The shooting of Jayland Walker by police in Akron, OH last week is becoming yet another flashpoint in urban hatred of and violence towards police, law and order.
By now I’m sure most of my readers have read about what happened, but for those overseas who may have missed it: Mr. Walker apparently fired a shot at police from his vehicle before fleeing on foot. He left his gun in the vehicle, but pursuing officers did not know that. When he halted and made what the pursuers considered a suspicious movement, they fired on him. Up to eight officers were allegedly involved, and Mr. Walker’s body bore approximately 60 wounds by the time the shooting stopped. He died at the scene, and was then found to be unarmed. His death is being called a murder by social activists, rather than a justifiable shooting by law enforcement. The training of the Akron police force is also being called into question in the light of this incident.
There’s no doubt Mr. Walker’s death is a tragedy for his family and loved ones. Any of us who lost someone under those circumstances would find it devastating. Nevertheless, if the accounts we’ve read so far are correct – that Mr. Walker fired at police from his vehicle, then fled, without the officers knowing that he was now unarmed – one can understand why they shot at him when his movements appeared threatening. I’d undoubtedly have done the same, in their shoes. If you give the police probable cause to suspect you of wanting to harm them – and shooting at them is precisely that – they’re not going to wait and ask questions before defending themselves. If they hesitate, they may be injured or killed, and the suspect in this case had already used lethal force against them. Q.E.D.
The trouble is, those officers were damned if they fired, and damned if they didn’t. If they hadn’t defended themselves instantly, they already had abundant cause to know that the suspect harbored lethal intent towards them. That’s what happens when you shoot at someone: you demonstrate that you’re prepared to use lethal force against them. After one such demonstration, why should they wait for another before defending themselves? And yet . . . sixty bullet wounds? That’s evidence of very serious deficiencies in weapons training and use. Those officers “hosed down” the suspect, rather than aim accurately and make every shot count. If, as so far reported, eight officers were involved, and they each carried a handgun containing up to 15 rounds (standard issue for most police departments these days), that means up to 120 rounds might have gone downrange in a matter of a few seconds. Overkill, much? It’s no wonder that liberal activists and organizations like Black Lives Matter are outraged.
There are those who will argue that every one of those officers had the right to defend himself, and that 60 bullet wounds indicate that a large proportion of their shots were accurately aimed. Nevertheless, the optics of the incident are simply terrible for police. If they’d fired fewer shots, more accurately, with weapons that offered greater terminal effectiveness, and if fewer officers had fired, things would look rather different for them today – and for the Akron Police Department as a whole.
That said, one can also understand why the police acted as they did. Police are being pilloried in every major city in the USA by liberal, left-wing, progressive forces. “Woke” District Attorneys are refusing to prosecute many offenders, and releasing many of them to await trial rather than keep them behind bars. Police actions are actively blamed as the cause of the problem, rather than as an inevitable response to urban crime and violence. Just look how cops were treated in Chicago over the Independence Day weekend. If that’s the norm they face on the streets, why shouldn’t they presume that any and every offender is out to get them, and respond accordingly? Again, in their shoes, who wouldn’t? If I, a cop, am chasing an offender who’s already fired at me, thereby showing his complete and utter disdain for my life, why would I not shoot him at the first threatening movement he makes? And, given the inevitable psychological dynamic of hot pursuit, why would I not join my fellow officers in firing at him? It takes only a few seconds – four or five at most – to empty a pistol’s magazine under such circumstances. That’s not enough time to consider whether what I’m doing is the wisest or most reasonable response under the circumstances. It’s a “him or me” moment, and if I don’t solve my problem in the most expeditious and expedient way I can, it might well be me. Why should I take that chance?
In that sense, Black Lives Matter and other activist organizations and individuals are actually ensuring that more such shootings will take place. If they demonstrate contempt for the job, and the presence, of police, and openly encourage violence against officers, why should the police – the ordinary officer on the beat, not their politically correct superiors – have anything but contempt for them? If they refuse to respect to the law, why should those whose job it is to uphold the law have any respect for them?
One response by police is only to be expected – they’re quitting their jobs in droves. Just last week we spoke about the situation in Seattle and New York. That’s being mirrored in big cities across the nation – and one can’t blame the cops for voting with their feet. Why should they put up with Black Lives Matter calling them murderers, ignoring the facts of the matter in an emotional upsurge of hatred and nihilism? Why should they bother to defend cities that won’t defend them against that sort of vitriol? In their shoes, probably neither you nor I would be prepared to put up with it – so why should they? And yet, the more of them that leave, the fewer of their colleagues will remain to keep a lid on the violence, to prevent open warfare between the nihilists and law-abiding citizens. If – when? – enough of the cops say “Enough!” and leave, what will be left but cities turned into killing grounds? That’s the situation in far too many of our cities right now. Akron, OH is just the latest example, and it’s by no means as badly off as Chicago or New York or Seattle. (If you doubt that, look at what happened in Highland Park, part of the Chicago megaplex, on Independence Day – not to mention dozens of other US cities.)
I’ve been saying for years that, if you live in a big city, it’s time to leave if that’s at all possible for you. I’ve often cited John Farnam’s sage advice for dealing with crime and violence:
The best way to handle any potentially injurious encounter is: Don’t be there. Arrange to be somewhere else. Don’t go to stupid places. Don’t associate with stupid people. Don’t do stupid things. This is the advice I give to all students of defensive firearms. Winning a gunfight, or any other potentially injurious encounter, is financially and emotionally burdensome. The aftermath will become your full-time job for weeks or months afterward, and you will quickly grow weary of writing checks to lawyer(s). It is, of course, better than being dead or suffering a permanently disfiguring or disabling injury, but the “penalty” for successfully fighting for your life is still formidable.
Crowds of any kind, particularly those with an agenda, such as political rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, etc are good examples of “stupid places.” Any crowd with a high collective energy level harbors potential catastrophe. To a lesser degree, bank buildings, hospital emergency rooms, airports, government buildings, and bars (particularly crowded ones) fall into the same category. All should be avoided. When they can’t be avoided, we should make it a practice to spend only the minimum time necessary there and then quickly get out.
“A superior gunman is best defined as one who uses his superior judgment in order to keep himself out of situations that would require the use of his superior skills.”
(“Don’t be there” includes staying away from Independence Day parades. Nowadays, who’s to say that anything like that might not turn into a shooting gallery?)
Sadly, police don’t have that luxury. They have to go where crime and violence are found. That’s their job. Inevitably, that reality conditions their response to individuals, and groups, and incidents. It would do the same to us, if we were in their shoes. When dealing with violence, often it takes violence to subdue it. There may be no alternative. Sooner or later, that response – meeting force with force – becomes instant, automatic, unthinking. As Abram Maslow put it, “If your only tool is a hammer, pretty soon every problem begins to look like a nail.” In a sense, criminals have created the way police treat them, and societies have conditioned police to respond in certain ways – because if they don’t, they’re likely to become casualties, rather than custodians, of law and order.
What makes me most angry is the way in which this situation is being exploited by those of a certain political persuasion, to “divide and rule” the cities they control. It’s a deliberate and very cynical opportunism that ignores the consequences those cities – and their administrations – are storing up for themselves. If things come to a flashpoint in this country, those politicians probably think they can use that whipped-up emotion and outrage to secure their own positions. They’ve never seen how such forces, once unleashed, slip out of control of those who deliberately whipped them up, and often turn on the latter in an orgy of self-destructive anarchy.
The same may be happening with international forces and organizations trying to impose their will on the world. It may be happening in Holland right now, with the protests of the farmers – backed by a large proportion of the Dutch populace – against the government there. Go read Michael Yon’s thoughts about that. He calls it “global 1848”, calling to mind as it does the revolutions of that year across Europe). I’ve been following the situation, and I can’t disagree with him.
Our big-city problems are no more than those international forces in microcosm. Too many people don’t realize that . . . yet. I daresay it’ll become clear to them before long.