After a couple embarrassing attempts at finding a white cop shooting a defenseless, peaceable black man, the media seems to have finallysighted a unicorn:
An eyewitness whose cellphone video put a South Carolina police officer in jail on a murder charge said Wednesday that he did not hear the white officer give any warning before he fired eight times at the back of a black man who can be seen in the footage running away before he falls to the ground.
Feidin Santana told NBC News that while walking to work Saturday morning, he saw Officer Michael Thomas Slager controlling Walter Lamer Scott on the ground, and began recording when he heard the sound of a Taser. "Mr. Scott was trying just to get away from the Taser," said Santana, a barber originally from the Dominican Republic. "He was just looking for a way to get away from the police."
Slager initially claimed he fired in self-defense after the suspect he had pulled over for a broken brake light grabbed his Taser.
Santana's recording documented a different scenario. It begins at a moment when both men are standing, as Scott pulls away from the officer and an object appearing to be a stun gun falls to the ground, trailing wires. As the unarmed man runs away, Slager then pulls out his Glock pistol and fires eight times at the back of the 50-year-old man, until he crumples to the ground about 30 feet away.
Santana also said he didn't see the officer render any first aid to Scott after he was on the ground.
A couple of thoughts come to mind.
First, a single data point is not a trend. This appears to be the first recorded instance of unprovoked white cop shooting a defenseless black man. This should not, as yet, be extrapolated into proof of America’s overwhelming anti-black racism. Obama’s serving a second term as president and hasn’t been impeached in spite of his overwhelming incompetence. While the nation may not have reached an egalitarian ideal (and whether it should even attempt to is an entirely different question), it’s not exactly apartheid over here, and blacks seem generally content to live as “second-rate” citizens instead of, say, migrating back to their home continent of Africa. So while life in America isn’t perfect for blacks, it’s still fairly good.
Second, it should be fairly obvious that some cops are but pussies with guns. The most obvious sign that the cop in question was a coward is seen in his attempt to place the taser next to his victim. This was obviously a split-second decision to attempt to improve his standing for a post-incident review, since belligerent black guys who try to attack cops (e.g. Mike Brown) are not looked upon with too much favor. Thus, if the cop could argue that he was attacked his behavior would seem more defensible. Consequently, it seems like it would be a very good idea to have cops where body cameras non-stop while on duty. They should still be allowed to carry guns, since they are quite obvious and natural targets, and should have the human right of self-defense. Nonetheless, they should be held to a much higher standard of conduct than civilians, and their on-duty behavior should be monitored at all times to keep them honest. If they engage in shootings less frequently and have to do more legwork and honest-to-goodness investigations, I’m fine with that.
Third, the victim is likewise a coward, and also a criminal, and not someone worthy of a social cause or defense. “The wicked flee when no one pursues.” The victim clearly had a guilty conscience. Whether this was because of lapsed child support, for which a warrant had been issued for his arrest, or whether it was for some other crime is hard to say. What’s clear, though, is that the victim did not behave like an innocent man. Traffic stops are a part of life for pretty much everyone (for what it’s worth I’ve been pulled over five or six times), and remarkably few people see that as a cause to run away from the cop. While being pulled over is never pleasant, it’s also not a cause for panicked escape.
Furthermore, while I can’t say I’m fond of the divorce and alimony laws that make it easy for men to be utterly wiped out by vindictive ex-wives and jilted baby mommas, I still find it impossible to defend a man who will not support his children. Perhaps the terms of support were especially onerous to the victim. Perhaps not. Either way, I cannot defend someone who will not make the maximum effort to provide for his children. While I do not celebrate Walter Scott’s death, by the same token I do not mourn it.
In the final analysis, there is little to like about this mess. Honestly, it appears that Slager was simply a cop who panicked when a routine traffic stop didn’t go as planned. Given that the last highly publicized cop shooting involved a belligerent black male who tried to attack a cop during a routine stop, it’s hard to blame the cop for being a little twitchy and overreacting to the sudden getaway attempt. Furthermore, it’s difficult to blame the victim for being twitchy given that he had a warrant out for his arrest. That said, it was colossally stupid for Scott to have thought that trying to run away was going to improve his legal standing in any way. Not only that, the media surely deserves blame for needlessly stirring up racial divide and hatred, which undoubtedly reduced the admittedly miniscule amount of trust between cops and black men. Perhaps this could have gone differently if cops were more accountable, black males didn’t commit such a disproportionately large number of crimes, and the media didn’t spend so much time and energy stirring up strife.