Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You can't just shoot people

Here is one case in which I am happy to see charges filed.

Texas cop indicted in baseball player's shooting

A grand jury in Texas has indicted a white Houston police officer in the New Year's Eve shooting of an aspiring baseball player who is black. Story

Robbie Tolan is the son of a retired major league baseball player. He lives in a nice neighborhood in suburban Houston. At about 2:00 a.m., he was driving home in his nice SUV. Police thought the SUV was stolen. Why, I don't know. It's hard to imagine that they had any better reason for thinking the car was stolen other than it was too nice a car in too nice a neighborhood. No black man could be driving such a nice car in that neighborhood at that hour if he wasn't committing a crime. Please let's not pretend that kind of racial profiling doesn't happen.

The police forced Tolan to the ground. He was on his stomach on the driveway with an officer standing over him when he was shot. One explanation for the shooting I have read is that Tolan's mother was on the porch and was pushed by another officer. Tolan then lifted his head to see if his mother was ok when he was shot in the back. Clearly posing a tremendous threat, this concerned son on his own driveway.

The officer is charged with aggravated assault by a public servant. The maximum sentence is life, which seems pretty excessive to me so I assume that's not a likely outcome for a non-fatal shooting. I am not a big fan of long prison sentences, so I don't need this officer to spend a lot of time behind bars. But I do need him to be held accountable.

Because what he did was wrong. You can't just shoot people. Even cops. You can't just shoot people. Robbie Tolan was minding his own business, driving home from a late night drive-thru run. He was accosted by cops when he parked his car on his own driveway. And then he got shot. In the back. While he was lying face down on the ground. All of us should be glad that the cop who pulled the trigger is going to face criminal charges because none of us should want our police officers feeling free to treat us like they treated Robbie Tolan.

Having a badge shouldn't mean you get to shoot people like that. I'm glad to see a DA and a grand jury that agree with me.


BellsforStacy said...

It's just getting ridiculous. Between incidents like this and the 25 year old cop that stopped the guy from going in to see his dying mother in law for no reason other than he felt like he COULD ... it's just wrong. They are police officers, not God. To often now, they feel themselves above the law. It needs to stop.

What bugs me about this incident, is that these same cops, had someone non-fatally shot one of them, they'd be going for the maximum sentence. Now that the shoe is on the other foot they'll want leniency.

S said...

Re: the dying mother-in-law incident, it's really fortunate that the officer didn't respond with some kind of force when the wife defied him and just ran into the hospital. At least he demonstrated some discretion. And he did resign after the fact.

Having heard stories like this for years from my clients (not always the most credible people to non-defense attorneys), it's kind of nice to have the rest of the country starting to see that maybe there is something to our complaint that sometimes cops are just jerks. And for no better reason than they can be because they have a badge and a gun.

I do believe most cops are nice, polite, and professional, but we've got to do something about the pervasive attitude amongst many of them that might makes right.

And you're absolutely right about what a disaster it would be for the Tolans if any of them had responded to a fracas on the driveway at 2 a.m. with a gun.

Unknown said...

Dear S., Thanks for posting about this one. I remember when the incident took place, but with all the national headlines lately, I might have missed this follow up.

S said...

I think this story was a little hidden. I actually found it on the sports page. The incident itself got a fair amount of press, so I don't know why this portion of the story hasn't been more visible.

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