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Civil Liberties

When the Cops Are Supposed to Be the "Good Guys With Guns"

“I ask that you place yourself in these two officers’ positions and ask yourself what would you have done?” – Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore on fatal shooting of Trader Joe’s Manager

Putting yourself in the shooter’s shoes is the bar for use of lethal force by cops and civilians in so-called “stand your ground” states. The bar—distilled from SCOTUS cases, various laws and police protocols is “reasonableness” —as in what would you have done in a similar situation?

Imagine the least reasonable person you know. Now, imagine that person—who you know for a fact is manifestly not reasonable in the best of circumstances—shoots someone. That person’s “reasonable” belief is the actual bar.

That brings us to Florida. Pinellas County, Florida. A black man defending his girlfriend from an aggressive white man with a gun and a grudge screaming at the woman for a crooked parking job. The black man shoved the white man to get him away from his family. The white man, with the law on his side, stood his ground and murdered the black man.

His name was Markeis McGlockton, and he was a father of three. They had come to the convenience store to buy snacks with his family—you know, like you and me. In the back seat of the car were two of his children, an infant and a three-year-old. Inside the store with McGlockton was the third child, a 5-year-old. The 5-year-old would watch as his father, shot in the chest, fell to the floor and died inside the store asking for help.  

The white man who shot McGlockton is known to the convenience store regulars—including the owner—to have a bad temper. As in he has threatened to shoot other people in the past based on crappy parking jobs. McGlockton’s girlfriend summed it up in an interview: The shooter, who killed her boyfriend as he backed away, “wanted someone to be angry at.”

There are 20 states with “stand your ground” laws. Florida is perhaps the most notorious and disturbing. George Zimmerman set the bar for acceptable “reasonable fear” when he murdered Trayvon Martin in 2012. 

How is shooting at a moving target a decent distance away with a handgun (not known for their accuracy) across a crowded city parking lot after pulling to a screeching halt determined to be reasonable?
There is no argument that will ever justify a grown man with a gun shooting an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman was loaded for bear. He was looking for a fight. Trayvon Martin and his family paid the price for Zimmerman’s swinging-dick idea of reasonable.Zimmerman fancied himself one of the fabled “good guys with a gun”that Donald Trump, the NRA, Ted Nugent and a chorus of nutters want you to believe exist. They just don’t. Unless, of course, you consider the cops to be good guys with guns.

But, wait.

Across the country in Los Angeles, a 27-year-old store manager, Melyda Corado, is shot while exiting a Trader Joe’s. She later dies from her injuries, the bullet piercing her arm and passing through into her body. The shooter this time was an LAPD officer.

Watching the video from the dash and body cams of the two officers is chilling. They were, in fact, chasing a man with a gun who had already allegedly shot his own grandmother before kidnapping and shooting a 17-year-old. He crashed his car into the Trader Joe’s, jumped out and apparently fired at the officers trailing him. The officers returned fire across a city street on a Saturday afternoon across a parking lot full of cars. One of those bullets killed Corado.

There has been commentary on both sides of this shooting. It isn’t as clear cut a case as officers who have shot and killed innocent people before: Philando Castile, Antwon Rose, Stephon Clark in his grandparent’s backyard. LAPD guidelines approve use of deadly force to “protect themselves or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

How is shooting at a moving target a decent distance away with a handgun (not known for their accuracy) across a crowded city parking lot after pulling to a screeching halt determined to be reasonable? I mean even if the guy shot first, the cops had an advantage over Corado—they were afforded some cover by their car doors. So, who were they protecting?

Jesse Palmer, who was Corado’s neighbor, breaks it down: “How are police deciding to open fire in a packed place, in the afternoon, on a Saturday? It’s not like it’s an empty lot. It’s not like it’s an abandoned warehouse. What sort of protocol is required before you shoot into an area that’s congested and booming with commerce?”

Exactly.People are angry. A family is grieving. The LAPD is doing damage control. And even worse—some experts have taken the “if you are going to make an omelet you’re going to have to break some eggs” route.“It’s one of those lose-lose situations,” Geoff Alpert, a professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina told the Los Angeles Times. “Unless you can walk away with no one else getting injured or killed, there’s going to be someone criticizing something.”

Something? Like shooting and killing a young woman kind of something?

Another article expresses how devastated the officers are and that they are meeting with mental health professionals. The reason the tape of the shooting was released so quickly, according to officials, was to help people understand what the officers were up against. Then, the LAPD went on to pat themselves on the back by telling any news outlet that would listen that they met with the family and shared time with them about the loss of their child.

Here is the deal. If my daughter is shot getting her groceries by a cop, the very last thing I am going to want to hear about is how [insert police department here] is doing or feeling. Assuming all of those things are genuine and real—the LAPD tripping over itself to issue public statements smacks of ass-covering and sucks the feeling of true remorse out of the room.

The man who murdered Markeis McGlockton will not be charged. The actions of the officers who chose to fire their weapons into a crowded, civilian packed area, have thus far been found to be justified. I am having a hard time finding the reasonableness behind the death of two innocent people no matter who the shooter —“good guy” or not.