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Davidson die in

Photo: John Deem, Lake Norman Citizen

John Deem, the Senior Editor of a suburban Charlotte community newspaper called the Lake Norman Citizen wrote a thoughtful opinion piece this week about a “die in” protest that Davidson College students conducted during their community’s recent Christmas festival to protest the nation’s epidemic of police killings. (He also took the photo at left.)

One might quibble with a point or two that Deem makes, but the spirit of his piece and his hopeful support for the Davidson students is a welcome addition to the discussion.

As Deem notes:

“Each of the protestors Saturday wore the name of a person who died at the hands of a police officer. While that didn’t necessarily imply that each cop in those examples was guilty of using undue force, it did illustrate a trend that was troubling to the students, and to many other Americans.

The underlying reasons for that trend are the subject of intense debate, of course. The reactions range from, ‘Don’t cause trouble in the first place and you won’t have a problem,’ to, ‘I don’t have to do anything and the cops will still hassle me because I’m black.’ From, ‘You can’t truly understand the decisions a police officer has to make until you have to make them yourself,’ to, ‘You can’t truly understand what it’s like to be black and feel targeted by the cops just because of the color of your skin.’

Most of us live in a world comfortably between those extremes. And most police officers of all races, despite some tragic exceptions, conduct themselves honorably. Tying all cops to those who employ excessive force is its own form of discrimination.

One thing we can all agree on is that, for a variety of reasons, a racial disconnect persists in America. The good news is that if some of  our most promising young people are willing to spend their Saturday night lying on a wet street in Davidson in an effort to demonstrate their concern over an issue — as remote as it might seem to most of us — then there’s hope that they, as future leaders, will someday be part of the solution.”

Click here to read the entire essay.

Commentary

It seems counter-intuitive to many of us that, when confronted with an angry person breaking rules or engaging in questionable behavior, the best course for a person of authority is to simply walk away. But as countless teachers and mental health professionals have learned down through the years, deescalation is, in fact, regularly the best choice.

A fine editorial in this morning’s Greensboro News & Record makes this point — among several others — in a discussion of the Ferguson, Missouri disaster and its implications for other communities with similar police-community tensions. As the editorial notes:

[Former Ferguson police officer Darren] Wilson frequently invokes his ‘training’ in explaining his encounter with Brown, which involved only 90 tragic seconds. But more police forces are stressing ‘de-escalation’ to avert physical confrontations. ‘We haven’t taught officers to just walk away,’ Cambridge, Mass., police Commissioner Robert Haas told the Associated Press. Some situations demand the use of force. Others don’t. In some cases, the best weapons are patience and reason. And the best fight, the one avoided.”

Here in North Carolina — home of the late, great Andy Griffith who taught weekly TV lessons as “the sheriff without a gun” — such an obvious truth ought to already be embedded in our community DNA. Let’s hope experts of all kinds keep speaking up and reminding us of the logic of such an approach until it become common wisdom once again.

Read the entire N&R editorial by clicking here.

Uncategorized
Keith Vidal (Source: Facebook)

Keith Vidal (Source: Facebook)

Authorities are reviewing the shooting of Wilmington area teenager shot and killed Sunday by a police officer who responding to a call for help from the mentally ill teen’s family.

Keith Vidal, 18, was armed with a small screwdriver but family members have told Wilmington media other responding officers were successfully calming the youth down when a third officer arrived on the scene, according to what Vidal’s family told reporters from WECT in Wilmington.

[Mark] Wilsey said officers had his son down on the ground after the teen was tased a few times and an officer said, “we don’t have time for this.” That’s when Wilsey says the officer shot in between the officers holding the teen down, killing his son.

“There was no reason to shoot this kid,” Wilsey said. “They killed my son in cold blood. We called for help and they killed my son.”

A Southport Police Department detective, Byron Vassey, has been put on administrative leave in connection with the incident, Wilmington TV station WECT reported. Authorities have not said if Vassey was the shooter, but no other officers from the other police departments on the scene have been placed on leave.

The State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.

The TV station also reviewed 911 documents that indicated the officer who shot the teen had arrived at the family’s home seconds before the shooting.

Vidal was a senior at South Brunswick High School and scheduled to graduate this spring, according to the Wilmington Star-News article about the shooting.

The national blog, ThinkProgress, has also picked up on shooting, and published a post today about the incident.

From the ThinkProgress post:

During Sunday’s incident, Vidal had apparently picked up a small screwdriver — small enough that it couldn’t have caused serious harm, his family says, but enough that they sought law enforcement assistance. Three different police departments’ officers arrived at the scene. The first two were able to restrain Vidal and calm him down, according to Vidal’s father. But then a third entered, and that’s when he says things went sour.

He says the third officer tased Vidal, knocking the 90-pound teenager to the ground. The officer then allegedly stepped forward with a firearm and said, “we don’t have time for this,” before shooting the teen dead.

Southport Police Department, one of the three North Carolina agencies that responded to the call, has put one of its detectives on administrative leave in relation to the case, reports WECT. The department did not say whether the officer was the one who had fired the weapon. The other departments, Boiling Spring Lakes PD and the Brunswick County Sheriff’s office, said that they have not put their responding officers on leave. The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the incident.

In Durham, police will release a report to the public this week detailing how 17-year-old Jesus Huerta was killed when he was shot in the back of the head while alone and handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.