Take a look at the first minute or so of the above video. It shows an incident involving a kid and a cop, which took place a year ago—on November 22, 2014 at 3:30pm to be exact.
The result of this tragic encounter—which lasted less than 5 seconds—is that the kid is dead, and the cop killed him. Oh, there is one more thing. Nobody has yet been charged with a crime.
The kid’s journey to that fateful moment was just the short walk from his house to the park across the street. He was twelve years old and spending some stupid time before supper playing with a toy gun. So stupid in fact that somebody sitting on a nearby park bench called the police and said that the boy “keeps pulling it in and out…it’s probably fake but you know what, he’s scaring the shit out of people.”
So the Cleveland Police Department sent a squad car to the park. Just before the cop arrived on the scene, the kid was sitting at a picnic table under a gazebo. In the video, the kid gets up and starts walking toward the police car as it pulls up on the grass. Before the car comes to a complete stop--before anybody has time to say anything--the cop shoots the kid dead.
The whole thing takes less than three seconds.
About a minute later, the kid’s fourteen-year old sister arrives on the scene. She sees her baby brother dying on the ground and instinctively rushes to help him. But the cop wrestles her to the ground and cuffs her while she helplessly watches her brother draw his last breaths on earth—alone and unattended.
The cop’s road to the park that day began two years earlier in a little town called Independence, Ohio—population 7,136. He had only been working as a patrolman for a few months when things started to go sour. In an internal memo recommending the cop’s dismissal, the Deputy Police Chief—a guy named Jim Polak—said, “He could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts…and his handgun performance was dismal. Due to his dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage personal stress, I am recommending he be released from the employment of the city of Independence.”
And then the Deputy Chief added this, “I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”
In November of 2012, before getting fired, the cop quit.
For the next year he tried unsuccessfully to get a job with another police department—first in Akron, then in Euclid, and finally in Parma Heights. In September of 2013, he flunked a written test to become a Deputy in the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department. Passing grade was 70. He scored a 46.
Six months later, after four times being found unqualified for a law enforcement career, the Cleveland Police Department gave this guy a uniform, a badge, and worst of all a gun. Then—exactly two years after the Independence PD cited him for “dangerous loss of composure during live range training” and “inability to manage personal stress”--the Cleveland PD put that cop in a cruiser to answer a call that turned out to be a kid with a toy gun. Not surprisingly, the cop ended up shooting first and asking questions later. The kid ended up dead.
For the record, the kid’s name is Tamir Rice (left). When I saw his picture in the paper last year, his face looked hauntingly familiar. Then I remembered why. Fourteen-year old Emmett Till (below right), was murdered sixty summers ago while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi. Emmett’s story is a bit more gruesome. He made the mistake of speaking to a white grocery store clerk whose husband and uncle visited the boy a few nights later. They dragged him off to a barn and beat him mercilessly before gouging out one eye, shooting him in the head, lashing him by the neck with barbed wire to a 70 pound cotton gin fan, and then throwing him into the Tallahatchie River where his bloated, mutilated body was discovered three days later.
Emmett Till’s mother insisted on an open coffin because she wanted to force white America to look at what they did to her son. Within a month, Emmett Till’s murderers were accused, tried, but ultimately acquitted. I say “murderers” because after being found not guilty, they copped to the crime in Look Magazine. By that time, double jeopardy protection put them beyond the reach of American law. But at least they were charged.
Tamir Rice’s mother, on the other hand, has been waiting for one whole year to get justice for her son’s murder—which was captured on video for all to see.
Emmett Till did not die in vain. There is a direct line from his murder in 1955 through the Voting Rights Act of 1966 to the election of Barack Obama in 2008. So far, however, Tamir Rice’s legacy has been an endless stream of disinformation coming from misguided politicians more interested in banning toy guns than in punishing bad cops.