Seething over US boy's shooting death

DEMAND FOR JUSTICE: A programme being held by a mourner during Tamir's funeral service in Cleveland on Dec 3. The 12-year-old was fatally shot by a police officer.


    Jan 13, 2015

    Seething over US boy's shooting death

    AN EXTENDED video released last week of the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland appears to show an unconscionable level of human depravity on the part of the police officer who shot him, a stunning disregard for the value of his life and a callousness towards the people who loved him.

    His black life didn't seem to matter. But it does.

    On Nov 22, two officers responded to a 911 call about a "guy" in a park pointing a gun that was "probably fake". (By the way, Ohio is an open-carry state, so having and carrying a gun is not a crime in and of itself.)

    The guy was Tamir. He had a pellet gun. There is no indication in police statements that he fired it.

    One of the officers, Timothy Loehmann, shot Tamir within "1.5 to 2 seconds" of arriving at the park. Two seconds. So quickly. In the blink of an eye.

    Yet, according to the Associated Press, the officers say they ordered Tamir to put his hands up three times before he was shot. According to the original statement released by the police, "the suspect did not comply with the officers' orders and reached to his waistband for the gun". All in 1.5 to 2 seconds? Really.

    Take a moment and time yourself giving three commands, imagining a response from Tamir and making the decision to shoot. Maybe it can be done in less than 2 seconds. But to my mind, it strains credulity.

    When one of the officers called in the shooting, he said: "Shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20." Tamir was 12.

    His 14-year-old sister, Tajai, was in a nearby recreation centre when she said she heard a gunshot. She said someone told her that a boy had been shot - her own brother.

    She raced to his aid, but as the video shows, one of the officers tackled her, handcuffed her and stuffed her into the back of the police cruiser, just feet from where her brother was bleeding out onto the snow-dappled ground.

    She could not reach him. Her arms could not cradle his body and plead for him to hang on. Her hands could not stroke his cheek, and she could not whisper hopefully, "It's going to be OK." Her eyes could not gaze into his and say what sisters are able to say without saying anything: "I love you."

    Tamir deserved that, but the officers made sure that she could not provide it. Four minutes passed without anyone offering the boy aid or comfort. Four long minutes he lay there, still alive, with the burn of a bullet in his abdomen.

    How excruciating must the pain have been? How slowly must the time have passed? How great must his fear and sadness have been? What must Tamir have thought as the officers hovered about, not helping him?

    Hopefully, events to the contrary, he didn't think that his life didn't matter. It did and it does.

    Tamir died from his wound the next day.

    It is hard to think of the gravely injured boy and the aloof officers who'd done the deed but withheld their help, and not reach a white-hot level of righteous indignation.

    Tamir was a human being, a child - who could have been any of our children, and who was robbed of his life and therefore his future. Twelve years old. That's just a baby, a baby with a hole in his belly. This wrong must be made right.

    There is a basic respect for life that should have governed that day, and which seems, in the video, shockingly absent from it.

    Not only is the shooting itself disturbing, but the failure to render aid unconscionable. And this didn't just happen in Tamir's case. The same apathy about the immediate administration of care is echoed in other cases where black boys and men lay dying.

    After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, the neighbourhood-watch volunteer mounted the boy and stretched his arms wide. Trayvon was still alive.

    After officers choked Eric Garner until he fell unconscious, no one administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Instead, they checked his pockets. Mr Garner was still alive.

    As news website Salon put it, after Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown through the head, the officer didn't check to see if Brown "was breathing or if he had a pulse; nor did he render aid in any way, shape or form". The list goes on, quite literally, ad nauseam.

    The plaintive voices of the dead call the living to action. So, in the demand for justice, timorousness must be the enemy, tirelessness must be the motto and righteousness must be the compass.

    The world must be made to acknowledge that Tamir Rice's life mattered.