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July 13, 2005

I'm Glad He Wasn't Black

I've switched off the FM for a couple days and have been bombarded with the same story. LAPD officers have shot and killed a 19 month old girl during the course of a hostage standoff. I've only heard the AM side of the story, which is to say the more conservative side. I haven't bothered to listen to the other side.

One of the running jokes/commentaries you often hear talked about by blackfolks is the hanging on to a breaking news story about some awful crime and then trying to figure out ahead of time if that suspect is black. Some folks claim they know before it's revealed, but it's getting harder these days. In any case, when the crime is particularly revolting, a great sigh is heaved when it's not a black man. The individual involved in this shooting may become a classic case.

Apparently, this guy named Pena used his toddler daughter as a human shield in his gun battle with police. This from the LATimes:

An angry Police Chief William J. Bratton lashed out Tuesday against slain shootout suspect Jose Raul Peña, calling him a "coldblooded killer" who was squarely responsible for his own death and that of his 19-month-old daughter.

Bratton, while acknowledging the likelihood that police bullets cut down Peña and the toddler, defended his officers against charges from the child's family and community activists that police haste cost Susie Lopez her life.

Bratton said Peña engaged in an hours-long standoff with police in Watts on Sunday, threatened his entire family and took shots at his 17-year-old stepdaughter.

"This is not a good father. He is no hero…. All of this tragedy falls on Mr. Peña," Bratton said after a news conference.

Bratton's biting comments came on a day of escalating tensions between law enforcement officials and the toddler's family. The death of the girl, captured bright-eyed and chubby-cheeked in photos released by her family, became the focus on national attention as police conceded it was likely that she had been killed by bullets fired by the SWAT officers trying to save her.

Bratton's remarks drew criticism from Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a commentator and community activist who attended a news conference critical of the police earlier in the day at the shootout scene. Hutchinson said that while he thought Peña did not deserve sympathy, his actions did not absolve police of responsibility.

"The real question that dangles in the air is if the autopsy shows that the kid was killed by police bullets," Hutchinson said. "I'm not sure Chief Bratton is going to be able to tap dance around that by painting the father as a bad man."

AM radio tells me that the man was on cocaine at the time and that there had been allegations of sexual child abuse. My bottom line is that you don't shoot at cops if you expect to walk away.

Ofari is jerking his knee in such a way as to fulfill a prophesy of brown politics, but I think it will backfire on him. This is a good moment to consider black & brown politics in Los Angeles. But I think a lot of reasonable blackfolks are saying just that: "I'm glad he wasn't black." More on those politics later.

Posted by mbowen at July 13, 2005 07:38 AM

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When I heard the story I thought to myself, Lord, don't let this be some Negro out there acting a fool. It's sad that the baby was killed along with the jerk. What kind of man uses a baby as a shield. If you're going to wild out, be gangsta with it and take those slugs from the po-po like a man. This is one of those times I'm not going to knock the police. What they did in Compton was uncalled for, but with this one. I'm going to hold my opinion until the evidence is in.

Posted by: James Manning at July 13, 2005 08:40 AM

I guess it's due to being a majority, but I've never had to say "I'm glad he wasn't white" after a crime.

Maybe the phrase would fit if I saw someone dancing badly at a club or something.

Posted by: matt at July 13, 2005 10:48 AM

Guess who else has his face in front of the cameras about this.

Posted by: Juliette Ochieng [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 14, 2005 12:58 PM