind “this job is hard” when they have engaged in criminal actions a lot. If they can’t do the job without killing 12 year olds. then they should have their weapons removed and the comditions under which they work changed.Report