Everybody is talking about the recent shooting on the TTC streetcar, as they damn well should be.
I have a few questions I’d like answered. It’s my coping mechanism with what I deem to be the worst occurrence in Toronto in years…
I’m aware that I haven’t been writing about real estate as much lately.
Part of that is because we’re heading into the slowest month of the real estate calendar (outside of Christmas, perhaps), and thus there’s not a whole lot of new stories to report, but it’s also because there are so many other issues going on in our city; those political, financial, economic, and now, in my opinion, criminal.
When I was in a rather trying phase of life, from about 19 to 22, I found the best way to cope with my problems, for some reason, was to write about them. I would sit in front of the computer and write my thoughts out in what could be described as a “diary” of sorts (although hopefully somewhat manlier…), and it helped. Maybe it was because I had to think my way through it, or maybe it was because I would watch the words flow out onto the screen. But even today, if I’m stressed or anxious, I find myself writing…
This is one of those times.
I am so incredibly disturbed by what happened on the Dundas TTC streetcar two days ago that it’s kept me up at night, and I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach – you know the one where you feel like you’re going over the edge of a roller coaster?
Let’s be honest – people live and people die. Bad things happen. Etc.
But this is not that simple. This is, in my opinion, a modern-day execution on a public street of the city we call home.
I don’t want to opine here, because everybody in the city is putting in their two cents.
But rather I have to ask some questions, to who, I don’t know. I guess just out loud, in order to get my thoughts together, and perhaps answer questions that I deem to be rhetorical.
Oh – and if you have no clue what I’m talking about, and you haven’t seen the video (I feel guilty even posting the link, but I think people have a right and a duty to be in the know), then CLICK HERE.
1) Why did they shoot him?
Not, “Why did they shoot him nine times,” we’ll get to that. But simply, “Why did they shoot him?”
This was a kid, on a streetcar, with a knife.
There was nobody else on the streetcar.
It was just him, and nobody else.
He wasn’t holding the knife to an old lady’s throat. If he was, then yes, the situation calls for drastic measures.
But from what we know now, and from what the police undoubtedly knew then (advocates might say, “There could have been somebody hiding under a seat!”), there was just ONE person on that streetcar, and he had a knife. He wasn’t more than 15-feet away from the police officers (all twenty-two of them), who had GUNS.
Why did they shoot him?
2) Why did they shoot him three times, then SIX more times?
Watch the video, and pay attention.
The police officer shot the kid three times: BANG-BANG-BANG, then there’s a 5 1/2 second paus, then BANG-BANG-BANG….BANG…..BANG….BANG.
It was almost methodical.
One former police officer suggested, in the CBC interview found HERE, that the police officer lowered his aim significantly for the second set of shots, after the pause, suggesting that he was shooting the boy as he laid on the floor of the streetcar. This means that the cop shot him three times, then the boy fell, then the police officer shot him six more times.
3) Why didn’t they wait?
Were they in a hurry?
Why did they shoot so quickly, when they did?
What would have been wrong with waiting another minute, or hour, or day?
Why did they feel that something needed to be done, right then and there?
You can hear the police officer say, “You take one step in this direction, that’s it for you.”
We’re watching the video – the kid didn’t exactly leap out of the streetcar with a knife and start swinging. He was INSIDE the streetcar, with a knife, and there were a dozen officers outside with guns drawn.
Why didn’t they wait?
Where’s the negotiator?
Where’s the plea?
Where’s the logical, rational, sensible person saying, “Please, let’s end this calmly, please put the knife down, we can talk this out”?
4) Why didn’t they taser him BEFORE killing him?
The cop shot the kid nine times.
Why didn’t they taser him instead?
Why didn’t they throw a baseball at him or something?
Why did they shoot him NINE TIMES when they could have tasered him, gassed him, or done anything other than kill him?
5) Why did they taser him AFTER shooting him?
They shot the kid nine times – six times after he hit the ground.
THEN they felt the need to taser him?
Was this practice?
Did they think they were tasering a dummy?
Or did they realize that when you shoot somebody nine times, unless it’s in Die Hard or Terminator, they, you know, usually DIE?
6) Why didn’t any other police officers intervene?
Why wasn’t this a group effort?
Why was ONE officer at the helm?
When the officer shot the kid three times, why didn’t anybody else step in and say, “Okay, that’s good, step back”?
When the officer shot the kid ANOTHER six times, why didn’t somebody step in and pull him away?
7) How dangerous WAS this situation, really, with all those other people standing by?
Whether you’re looking at the video, or reading witness accounts, you can tell that many people were within reach of this streetcar, and none of them seemed to feel there was enough danger to warrant running for their lives.
On the video, you can see one woman standing with her arms folded as she simply watches. Somebody calmly rides by on a bicycle and looks on.
Then you can see cars driving by, east and west.
Was this situation really that dire, if life just seemed to be moving on all around it?
8) What is protocol?
This is one of the questions that MUST be answered, by Bill Blair, in the next few days.
The public has to be told what police officers are trained, instructed, and expected to do in a situation like this.
I’m going to hazard a guess that if a kid has a knife on a streetcar and there’s nobody around, protocol is NOT to shoot him nine times and then taser his limp body.
I think the public, who the police officers are here to serve and protect, and whose tax dollars pay for every aspect of policing, have a right to know what SHOULD have happened in this case, so we can compare it to what did happen.
9) Who is the offending officer?
I don’t care to know his name and address, but I’d like to know:
-how long he’s been an active officer
-how long he had been on shift that night
10) Would we be having this conversation if the event weren’t caught on tape?
Sadly, I think the answer is “no.”
11) Why did this happen?
I don’t think that’s a question we can ever answer.
We can’t get into the head of the police officer.
And we don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer. We don’t know the culture of the force, and what it’s like to be “the guy with the gun” as your colleagues watch on.
But I’d like to know why this happened, probably more than any of the individual questions above.
For what it’s worth, here are the five most recent comments on the CBC.ca’s website:
“This was an execution, pure and simple.”
“22 witness officers plus one can’t take down kid with a knife trapped on a street car? But we all know how this will play out in the end.”
“The odds here were clearly in favor of the police…there was no need to kill him. 3 shots and the 6 more for good measure…i doubt the guy posed a lethal threat even after the first shot….cops use hollow point bullets ..im sure the first shot incapacitated the kid. shame on the police!!!”
“Without trying to be politically correct here – the police murdered a person. 9 bullet shots and then tasering to ensure completeness. No court or SIU will find these police guilty. Welcome to your democracy.”
“An 18 year old frightened teen, an empty street car, multiple police, 9 shots? Then tasering? No waiting, no calming down? Maybe we should take our chances with criminals on the streets, as the police are obviously much more reactionary and dangerous.”
Maybe we’re all doing some Monday morning quarterbacking here, after the fact.
Maybe every police officer in the city is saying, “Put yourself in that situation – heart racing, happening so fast – see how you respond.”
Maybe there’s (much) more to this story.
But every time I try, desperately, to see this in any other way, or in any other light, I come to my senses.
It’s one think to be kept in the dark and make assumptions, but in this case, we have the whole goddam event on VIDEO! From different angles, and with modern technology, they’ve been able to zoom in, remove audio distortion, and get as close to the action as those involved.
On March 3rd, 1991, Rodney King was tackled, beaten, kicked, tasered, and pounded with police batons by five Los Angeles Police Department officers, and it was caught on a shaky 90’s camcorder from a distance by a neighborhood resident. This was the first instance of “police brutality” being caught on tape, and instead of relying on the complaints and words of victims (or perpetrator, if you’re a cop…), society was given a visual account of what really happened.
Over 22-years later, our technology has improved exponentially, and social media has taken over the world to the point where you can’t cross the street without twelve people catching it on film.
I think that this case is going to get international attention, and it’s going to cause a chain reaction of public outrcy and concern that flows throughout North America, and affects policing in 2013, and makes people on this planet more accountable for their actions.
Of course, as we saw with Rodney King, sometimes justice has a strange way of playing itself out.
One thing is for certain: we’ve only seen the beginning of this story.
Not a good day for our dear city of Toronto…