St. Louis Police Officer Don Re wrote this blog post about the March 11, 2015 shooting death of a 6-year-old boy.
We arrived at the Children’s Hospital Emergency Room at the same time.
He and his partner parked and I pulled up to their left and did the same.
I got out of my car and watched as the officer hurried from his seat and opened the back, driver’s side door.
When the officer grabbed the boy from the back seat of his police Tahoe, I knew almost instantly.
There was a split second though, before instantly I guess, where I didn’t know. For that split second, the officer looked like any dad grabbing his sleeping boy from the car and putting the boy’s head on his shoulder to carry him inside to sleep comfortably in his own bed.
For that split second, it was a sweet moment.
The officer, an around fifty year old white guy, clutched the little boy over his left shoulder gently, but with a clear purpose. The boy was small, a black child with his hair in corn rows and dressed as a typical five or six-year-old dresses.
He reminded me of my own six-year-old son.
The sudden, pained look on the officer’s face and the fact that the boy wasn’t crying or yelling or doing anything other than appearing to be asleep made the split second fantasy fade away fast.
We hurried into the emergency room where we were met by the trauma team and hospital staff. I’m always in awe at how these emergency room doctors and nurses and staff are so able to get to working on a patient so fast.
There was some sliver of hope that the boy would make it, at least that’s what we all wanted to believe.
The truth, and I think we all knew it, was that this boy would never fall asleep in his own bed again. When the officer laid the boy down on the gurney and stood back upright, any wind that may have been in my sails quickly faded to nothing.
His shirt said it all.
The three of us officers, with nearly fifty years of city police experience under our collective belts, waited not so stoically outside of trauma room two as the doctors and nurses busted their tails to save this little guy.
We paced and exchanged awkward smiles with each other and the nurses and staff who were passing by. There were several times when one or all of us was close to tears, but we held it together.
It was hard for the officer, because he did the best he could and it wasn’t going to be enough. It was hard for me, because I have a son about that age at home and couldn’t imagine anything like this happening to him.
It was awkward because we were all hoping, but we also knew that it was going to take a miracle for that boy to live.
He was not granted that miracle.
Just like that, at a couple of minutes after 8pm, a five-year old boy was gone forever.
The sheet of paper, which I’ve seen way to many times, verified it. It’s the one with a line printed on it. When it’s completely straight, you’ve died. You’ve straight-lined, as they say.
I was done with being in the hospital. I wanted to leave.
To go back to my car, I had to walk past the same group of people who were in the waiting room when we walked past them earlier with the dying boy. Three little boys grabbed at me and asked me if that boy we carried in earlier was dead.
“Did he die, officer? Was that boy dead?” They asked me.
I got no help from their mom, as she was tending to a clearly sick kid of her own.
“Boys, he’s fine. He’s a strong boy, just like you guys.”
I felt bad lying, but it seemed easier than having to explain death to three strange kids all under ten years old.
I went to my car and grabbed a bunch of Dum-Dums from the bag I carry around. Mom was cool with me giving them suckers, and they left me alone about the dead boy they still thought was alive.
I couldn’t tell them that the boy who was about their same age had straight-lined.
Five-year olds shouldn’t straight line.
Why did this one?
Because of gun violence in the city.
The weather was nice so the people were out.
Some people were out with their guns.
Why did this boy have to die?
Was it disrespect?
All stupid reasons to fire a gun anywhere near another human being, let alone children, but here we are again, with another child lost to violence.
We tried to save this boy.
The officer showed up and there was a hostile crowd of people, most of whom had nothing to do with the shooting, and most not even sure what they should be angry at. The were just angry because anger is easy. Patience is hard. Kindness in the face of adversity is hard. Understanding is hard.
Some chose to be angry at the police while others were taking video on their phone. Meanwhile, nobody was helping a child as he lay dying on the sidewalk from a bullet that had torn through his little body.
The officer fought through the angry crowd and put a dying boy he didn’t know in his car.
Did he have to do that?
EMS was coming, but they were too far away. It was too risky to wait for them, so we raced that little guy to the hospital in record time. We had all sorts of cars shutting down the route to the hospital, just like we would were a fellow cop shot and in need of medical care. That’s about the highest honor we can give a person, and this boy deserved it.
Still, it didn’t matter on this night.
I truly believe that when it’s your time, it’s your time.
Five years shouldn’t be anyone’s time, but that’s not my call.
It’s queer, but I left hospital and went back in service to handle more calls. I had to handle some subsequent calls with a little dead boy freshly on my mind.
That’s the thing with policing. It never ends. You have to carry on, so I pretended to care about a car accident and a stolen bike when I just wanted to shout in their faces, “AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T DIE AT FIVE YEARS OLD FROM A BULLET THROUGH YOUR CHEST!!! I HAVE NO INTEREST IN YOUR BULLSHIT PROBLEMS RIGHT NOW!”
But that’s not professional.
I’m wrapping this up having finished a six pack of Bud Light Lime and I just kissed all three of my own sleeping kids as well as my wife. I also laid on the ground and wrestled my dogs at 2 am, even though one of them is dying and has no interest in playing, and I have to work in the morning.
I’m still thinking about a boy I never met alive, and hoping he’s in a better place.
I’m looking at my own six year old’s homework folder and wondering if this dead boy has a homework folder in a backpack never to be turned in again. Will his mom see it when she gets home and cry? Did he have a lunch packed for the next day that will still be in the fridge this weekend to remind his family of a lunch that was never taken to school?
Did he go to kindergarten?
Will somebody have to explain to his classmates that they’ll never see this little guy alive again and why?
This is all too sad and it needs to stop.
Someone please figure out how.
Printed with permission of the author:
don of all trades
Alabama cop buys shoplifting grandmother eggs
Sheriff Clarke ~ Irresponsible Groups Descended on Ferguson MO Like Vultures on a Roadside Carcass
Very impressive, Sheriff Clarke!
Media falsely portraying police officers across the country?
As the chief said — this is not comedy
It’s time to stop the madness. False allegations and selfish cause do not a solid foundation create. Instead, the distortion fuels hostility and closes minds to the truth that could lead to door opening conversation and actual solutions and hope for the future. Why would any not wish for the latter to become today’s reality?
The past is not the present. Nothing once upon a time can be changed. It can only be learned from. And, in studying the blueprint of the past, we have chance to see what went wrong, why it went wrong, and who made it go wrong, so as to give opportunity to understand and to avoid repeating the bad, while then building upon the good and striving to repair the damage once caused and not forgotten.
Various groups of people have been wronged in one way or another. Sadly, too many rally not against the wrong itself, but rather, to the wrong seen as being done unto them. Some, simply cannot, or will not, comprehend there are others — other groups of people — who have also been wronged and harmed equally and perhaps even more so.
Women were once property first of their fathers and then their husbands. Some were beaten and treated as nothing more than servants to use and abuse. There was a time women couldn’t vote or own property or even have authority over their own children.
Modern day activists often forget about the plight of the women and even the indentured servitude that existed during much of the slavery period. Some whites were also kidnapped and brought to American against their will and sold into service. True, their service was supposed to be for a term and then released, if they survived, but it, too, was slavery and treatment could be beyond harsh to violent and deadly.
“The Grapes of Wrath”, though fiction, gives a glimpse of the desperation and deplorable way some people were treated during that period of time known as the Great Depression. (It also comes in movie form for those who rather not read.) Yet, it seems it is a horror story lost somewhere between then and now.
This is not to compare who had it worse. It is merely to remind that life has been unfair, devastating and horrific to many, many individuals and groups of people throughout the years. To cry foul only for self and blame present day people for things they had nothing to do with, only creates new hostility to go along with the old, and does nothing to solve the actual problems.
Tonight, someone presented me with a picture of a black man hanged. The picture was from long ago. Though it is a sad reminder of what once was — and where we (as a society or individually) should never go again — it should not be held as an example and excuse to react as though it is present day behavior, norm or mentality. It is not!
Many things seem to be forgotten, as present day radical activists spew hate and stoke the fires of discontent and rage with lies, half-truths, and a message blaming the white man for all the ills ever befallen to any of color. It must, after all, be the white man’s fault or the radical activists face losing relevance and all the benefits associated to that self-made relevance.
How often do you hear a radical activist mention that African tribesmen captured Africans from other tribes and sold them into slavery?
How often do you hear radical activists point out that if it is reasonable to hold all present day whites accountable for some long ago whites owning slaves or condoning slavery, that it would then be likewise reasonable to hold all Africans accountable for some long ago Africans capturing fellow Africans and selling them into that slavery?
How often do you hear a radical activist admit the majority of white men did not own slaves or condone the practice?
How often do you hear the radical activist talk about all the white people, who helped slaves escape and fought to abolish slavery?
How often do you see radical activists pointing to the pictures that give example of the overwhelming number of whites that were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and stood with Martin Luther King, Jr.?
How often do you hear the radical activist remind that the Ku Klux Klan purportedly didn’t just hate blacks — that they hated Jews and Catholics as well?
How often do you hear the radical activist speak of “The Murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner” and that it wasn’t just a black man that was killed in Mississippi on June 21, 1964?
Things happened in the past that none of us — regardless of skin shade — had a thing to do with. We weren’t born yet. We weren’t there. We weren’t involved. We had no ability to influence or stop what might have transpired during that horrendous time.
White society is not perfect — nor is the black community.
All law enforcement officers are not without sin — neither is any segment of society. Improvement may need to come from the entire community by changing behavior and attitude — rather than single groups of people being asked to excuse and over-look wrongful behavior of some. It’s a reality that needs to be dealt with and not ignored. Some examples are glaring.
If a police department trains officers to be more “sensitive” to the community it serves and to be mindful of the plight endured or claimed to be endured, while leaving the community gang, drug and violent ridden — what good result is expected? The crime will still be there. The drugs will still be there. The hate and the violence will still be there. And, “The Man” will still be considered the common enemy to hate and distrust.
Blaming law enforcement for ticketing or arresting a large number of persons from a specific group, when that group is the majority in the community, is rather brow raising. Who would they be in contact with most often, if not the majority of people who live in their jurisdiction? But taking a moment to weigh this bit of deduction is not often exercised or pointed out, because it doesn’t fit into the agenda of many radical activists. What if people came to realize that they weren’t targeted racially, but rather, confronted for “actions” that they are responsible for? That would be bad for the radical business.
Before blaming law enforcement for enforcing the law — or claiming they are enforcing it unfairly — people in the various communities need to step back and take a good look at their neighborhood and what is taking place in it. Are there an overwhelming number of arrests? If there was a true and fair study by non-radical activists, might it show that the reason there are an overwhelming number of arrests is because there are an overwhelming number of crimes?
People committing crimes should be the immediate concern of the community, rather than — without proof — crying that the officers unfairly target one group or another. They are, after all, supposed to target those who break the law, regardless of race, gender, nationality or religion.
Using the wrongs of the past as excuse for inappropriate behavior of the present, does nothing to move towards healing or correcting the actual problems of present day. Instead, it is an attempt by many of the radical thinkers to put up a smoke screen to keep the truth hidden and the fire burning. What would happen, after all, if communities did take a good look at self, accept any blame due and came together to define actual problems, followed by fixing and rebuilding and moving ahead to make a better life for all the interested parties?
What would happen? Might radical activists become useless and left in the past where most of their accusations did once exist?
It’s time to put the hands down. It’s time to look around at the madness. It’s time to see who is profiting from the half-truths, false accusations and rage that is being stoked. It’s time to look at the agitators (claiming to be champions of the cause) and honestly determine if the communities are any better or safer than before, or if agitation only caused more harm and hate to grow and threaten to explode in coming days, months or years?
It’s time to put hands down. It’s time to really listen. It’s time to accept responsibility as well as demand accountability. It’s time to define, plan and work together to create safe communities people are proud to call their own. It’s time to talk.