A week ago, after repeated viewings of the Isiah Murrietta-Golding video, I asked Bee readers a simple but provocative question:
Are you OK with Fresno police officers shooting unarmed teenage boys in the back of the head?
Your replies began flooding my inbox minutes after the column published online, continued the next day after it ran in print and are still trickling in.
There were so many responses (more than 50) representing such divergent viewpoints, both on this incident and the issue of police shootings in general, that I thought I’d share a sampling:
“Too often in the aftermath of incidents like this I hear equivocation, and deference to the police that borders on obsequiousness,” Chris of Fresno wrote. “It was refreshing to see you state plainly that shooting a teenager who is running away in the back of the head is WRONG, regardless of the law or department policy.”
What can I say? Plain stating is my modus operandi.
“I don’t imagine that too many are okay with what happened, but they do realize that cops have to make split-second decisions that are not based on pushing an agenda,” Monte of Visalia wrote. “They don’t get time to sit back and try to come up with creative ways to get their message across or do damage to someone, they have to react.”
This is a fair point. In these types of situations, cops do not have time to analyze. But why are letting Murrietta-Golding escape or shooting him dead the only options?
“I’d like to know how many times (Murrietta-Golding) reached into his waistband and didn’t fire a shot,” Gail from Fresno wrote. “I mean after the third time, didn’t that possibly tell the officers that he didn’t have a gun?”
Excellent question. One I hadn’t previously considered.
“Bad things happen when you commit felonies …” Jeff of Fresno wrote.
Interesting how Murrietta-Golding can be a felon before he’s charged with a crime, let alone found guilty. If Jeff were a family member, I suspect he would be screaming about rights and due process.
“It worries to think about (retired police chief Jerry) Dyer becoming mayor,” wrote Ray, a former Fresno resident. “Regarding the video, I was also appalled to see the eagerness of the other officer to put handcuffs on a dead body.”
Agreed on the handcuffs part. That seemed wholly unnecessary.
“Overall these incidents reflect the eroded respect for authorities in today’s society,” Chris from Clovis wrote. “Cops are human, they want to go home to their wife & kids at the end of their shift. So if you’re busted & you don’t want to follow the officers commands, if you want to fight, or run, best not reach in your pants, or go for the officers gun, ya might end up dead.”
Fair enough. I want cops to go home to their wife and kids (or any significant other) as well.
“The comment of ‘good shot’ by the other officer is emblematic of the mindset of some, if not most people that work in law enforcement,” wrote Lowell, an Air Force veteran and lifelong gun owner. “Which I interpret as a siege mentality of ‘them against us’ with the officers growing to believe that they are the only force which prevents anarchy from prevailing.”
Sure hope that isn’t the case.
“If this is what it’s going to take for policemen and first responders to do their jobs correctly, then so be it,” an anonymous caller said. “Bleeding-heart people better wake up to the fact that times are changing.”
Changing into a police state? Scary thought.
“When a violent young male wrests himself from police and jumps a school yard fence, racing towards the facility, (as the husband of a second-grade teacher) YES!” Ben of Fresno wrote. “I want an officer to stop him immediately by any means available.”
Understood. But as our editorial points out, things never had to get to that point had the cops employed a smarter strategy.
“You have become nothing more than a run of the mill political hack full of liberal bias,” Will of Fresno wrote. “I am neither Democrat or Republican, but rather someone looking for a fair and balanced perspective. You are not providing that.”
Well, Will, you and I have something in common. I don’t belong to a political party, either. But I am paid to write my opinion.
“Too bad that no one is up to the challenge of mounting an effective campaign as an alternative to the ‘good ole boy’s police chief’s club’ – who is running for mayor,” Fred of Fresno emailed.
Andrew Janz, Rev. Floyd Harris Jr. and Brian Jefferson would beg to differ.
“Marek Warszawski, you’re a courageous righteous man for writing the truth,” Dick emailed.
“I would like to see Warszawski go on at least one ride-along and look in the faces of those men and women you’re sitting next to and tell them how you really feel about how they are performing their jobs,” Todd of Fresno wrote. “Go out there and learn what it’s like to have to make split-second decisions in a volatile situation with people who are acting irrationally. And then I dare you to call them ‘thugs with badges’ to their faces.”
Ah, yes, my dear friend Todd Fraizer of the Fresno Police Officers Association. Whose response can be summed up thusly: We are the cops. Everything we do is justified. Don’t question us. And if you do, we’ll call out your manhood.
As a reminder, the FPOA is the same organization that last year kicked in $25,000 to help defeat a community-wide effort to improve Fresno’s parks. Why? To protect their own members’ future raises – even though senior officers got a 5% pay hike the previous year.
“Why am I not surprised?” Joey called to say after reading Fraizer’s piece. “Keep up the great work, Marek. Keep up the perspective. It is much needed in the city of Fresno. Going on a ride-along doesn’t help fix the situation. What helps fix this situation is a change in culture and mindset. That’s what needs to change.”
Marek Warszawski: 559-441-6218, @MarekTheBee