I learned a long time ago not to say “things can’t possibly get any worse,” because I’ve been proven wrong more than once. Therefore, when it came to such absurd and dangerous notions as open borders and Sanctuary Cities, I never said I couldn’t imagine an even more preposterous point of view espoused by a sizable minority of the population, though admittedly, I was hard pressed to think of one.
Sadly, I’ve been proven right: a white police officer chasing a black fleeing felon, who turned and fired a taser at him, prompting the officer to shoot the felon in the back, killing him, has been charged with murder. Worse yet, protesters took to the streets of Atlanta, GA in masses, forcing authorities to close portions of a major interstate highway.
A few weeks earlier, a white Minneapolis, MN police officer pressed down on the neck of African-American George Floyd, who was being difficult during an arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a nearby grocery store. While onlookers screamed that Floyd wasn’t moving – after Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe – the officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to maintain pressure on the clearly immobile Floyd’s neck, as video footage revealed. Three of Chauvin’s fellow officers kept the onlookers at bay, and did not encourage Chauvin to release the hold. Consequently, Floyd died.
In the aftermath, protests erupted all over the United States and in other parts of the world. The issue of disproportionate police brutality against black males was again a hot topic, perhaps more volatile than ever. While America remained divided about the good cop/bad cop ratio, percentage of racists, the distinction between peaceful protests and violent riots, and whether Floyd might have saved his own life by not resisting arrest in the first place, just about everyone across all demographics, including political affiliations – and including the president himself – categorically condemned the actions of Chauvin and his partners. No public figure of note justified it.
Amid the rampant looting, vandalism, and senseless killings, a far different set of circumstances arose in Atlanta, when the police responded to a call about a man sleeping in a car in a Wendy’s drive-thru lane. Two officers spoke with Brooks for several minutes. The conversation was calm, and Brooks agreed to take a breathalyzer test, which revealed his alcohol level was above the legal limit. The officers then asked Brooks to place his hands behind his back so that he could be handcuffed. At that point, Brooks tried to flee. The three men wrestled on the ground, and Brooks managed to grab one officer’s taser and make a run for it.
Video footage clearly shows the officers giving chase, and Brooks turning around and firing the taser – a fireball flash is seen emerging from it – at one of them, Garrett Rolfe, who then fired three shots at Brooks, who continued to run. Two shots hit Brooks in the back, killing him.
That a man lost his life because of the crime of driving under the influence of alcohol is indeed a tragedy. No doubt, Brooks brought on all of this himself: first, if he hadn’t been driving drunk to begin with, he wouldn’t have fallen asleep in Wendy’s drive-thru lane, and the police never would have been called to the scene. Second, even in having made that error, Brooks would still be alive if he simply had put his hands behind his back and allowed himself to be arrested. He would be out on bail now, and even if he wound up serving some jail time, at 27, he had his whole life ahead of him. Nonetheless, even though the circumstances were of Brooks’ own making, it is sad that he had to lose his life.
Though the event itself was tragic in its senselessness, the aftermath is also tragic, in its revelation of the state of mind of an alarmingly large chunk of Americans. Atlanta’s chief of police, Erika Shields, resigned, in order “for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” according to her statement. Shields, a white woman, had marched alongside protesters after Floyd’s killing and is known for her balance of loyalty to police officers and championing of police reforms. Why she would abdicate her position amid turmoil is bizarre, other than that she’s been caught up in the wave of self-loathing guilt for being white. But it got worse…
The TV show Cops, a reality series depicting real-life police situations, was abruptly removed from the air after 33 seasons. The Aunt Jemima label was taken off supermarket shelves, and Uncle Ben, Mrs. Butterworth, and the Cream of Wheat chef were under review as of this writing. As was the Eskimo Pie ice cream bar. By the time this column is published, there will be talk, yet again, of changing the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
Worst of all, Officer Garrett Rolfe was fired, and is now charged with murder. That’s right, murder. To recap, a fleeing suspect, carrying a taser he grabbed from the arresting officers, turned and fired that taser before he was shot. The claim is that Rolfe fatally shot a fleeing suspect who was not brandishing a deadly weapon. That is absolute baloney. A taser can temporarily paralyze its victim, thereby rendering two armed police officers helpless and vulnerable to being killed with their own guns. Is it certain, or even more likely than not, that Brooks would have shot them if they were paralyzed, instead of simply running away to safety? Of course not; it’s all speculation. The real question is, who in Rolfe’s situation would be willing to take that chance?
Also importantly, what if Rolfe let Brooks run away? Brooks already exhibited dangerous, irrational behavior when he resisted arrest, wrestled a weapon from the officers, and shot it at them. What if they let Brooks run away and he approached a car, commandeered it, and took the driver hostage? It’s not exactly like the neighborhood cop letting the Little Rascals run away after they stole an apple from the produce cart.
It’s easy for critics to sit back in their easy chairs and play Monday Morning Kojak. I’d say “things can’t possibly get any worse” again, but I think I’ve learned my lesson.