Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear Daily News, not every cop is a hero.

OK. So, a guy uses a student metrocard to get on the subway when he shouldn't be using a student metrocard. Where did he get the card? No one has said yet. Perhaps he picked it up off the ground; perhaps he borrowed it from a nephew; there was certainly no way to have this information at the time that he was using it on the evening of October 21st in the F station at 21st street in Long Island City.

After swiping this card and entering the platform, he was approached by two men who were not in uniform. There is no mention of them flashing badges. He may or may not have registered them saying that they were police officers. He most definitely registered that they were putting handcuffs on him though.

Now, this is where the story gets a little fuzzy for me.

He was being handcuffed? immediately and without any questioning? For using a student metrocard when he wasn't a student? Last time I checked, it cost $2.00 for a ride on the subway. Sure they have restrictions about who gets discounted fares, and I could see issuing a ticket - the current fine for jumping a turnstile is $100, and to me it would be logical that using a card issued to someone else would be comparable.

But arrest? Over $2.00? Like, are you joking? Sure, it turns out that (allegedly) this man had a "narcotics violation" in 2001 for which he was deported, and he may or may not have come back to the U.S. illegally. But just like the officers had no way of knowing where he got the student metro card, they also had no idea at that moment of whether or not the man had a record. As far as they were aware, the inappropriatemetrocard use was his only offense.

Now it gets really fun. Somehow this guy struggles so much that even with one hand handcuffed, he manages to get both officers to the ground? Is this man enormous? Is he a pro wrestler? Are these cops both five feet tall or just that ridiculously out of shape?

It gets better. Somehow one of the officers' guns "comes loose", and this is the gun with which the flipped out would-be arrestee shoots at the cops. Can someone explain to me how in the hell a gun in a holster just "comes loose"?

Long story short is this: because a man tried to beat a $2.00 fare, 3 people ended up with gunshot wounds, one life is undoubtedly ruined forever, and two other lives are unarguably permanently altered at the very least physically. Personally, I believe it's fair to say that 3 people acted unreasonably here.

And now for this course of action, all of the police involved are being haled as heroes? They heroically tried to arrest a man over two dollars? They heroically lost a two-against-one fight? They heroically lost control of their deadly weapons? Yeah man, way to go guys! What ever would I do without this kind of protection?

More and more questions arise for me the more I learn about this incident. For example, if they had the perpetrator in custody from thegetgo and he never left the station, why were there helicopters circling the area for hours - what were they looking for? Why were trains diverted from the station for more than five hours after the incident? Why were the ten blocks around the crime scene simply impassible by car long after all injured parties had been removed to hospitals? Something just doesn't jive there.

* * *

It seems obvious that this man was acting out of desperation and fear. Of course his actions were unwarranted and wrong: it is not OK to shoot at people if you are not in mortal danger. (And, ahem, that goes for cops too.) But if the officers' actions had been more reasonable - say, in trying to issue a ticket rather than put the man in handcuffs - there is a good chance that no bullets would have flown and no blood would have been shed. Over two dollars.

Unsurprisingly, every bulletin board on the internet that is addressing this incident has a string of comments along the lines of "send him back to where he came from" and other such nonsense. As if there are no U.S. citizens with drug records who do things significantly worse than using the wrong kind ofmetrocard each and every day. How do we know that this "narcotics violation" isn't a trumped up charge for having two joints in his pocket, or something equally as stupid? And let's just come right out and say it: something that a white kid from a good family would have gotten 30 days of community service for?

Some of you will say that if they hadn't taken him into custody, they wouldn't have found this illegal immigrant. I say: so what? Is it worth three people getting shot, and risking the lives of innocent bystanders? It is a known fact that there are thousands of illegal immigrants in this country. The "get legal or get out" attitude pisses me off; it's not exactly an easy process for people who are poor and don't speak English. Yes, I think they should try. But I don't know that the system is entirely fair. I'm much more concerned about criminals who are legal citizens who are robbing, raping, and dealing real drugs, than people who happen to be illegal but are trying to lead decent lives in a new country.

* * *

My favorite "heroic" action is when the supervising Lieutenant shot at the guy six times, hitting him four times. This makes him a hero how? Suddenly now two wrongs do make a right? If he'd tackled the man, gotten the gun from him without anyone else being harmed, and gotten the handcuffs on him, I could see the "hero" moniker being awarded. But letting loose six bullets across a subway station full of commuters? I believe that's what we call "reckless endangerment", and I sincerely hope that if any bystanders had gotten caught in the crossfire, or had even caught a ricochet, it would have been called exactly that.

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