Stopped in the Name of the Law

He wasn’t the biggest police officer in the room. But he was certainly the loudest, as a wise-cracking young boy discovered during a local community’s Junior Police Academy.


The officer called for silence in the cafeteria. However this boy, about ten, prattled on.  In what seemed like an instant the cop was leaning across the table, right in the kid’s face.


“Do I have your attention now!?” the officer roared.


The little cafeteria rang with the question and the junior police officers lined up in their squads, boys and girls alike.


Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by two Baton Rouge, La., police officers at a local convenience store, didn’t look like he was “trouble.” However, according to various news accounts published by online source Snopes:


Sterling did indeed have a criminal record. The East Baton Rouge Parish’s Sheriff’s Office listed Sterling as a “Tier 1” offender due to a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile. This conviction, as well as arrests for domestic violence and weapons charges, were noted in reports about his death by mainstream media publications such as CNN and  the New York Daily News:


Sterling was a registered sex offender, after a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile, records show. The circumstances of the case were not immediately clear. Records say he was released for his offense in October 2004.


He was previously arrested for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry and domestic abuse battery, records show. In 2009, he was sentenced to five years in prison for marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.


According to CNN: Sterling was selling CDs early Tuesday outside the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, a source said, when a homeless man approached him and asked for money.


The man was persistent, and Sterling showed him his gun, the source said.


“I told you to leave me alone,” Sterling told the man, according to the source.


The homeless man then used his cell phone to call 911. The police arrived and a struggle ensued. The cops appeared to have him on the ground, finally, and one officer pulls his gun out and shoots the suspect.  After Sterling was shot, a cop removes Sterling’s gun from his pants’ pocket.


As for the hapless Philando Castille, shot by a suburban police officer multiple times near St. Paul, Minn., late Thursday night, the authorities said Mr. Castile, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul school, had been killed by multiple gunshot wounds, and the medical examiner ruled his death a homicide. State investigators identified the officer who shot him as Jeronimo Yanez, a four-year veteran of the St. Anthony Police Department.


The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is investigating his death, said the shooting happened after Officer Yanez and another officer, Joseph Kauser, pulled Mr. Castile over Wednesday night in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul that St. Anthony police are contracted to patrol.


Investigators gave few details about what had happened, but they said that Officer Yanez had approached from the driver’s side and Officer Kauser from the passenger’s side, and that Officer Yanez eventually opened fire. State officials said a gun was recovered from the scene, though the Facebook Live video suggested Mr. Castille might have had a permit to carry a gun legally. State officials said they were barred by law from saying whether Mr. Castille had a concealed-carry permit.


When the officers approached the car, Castille shouted out that he had a licensed gun. Castille also had a record, according to CNN, of having been pulled over 52 times in a period of four years.  His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with him, has YouTubed herself smoking bongs in the car with her 4 year-old daughter in the back seat.


“We got pulled over for what allegedly was supposed to be a broken taillight,” Reynolds said.

“[The police officer] let us know that we had a broken taillight. He asked us, were we aware of it and we said, ‘No.’  As we said ‘No’, he tells us to put our hands in the air.”


According to Reynolds, she and Castille complied with the order, at which point the officer at the driver’s side window asked Castille for his license and registration.


“My boyfriend carries all his information in a thick wallet in his right side back pocket,” Reynolds said. “As he’s reaching for his back pocket wallet he lets the officer know, ‘Officer, I have a firearm on me.’ I begin to yell, ‘But he’s licensed to carry.’ ” According to Reynolds, the officer started firing shortly after.


In the case of Alton Sperling, he menaced another person with a gun and the homeless called 911. The two police officers wrestled around with Sperling, who wrestled right back, and at least one of them wound up shooting him.  Did the cop think Sperling was reaching for his gun?  The cop was on top of him and probably felt the shape of the gun as he knelt on the suspect.


Only an investigation will tell us whether Sperling had a conceal-and-carry permit. But given that he was a convicted felon, that’s not likely.


The unfortunate Mr. Castile is, to be sure, a more tragic figure. But any of the 10 year-olds at the junior police academy could have told Mr. Castile that if you have a gun, it’s not something you yell out to the police.  In fact, the less you say to a cop, the better.  Let the police officer do the talking.  In trying not to get shot, instead of simply handing over his wallet and keeping his hands on the steering wheel (or the dashboard), Castile got himself shot for a broken tail light.


Because of these two incidents, now five Dallas police officers are dead. They were killed by a black Army reservist who wanted to kill white people and white police officers at a Black Lives Matter, anti-police rally.  Billed as a “peaceful” protest, the Dallas police were ordered not to wear riot gear, bullet-proof vests, or any other gear that could make the protesters feel ‘intimidated.’  This order made the Dallas police officers sitting ducks.


Nobody should be surprised at the gulf between the black community and law enforcement. Community activists insist that law enforcement needs to work on their community communications skills.  But perhaps the black community should consider attending junior police academy to learn what police do and why they do it.


Any ten year-old – at least any suburban ten year-old – could tell you that when it comes to law enforcement, there are no “buts.” You have the right to remain silent when questioned by the police and you should take advantage of that right.




Published in: on July 11, 2016 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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