Charles M. Blow
An extended video released last week of the shooting death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland appears to show an unconscionable level of human depravity on the part of the officer who shot him, a stunning disregard for the value of his life and a callousness toward the people who loved him.
His black life didn’t seem to matter. But it does.
On Nov. 22, two officers responded to a 911 call about a “guy” in a park pointing a gun that was “probably fake.” (By the way, Ohio is an open-carry state, so having and carrying a gun is not a crime in and of itself.)
The guy was Tamir. He had a pellet gun. There is no indication in police statements that he ever fired it.
One of the officers, Timothy Loehmann, shot Tamir within “1.5 to two seconds” of arriving at the park. Two seconds. So quickly. In the blink of an eye. And yet, according to The Associated Press, the officers say that they ordered Tamir to put his hands up three times before he was shot. According to the original statement released by the police, “The suspect did not comply with the officers’ orders and reached to his waistband for the gun.”
All in one and a half to two seconds? Really. Take a moment and time yourself giving three commands, imagining a response from Tamir and making the decision to shoot. Maybe it can be done in less than two seconds. But to my mind, it strains credulity.
When one of the officers called in the shooting, he said: “Shots fired, male down, black male, maybe 20.” Tamir was 12.
Tamir’s 14-year-old sister, Tajai, was in a nearby recreation center when she said she heard a gunshot. She said someone told her that a boy had been shot — her own brother.
She raced to his aid, but as the video shows, one of the officers tackled her, handcuffed her and stuffed her into the back of the police cruiser, just feet away from where her brother was bleeding out onto the snow-dappled ground.
She could not reach him. Her arms could not cradle his body and plead for him to hang on. Her hands could not stroke his cheek, and she could not whisper hopefully, “It’s going to be O.K.” Her eyes could not gaze into his and say what sisters are able to say without saying anything: “I love you.”
Tamir deserved that, but the officers made sure that she could not provide it. Four minutes passed without anyone offering the boy aid or comfort. Four long minutes he lay there, still alive, with the burn of a bullet in his abdomen.
How excruciating must the pain have been? How slowly must the time have passed? How great must his fear and sadness have been? What must Tamir have thought as the officers hovered about, not helping him?
Hopefully, events to the contrary, he didn’t think that his life didn’t matter. It did and it does.
Tamir died from his wound the next day.
It is hard to think of the gravely injured boy and the aloof officers who’d done the deed but withheld their help, and not reach a white-hot level of righteous indignation.
Tamir was a human being, a child — who could have been any of our children, and who was robbed of his life and therefore his future. Twelve years old. That’s just a baby, a baby with a hole in his belly. This wrong must be made right.
There is a basic respect for life that should have governed that day, and which seems, in the video, shockingly absent from it.
Not only is the shooting itself disturbing, but the failure to render aid is unconscionable. And this didn’t just happen in Tamir’s case. The same apathy about the immediate administration of care is echoed in other cases where black boys and men lay dying.
After George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman mounted the boy and stretched his arms wide. Martin was still alive.
(By the way, Zimmerman was arrested yet again Saturday (9/10), this time on charges of aggravated assault and domestic violence with a weapon for allegedly throwing a wine bottle at his girlfriend. “Georgie” doesn’t seem so peaceful anymore, does he?)
After officers choked Eric Garner until he fell unconscious, no one administered CPR. Instead they checked his pockets. Garner was still alive.
As Salon put it, after Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown through the head, Wilson didn’t check to see if Brown “was breathing or if he had a pulse; nor did he render aid in any way, shape or form.”
The list goes on, quite literally, ad nauseam.
The plaintive voices of the dead call the living to action. So, in the demand for justice, timorousness must be the enemy, tirelessness must be the motto and righteousness must be the compass.
The world must be made to acknowledge that Tamir Rice’s life mattered.
(This column originally appeared in the New York Times JAN. 11, 2015 under the title “Tamir Rice and the Value of Life“)
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”