Regular readers know I adopt a guilty until proven innocent approach to police misconduct. In case you didn’t catch it, I am deeply suspicious of the boys in blue. But when the TTAG telegraph lit-up on the story of the 13-year-old California lad killed by cops after brandishing an Airsoft AK-47 I thought I’d let it sit. According to the reports I’d read, the cops ordered Andy Lopez to drop the weapon. Twice . . .
Lopez turned and aimed the gun in their direction. So they shot him. Unless this account is proven false, it’s a righteous shoot. Sorry but there it is. If you aim a gun at a cop something bad’s gonna happen. If you don’t comply with their order to drop said weapon, you’re toast. It doesn’t matter which way you’re facing. It doesn’t matter if the gun has an orange tip on the end or not. It doesn’t matter of you’re 13 or 30. I figured that the wider world would see it that way too.
I was wrong about a couple of things. First, in my defense, here’s the nydailynews.com version of events:
The two deputies who opened fire called for backup when they first spotted Lopez walking around with his friend’s toy weapon. Then they repeatedly ordered Lopez to drop the gun, and he failed to comply, according to authorities.
CNN‘s published this account:
Two Sonoma County deputies spotted the boy holding what appeared to be an assault rifle Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s office said. They pulled over “but maintained cover behind their open passenger door,” the press release said.
They yelled at the teen to put the weapon down. He had his back to them and began turning around toward the officers, the statement said.
“One of the deputies described that as the subject was turning toward him the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in his direction. The deputy feared for his safety, the safety of his partner, and the safety of the community members in the area,” the statement said.
A deputy shot the teen. The teen was handcuffed, and the officers called for an ambulance, the statement said. Deputies found the fake rifle on the ground near the boy. The bogus handgun was tucked in his waistband.
So did the cops order Lopez to drop the gun before opening fire? Probably. That’s standard operating procedure. Did Lopez make a common and sometimes fatal mistake of turning to see the person giving the command before processing the information and complying? Most likely. Does that make this a bad shoot? That’s a good question. And even more important one, why were they assuming evil intent in the first place?
I’m not the first person to wonder about that. Check this—Cops Shoot Thirteen-Year-Old Because Second Amendment Is Dead Letter—from politicaloutcast.com
The cops were never shot at (not even by airsoft pellets). No one else was in the area being seemingly threatened by the “replica rifle.” The cops pointed their weapons at the boy, shouted orders, and then opened fire.
We can talk about how police are trained and whether this could possibly be a reasonable response. But I’ll skip that and turn to a slightly different issue.
This kid was killed because the Second Amendment is a dead letter in California and many other states.
He was carrying an apparent “assault rifle.” The police believed that, because he was carrying this weapon (or so they thought), they had a right to draw their weapons and aim at him.
He wasn’t threatening anyone.
He wasn’t shooting the gun.
He was just carrying a firearm.
He was bearing arms.
We live in a country where a boy can be stopped by the police, with their weapons drawn and aimed at him, just because he is carrying a rifle.
The Second Amendment says the right of the people to keep and bear arms is not to be infringed. Shooting someone for carrying a gun is about as serious an infringement of the right to bear arms as can be imagined.
Yet, even the way this story is being reported, it is assumed that, if the boy had been carrying a real rifle, then it would have been OK to order him at gunpoint to drop his firearm.
If our country had never had a second amendment in its Constitution, then the behavior of the police would make sense.
Society’s disregard for the Second Amendment gave those cops license to kill. Everyone who supports taking away the right to keep and bear arms is advocating that cops be permitted to behave in this way toward thirteen-year-old children.
It’s a compelling argument: the lack of “gun normalization” leads to police “over-reach” re: citizens keeping and bearing arms Or, if you will, a police state.
Maybe so BUT I still think the importance of this particular incident rests on what these cops did in this particular instance. Then again, facts had little to do with the Zimmerman case. And if the Lopez homicide leads to questions about gun rights and police militarization that’s not an entirely bad thing. More likely, though, California will ban replica guns.