Just a brief post today, and it’s about a man named Robert Earl Lawrence. He is now dead. The police killed him when he was attempting to turn in a stray cat at a local animal shelter. Mr. Lawrence was unarmed. You can read all about it here.
As ever with these things, I wasn’t there so I can’t claim to know exactly what the police should have done or what Mr. Lawrence should have done. Indeed, for all I know, the police were perfectly justified in shooting Mr. Lawrence, but somehow I doubt it.
Why does this keep happening? Why do police keep resorting so quickly and with such reckless abandon to lethal force? Nationwide, 2014 was one of the safest years ever for police and the numbers of police killed on duty have been near record lows for years prior to 2014. Yes, police deaths (including such things as heart attacks and car accidents) spiked upwards by 56% this year, but only 126 police officers across the whole of the United States died on the job in 2014, which isn’t much considering that we have more than 780,000 police in the US according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. And of those 126, 49 (38%) died in traffic accidents.
Yet police sure do have itchy trigger fingers. Eric Garner was killed for the slightest of resistance: he asked politely for the police not to touch him when he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. Now a man has been shot for turning in a stray cat. In specific, Mr. Lawrence was asked for an ID to turn in a stray cat (a bizarre requirement and yet another example of how far gone our “ID Culture” has gone) and he offered some kind of paperwork declaring himself to be a “sovereign citizen” and therefore not bound by any local, state, or federal rules. Somehow this escalated into an argument which brought out the police and then escalated even further to the point where the police shot Lawrence, who was unarmed, and he died a few hours later.
What the hell? For the record, I think the sovereign citizen crap is just that: crap. I also think, from what little evidence we have, that Mr. Lawrence was an aggressive idiot, easily angered and frustrated, and an all-around nut. But that doesn’t mean the police should be allowed to shoot him. Sure, if he was an immediate and lethal threat to police, yes they can take precautions to protect their safety, but surely, surely there must have been some other way of disabling Mr. Lawrence without shooting him? And what led to this escalation anyway? How did the police get involved with a guy who didn’t want to show an ID to an animal shelter? Couldn’t they have just “talked him down”? Like I said, I wasn’t there, so I can’t possibly know what could and couldn’t have been done. But the fact that he was unarmed, combined with how trivial an act led to his death (refusing to provide ID to turn in a stray cat), leaves me deeply saddened and mistrustful of our police forces.
And, as a side note, where is the outrage? Where are the protestors? Hundreds of protestors and looters used Michael Brown as a martyr and cause célébre, even though as more and more facts emerged it became increasingly clear that the police were perfectly justified in shooting Brown. Where are all those “civil rights advocates” now that it is a white man who has apparently been gunned down for no good reason?