Friday, August 17, 2012

Rules of the Road

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Off-duty copy shoots, kills angry dad after wipeout

An off-duty Chicago Police officer whose motorcycle struck a 4-year-old girl in Maywood, shot and killed the girl’s father after the father and another man attacked the officer after the accident, officials said.

The officer — a 43-year-old, eight-year veteran of the force — was headed home about Saturday evening when the incident began, Fraternal Order of Police Spokesman Pat Camden said.

He was riding northbound on First Avenue in Maywood near Madison Street when he saw a girl suddenly dart into the street. To avoid striking the girl, the officer purposely ditched his motorcycle, putting it down on its side on the pavement, according to a statement from Maywood village spokesman Larry Shapiro.

But it skidded and flipped, striking the girl as well as her 18-year-old cousin, John Passley, who had run into the street to help her. When the officer tried to help the girl, her father, Christopher Middleton, 26, came out of a nearby restaurant and approached the officer angrily, shouting, according to authorities.

The officer told Middleton he was a police officer, but Middleton struck the officer in the face, knocked him to the ground and continued to hit him, according to Shapiro.

Passley joined in and kicked the officer, Shapiro said. The officer then drew his gun and shot Middleton once.

“He was about to lose consciousness to people beating him,” said Camden, defending the actions of the officer, who works in a West Side police district. “He fired in defense of his life.”

A few thoughts:

  • Although this incident invites comparison to the Trayvon Martin shooting, I actually have a lot of sympathy for the father here.  If I saw someone flip a motorcycle into my little girl, I’d be pretty pissed, too.
  • That notwithstanding, I expect that no charges will be filed against the officer.  Policemen take care of their own, starting with control of the narrative.  Notice several things about this article.  The officer’s name is not released, but his credentials – an “eight-year veteran” – are.  The events are described from his perspective, from how the accident happened (“a girl dart[ed] into the street”) to the assault (“‘he was about to lose consciousness to people beating him’”).  Our allegedly independent press apparently didn’t even attempt to interview the cousin for a competing narrative.
  • It is better to be a police officer running over a little black girl than to be a citizen calling the police about an adult black man.
  • The ubiquity of firearms makes physical escalation of conflict a bad bet for anybody not actually in law enforcement, regardless of provocation.  You run a substantial risk of getting shot.  Unless you are armed yourself, better to call the police and hope for the best.  (If you are armed yourself, then you had better make sure you don’t start whatever happens.)
  • Blacks as a class seem especially slow to internalize this observation.


Anonymous said...

I would be particularly interested in knowing if the bike had flipped or if it struck the girl while the officer was still on it.

There are also questions about how fast the bike was going that it could not avoid a 4 year old "darting".

A tragedy all the way around. Saying "shit happens" doesn't seem to cover it.

But I also have to wonder about the father. How close to the edge must he be all the time if his primary instinct is violence as a response to what was clearly an accident and when his daughter and her cousin might still be savable if they get medical attention? My first instinct would be to save the kids. The downed policeman is not being threatening.

Dr. Φ said...

But I also have to wonder about the father.

Well, yes. He seems more intent on avenging the "dis" than tending to his hurt child.


Don't policemen get training in how to wrestle people to the ground without shooting them?

It occurred to me after I posted it that this happened in Chicago, a town where a white person would not be armed, unless he's a cop. I'll bet the improbability of it all crossed Dad's mind as he died . . .

heresolong said...

Sure, policemen get training. But he just crashed his motorcycle and was being assaulted by two grown men. Sorry, but in the same circumstances I'd shoot too (and I'm not a policeman). The correct response to a MV accident is NOT to attack the other person involved.

This one is on the father and cousin in my opinion (given the facts presented).