By October 26, 2013 6 Comments Read More →

Don’t Blame the Cops

Santa Rosa shooting JOHN BURGESS


I’m going to be the least popular person in this debate. I’ve already being criticized by my Facebook friends on both the political left and right. Of course both the far right and the far left have a deeply rooted distrust in the government. That is especially true of law enforcement.

This past week we have seen a string of horrific killings committed by armed gunman and kids.

On Monday, October 21, 2013, a12-year-old student armed with a handgun opened fire at his Nevada middle school killing his math teacher and critically wounding two of his classmate before shooting himself in the head.

On Tuesday, October 22, 2013, a 14-year-old high school student was arrested in Massachusetts. He was charged with the beating death of his math teacher and hiding her body in the woods.

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, a member of the National Guard opened fire in Tennessee at an armory just outside a U.S. Navy base, wounding two soldiers.

Also on Tuesday, not far from my own home, in Santa Rosa, California, Andy Lopez,  a 13-year-old carrying a toy gun was shot and killed by a veteran Sonoma County deputy.

According to local papers the teenage boy was carrying an airsoft BB gun that resembled an AK-47. I live with my girlfriend and her two boys. One is 16-years-old and the other just turned 18-years-old. The oldest one just purchased his first real firearm.

He also owns two airsoft toy guns. One looks like a hunting rifle and the other an AK-47. Both of the toy guns have bright red tips on them.

According the reports, Andy Lopez’s gun did not have the red tip on it. Without the red tip, the gun Lopez was carrying looks very similar to an actual AK-47. So my first question is, why do we allow toy manufactures to make BB guns that look like actual firearms in which the red tip can be easily taken off? Is the toy manufacture somewhat liable for this dangerous “toy”?

Second, it was reported that Andy Lopez’s BB gun was actually his friends. Are the parents that purchase such products responsible for how their children play with such toys? Of course when kids do stupid things parents can be held liable.

Most of my friends want to point the blame squarely on the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. A large and rowdy protest at Sonoma County Sheriff’s offices took place yesterday. Protesters shouted and held up signs that read, “No justice, no peace”, “A badge is not a license to kill”, and “He should have known. He is a sheriff. He should have known that it was fake”.

Reports indicate when the sheriffs saw Lopez walking down the street with the weapon they pulled their patrol car over, opened the doors to provide themselves protection, and several times ordered Lopez to put the gun. At which point Lopez swung around and pointed the barrel of the AK-47 looking gun in the direction of the sheriffs.

Multiple experts point out, the veteran sheriff was following protocol widely used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Everyone agrees Andy Lopez’s death was a horrible accident. However, folks from both the far left and far right have been quick to immediately assign blame on the sheriff. I’m not going there. I reserve the right to change my mind. I’ll wait to read the results from both the local and federal investigation into the matter before I draw any conclusions.

If you don’t trust the police or any government official in general, then it is easy to quickly attack the sheriff and the entire U.S. law enforcement apparatus. It just fits in nicely with a political ideological narrative that must be maintained at all costs. However, in the case of the tragic death of Andy Lopez, I believe it is just too early and easy to blame the cops.

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Posted in: Hurricane Dean, Politics, USA

About the Author:

Dean Walker is a freelance writer of articles, essays, short-stories, and poems. In one way or another, he has worked as an environmental and human rights activist. Dean is the publisher of Expats Post.
  • Dean,
    I tend to agree with you. We live in a country that allows real looking/fake guns to be sold. I think that’s ridiculous but that’s how it is. Someone getting injured or killed while in possession of this kind of toy is not something that has never happened. It is a dangerous toy for that reason. Lawn darts were once a popular toy that also killed and maimed people. I see very little difference in the result, only a difference in the method of the result. It would be a great world if police presence wasn’t necessary but that isn’t the case and police personnel need to protect themselves.
    How could this have been prevented? By not allowing real-looking toy guns to be distributed to children; not by putting law-enforcement at risk by requiring hesitation in a potentially dangerous situation. And no, I am not in law enforcement and never could be.

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    • Thanks John, I’ve heard from a number of people that think the sheriff should have known better. But, I just don’t understand how? I appreciate our comments. Dean

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  • Dean,

    A thoughtful piece on a troubling situation and tragic accident.

    I know many if not all police officers are trained in the correct use of weaponry. They by and large respond to potentially dangerous situations more calmly than the ordinary citizen would.

    Nonetheless, I am disturbed by the fact that officers opened fire on a kid who could not have actually opened fire on them. At what point is forbearance required of people who are acting in a special capacity? I understand they might have felt threatened, but in fact they were not. If they held off for another minute or five minutes, the 13 year old would still be alive.

    Most police departments have mottoes that are variations on the theme “To serve and protect.” Part of the esteem police officers receive derives from their fidelity to that theme. How was this noble aspiration enacted in this instance?


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  • Thanks Larry for that very thoughtful and reflective comment. I’m looking forward to learning more about the actual facts on the ground. Because of both the local and national attention, I’m sure the full story will eventually come out. Perhaps the sheriff responsible for the shooting will be at fault? Only time will tell in this case. Thanks for comments. I always find them valuable.

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  • Cher Duncombe

    People want to blame the police without looking at personal culpability, Dean. Parents are not parenting and police do not make the laws. It is erroneous that we want them to “serve and protect” then blame them for taking action, not taking action, and for just being. Do we really want a lawless society? I do not blame the cops. I blame society at large for not tending to this business years ago. It has become nearly impossible to change laws and constitutional amendments, so here we are with “Darkness at Noon” and a mob mentality that cannot govern itself without squabbling like children.

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