Yesterday, police in Brownsville, Texas shot and killed 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez in the halls of Cummings Middle School. Gonzalez was said to be brandishing a weapon at police and refused to relinquish the weapon. After the smoke cleared, it turned out that the weapon in question was a pellet gun. While this is most certainly a tragic loss, and it will hurt some people to hear this, but police did their job.
The school called police reporting a student with a gun that sent the school into lockdown. According to reports, Gonzalez pointed the weapon at officers and was given ample opportunity to relinquish the weapon. When he didn’t, police had no choice but to shoot him.
People are already asking why police had to use lethal force. Take a look at the picture above. If someone drew that on you, would you be able to tell if the gun was real or not? It looks pretty real to me. People will say, why couldn’t the police have shot him in the arm or leg. To be blunt, that is TV bullshit. In reality, police are trained to aim at center mass to bring down an assailant. Even if they were able to shoot the suspect in the arm or leg, that can still kill you if the bullet were to strike one of the major arteries.
The bigger question should be what was the gun doing in the school in the first place. The words gun and school haven’t gone together in a very long time, whether it be pellet, nerf or even squirt.
If any of this sounds even remotely familiar to you, it may be because it sounds almost identical to the story of Christopher Penley. In 2006, he took a pellet gun to Milwee Middle School in Florida and used it to take another student hostage in the middle of class before also engaging police. The results were the same. Later on, the shooting had been ruled lawful and lawsuits against police and the school were dismissed. What you may not know is that the officer who pulled the trigger was so devastated that he left the police force for good.
Do you really think that the two officers who shot Jaime Gonzalez took pleasure in doing what they had to do? I can guarantee you they did not. They did what they were trained to do. They assessed a threat and took appropriate action. I doubt these officers will ever be the same, but no one really cares about that, do they?
UPDATE 8/11/2012: Grand jury rules that Brownsville police did not commit a criminal act when they shot and killed Gonzalez.