by CHARLES M. BLOW
I am no stranger to people’s glomming on to deadly criminals and celebrating them as heroes. Bonnie and Clyde were killed just south of the town where I grew up. There was that movie made about the couple, as well as a musical and more songs that I can count. And every year the town celebrates the duo and their killing with a festival and a shootout.
Last year, one Web site promoting the festival read: “Bring your family and friends and join us each year as we remember the historical ambush of the infamous outlaws Bonnie & Clyde, with fun festivities, great food, music and authentic re-enactments.”
But as romantic as people try to make the criminal couple and the circumstances of their death, they still can’t erase the wrong the duo did.
The same is true for Christopher Dorner — the former Los Angeles police officer and fugitive accused of killing several people, including one police officer and a sheriff’s deputy — who died this week in a cabin fire while on the run.
A rambling manifesto Dorner issued had many gripes, but chief among them were that racism, abuse of power and corruption ran rampant in the Los Angeles Police Department and that he had been fired for reporting it.
Now Dorner is being compared to movie heroes, has a song written about him and has a long list of fan pages on Facebook.
But make no mistake: Christopher Dorner is no hero. Here are some of the other things in Dorner’s manifesto.
He says of his planned attacks on other officers:
“The attacks will stop when the department states the truth about my innocence, PUBLICLY!!!”
He threatened that he would “use the element of surprise where you work, live, eat and sleep,” and discover the officers’ “residences, spouses workplaces, and children’s schools.”
He continued: “To those children of the officers who are eradicated, your parent was not the individual you thought they were.”
Through his own words, Dorner forfeits any aspiration to the title of hero.
Some commentators have tried valiantly to thread an impossibly small needle in separating what Dorner did, which all people of good conscience despise, from the serious issues he raises.
Marc Lamont Hill, a Columbia University professor, said on CNN:
“This has been an important public conversation that we’ve had about police brutality, about police corruption, about state violence. I mean there were even talks about making him the first domestic drone target. This is serious business here.”
“I don’t think it’s been a waste of time at all. And as far as Dorner himself goes, he’s been like a real life superhero to many people. Now don’t get me wrong. What he did was awful, killing innocent people was bad, but when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission here. And many people aren’t rooting for him to kill innocent people. They are rooting for somebody who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching ‘Django Unchained’ in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”
I agree that the issues of police brutality and corruption should now and always be part of the conversation, particularly when discussing police departments with a bad history when it comes to minority and other vulnerable communities.
But I do not see a need to explain why people — particularly many on social media — are mythologizing Dorner. Rooting for a suspected killer who makes threats against even more innocent people and their families is just horrendous. It’s not exciting; it’s revolting.
Hill later apologized for his choice of words. I applaud him for doing that.
Still, too many people online have portrayed Dorner’s actions as righteous retribution. But nothing can change the fact that those actions are wrong.
Fighting for justice is noble. Spilling innocent blood is the ultimate act of cowardice. Dorner is not the right emblem for those wronged by the system.
This is not a game or a movie. This is about real people who lead real lives and their real families who dug real graves. Let’s give everyone involved time to mourn. Let’s have the respect to not honor the person believed to be responsible for the mourning.
According to KTLA in Los Angeles, Dorner’s mother issued a statement that read in part: “It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we express our deepest sympathies and condolences to anyone that suffered losses or injuries resulting from Christopher’s actions.” They said it continued: “We do not condone Christopher’s actions.”
That’s the right sentiment: condolences for the victims and condemnation of Dorner’s actions. Period.
(A version of this op-ed appeared in print on February 16, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Mythologize Christopher Dorner)
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 email@example.com.”