It's a tragedy no matter who was responsible. A 13 year old boy is dead, victim of a police shooting in Santa Rosa California. Ordinarily something like this tends not to make national news, but in this case it has. And part of the reason has to do with the fact that the FBI has been called into what normally is a local police investigation.
A few things to keep in mind when you watch the news report below is the "official" timeline of events. Obviously many questions are still unanswered. The longer they remain, the longer the stink of this horrible murder will fester.
A timeline released Thursday by the Santa Rosa police shows that only 10 seconds passed from the moment that the sheriff's deputy and his partner called dispatch to report a suspicious person to the moment they called back to say shots had been fired.
Just think about this -- all of these things in 10 seconds: The two police officers call in to report a suspicious person. They have to get out of their squad car, pull their weapons, call out to the boy, they have to assess the danger, they have to give him time to respond/react to their demands and then they have to shoot him (seven times) and finally get back into their squad car and call back into dispatch. Ten seconds to do all that?
Now to be fair, here's what one of the deputies told a reporter from the Miami Herald
Santa Rosa police Lt. Paul Henry told the newspaper the deputy who opened fire later told investigators he believed his life as well his partner's was in jeopardy. The deputy said the teen didn't comply with commands to drop the gun and was turning toward the deputies while raising the barrel.
According to the police as reported in the video above, the boy had his back to them when they called toward him. He turned. That would mean the pellet gun would have moved with him. So to say the boy raised his gun toward them is a very loose interpretation of what might have gone on. And again, keep in mind, the 10 second time frame for all of this to go on.
Certainly if you're a cop and you see a gun being raised toward you this would be a justifiable shooting. But wait. There's more. The shooting deputy had a partner. How does he figure into all of the. He was there as well.
Assistant Sheriff Lorenzo Duenas told the Press Democrat that the deputy who shot the teen is a 24-year veteran and his partner, who did not fire his weapon, is a new hire.
So the newbie deputy, the shooter's partner, didn't fire. Why's that? Why did one officer shoot 7 times while the other didn't shoot once? Was one patrolman trigger happy and the other remotely sane. Was the non-shooting deputy too scared and frozen by the threat? Or by his partners itchy trigger finger?
Perhaps time will tell. But this is certainly a situation where there's some common sense that needs to go along with the deputy's explanations and follow-up interviews. It will be interesting to see what the initial reason for the policemen thinking this 13 year old boy, who witnesses say was just playing, drew the cops attention (and ultimately guns) to the point they felt they needed to stop and shoot. That question has yet to be answered by either officer.