Explaining the Unexplainable: The Tamir Rice Shooting

06Jan16

This was published Sunday on Breach Bang Clear. Rather than posting part of it here and asking you to follow the link and finish reading it on Breach Bang Clear, I’ll just post the link.

Explaining the Unexplainable; The Tamir Rice Shooting

Please let me know what you think. Thanks guys.

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Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer, former Marine and currently serving National Guard soldier with over 25 years of military service. He is a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. He writes for BreachBangClear.com and has published two military fiction novels, Proof of Our Resolve and Line in the Valley, through Tactical16 Publishing. He can be reached at chris_hernandez_author@yahoo.com or on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ProofofOurResolve).

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11 Responses to “Explaining the Unexplainable: The Tamir Rice Shooting”

  1. 1 Calvin

    Great article. Thanks for the clear and concise explanation. I enjoy reading your stuff. Keep it up.

  2. 2 roy in nipomo

    Cogent article. Especial thanks for directing us to the whole article rather than half here and then half there.

  3. 3 Susan

    Excellent. I read this from the perspective of an in-home psychotherapist who works with juveniles, families, adults and does a lot of crossover work with police & military. My kid/cop angle really had my radar spinning on this. I cannot tell you how many times in decades that I have had come-to-Jesus talks with adokescents who feel that their public meltdowns involving violent outbursts are justified. Warned about police response, they go nuts about their perceived “rights” and what they think they’ll do when confronted. And kids are getting bigger all the time. I have 11-13 year old males AND females who can pass fiforr 18+, easy. I am more amazed that LEO’s aren’t drawing on every fool on the street than the ones tgey do – and I work the counties of greater Kansas City – we do murders here, in spades!

  4. The major problem with dealing with the aftermath of the Rice shooting appears to ignorance.

    The grieving mother can’t accept that her son did something incredible dangerous and died because of it. It would do no good to take her to the range and run scenarios with her as the responding officer/person in an attempt to (dare I say?) educate her. In her grief she must be wondering why she didn’t teach him not to play with look-alike gun, not to point them at police and to do what the officer commands. Instead, she rationalizes this in her mind with “It-shouldn’t be necessary to teach these things to a child.” I will only mention that my cynical side wonders if she sees this tragic death as a road map to fame and fortune.

    The media and all the supportive people all have different goals. The media wants to sell advertisement space by increasing the number of eyeballs they command. The reporters want to change society to their vision of a perfect world and see Rice as a platform. One only has to read the same story in Yahoo New and Fox News to see the difference in reporting styles.

    Many of the people responding, including the media have never stood on the range and dropped 6 rounds in to a paper plate at 12 feet in 5 seconds. They have no idea how fast a situation can go south. They haven’t watch anyone shave time on the draw to one shot/one hit from 1.8 seconds to 0.9 seconds and retain that skill.

    Most people, including many shooters only real experience comes from video games and Hollywood. They are clueless. I remember my first house clearance drill with my wife. We knew it was all paper targets, but even that raced our hearts, made us sweat, and left us wired for hours afterward. How could they ever understand what happen when you pull up to a young man who starts reaching for a gun in his waistband? They see two TV police officers arrive to search a warehouse and only load their gun when they get out of the car in front of the warehouse. TV teaches them tactics.

    I think you did a great job explaining what happened and why. I thought the explanation of the officer moving around the car to take cover because he thought the danger was real and continuous was insightful.

    I believe the officer did everything that was proper and legal to protect his life and the life of his partner. I remember what the engineers always tell me, you and do everything right and still have a bad outcome.

  5. 5 Ann Boland

    Excellent post, Chris. I put it on my FB page. AB

  6. 6 jet

    Speaking for your blog in general, thanks. I might not always agree or disagree with you, but your writing is so well done that I feel I could agreeably disagree with you if we were having a drink at a bar or on the same panel at a convention. Appropriate response arguments hit my PTSD button some days, “ok, so were you there? then no, you don’t know how we make decisions under pressure.” I forward links to your writing to both my right-wing and left-wing friends. I’m left-of-center on some issues and right-of-center on others, so reading a well-written, adult, non-yelling, non-sound-bite, non-quote article on a serious topic fucking makes my day. Thanks.

  7. 7 Ed

    Chris,

    Well-written, but I’m going to push back some on the following points:

    1) You clarify for us non-cops that contrary to our understanding police commands may not be clear, but may be quickly blurted out and hard to understand. Is it fair, then, for civilians to be shot for not having a superhuman ability to process and comply with those instructions? You are correct that Officer Loehmann’s claim to have warned Tamir 3 times is (if not a complete lie) only plausible as having shouted “Hands downs” as rapidly as possible in a two-second timespan. I do not think that I or many other people–certainly not a 12-year old boy–could have made a rational decision in that time with a police cruiser screeching up and an officer jumping out with guns drawn. Tamir’s hand motions in that two seconds were purely reflexive. I mention this because the police mantra of “we have to make split-second decisions” is only credible if the same courtesy is extended to civilians.

    2) You cite a case or two where civilians defended their homes in error to argue that the officers here are not receiving differential treatment as police, but do you really think that’s the case? Had the father of one of the kids in the rec center (for example), acting on the same information as the police, and genuinely concerned about his child’s safety given reports of the (supposedly) armed man in the park, driven frantically into the park, jumped out and shot Tamir, do you really think he’d walk? Most of us doubt that.

    • Ed,

      1) You’re correct that nobody, whether child or adult, should be expected to understand a hastily blurted command. I didn’t say that Rice failed to comply with a lawful command, though; I said it’s plausible that Loehmann did actually order him to put his hands up three times prior to firing. Rice could *not* have understood those commands and made a rational response to them in under two seconds, and just to clarify, I don’t fault Rice in any way for being shot. He was an innocent kid who was acting like a kid. My point about giving orders wasn’t to suggest the orders were clear or that Rice refused to obey them, it was just to point out that it is plausible to give three quick commands in that time frame.

      2) I didn’t exactly say the officers didn’t receive preferential treatment, I said that it’s possible to kill an innocent person yet not commit a crime. Anyone who is voluntarily engaging in legal activities to protect the public will be given some type of preferential treatment. Prosecutors and Grand Juries, if not the public, generally understand that lethal force encounters are rarely as clean and easily understandable in the moment as the public imagines them to be. GJs are often looking for reasonable actions taken in good faith, rather than looking for perfection after the fact.

      In your comparison hypothetical, the father would likely walk *if the GJ determined that he had believable information that an armed man was threatening innocent people, and he reasonably believed the man was about to draw a weapon on him. Your hypo doesn’t address important factors like whether or not the father notified police before acting, or if there was some reason he chose to drive right up to the suspect. But assuming he acted reasonably, the GJ would be right to not indict him.

      Thanks for the comment, and I look forward to your response. And just to be clear, I appreciate your reasonable perspective on this.

      • 9 Ed

        Chris,

        Thanks for your reply. I work in Cleveland (drove home past the protests not too long ago) and the matter is, to put it mildly, much on our minds here. I suppose that many here–as a matter of feeling if not of legal logic–will not finally decide on the justice of not bringing criminal charges until we see what the administrative sanctions will be. I understand the argument in the officers’ defense that poor tactics (i.e, driving right up to Tamir) is a matter for Department review as opposed to criminal penalties, but this argument will look much weaker to the public if the administrative sanctions are perceived to be a wrist-slap. On this last point I would be curious to know from your experiences as a police officer whether the type of punishments typically imposed by police administrative reviews (reprimands or suspensions) typically have any lasting effect on a cop’s career. To those in the private sector, such punishments honestly appear rather meaningless. I think this fact actually has more to do with the current attitude about police shootings than is commonly realized. The public demand for criminal prosecution of police officers in such instances is partly due to the perception that police departments themselves will not impose any meaningful kind of punishment.

        Best wishes,

  8. 10 Tierlieb

    As usual, I enjoyed the detailed analysis presented in your article.

    But I would like to use this occasion to also agree with Roy in comment #2: I am quite happy that you stopped doing half- (or teaser-) articles here. It was quite annoying to start reading an article, then having to browse over to BBC and trying to find the correct line to continue.

    It was also not a smart decision based on how google handles duplicate content, plus it is messing with what kids these days call “your personal brand” (which translates to “collaborative pages should push individual pages, not the other way around”). And it split comments, which messes up conversations – and it seems to me you care about these since you answer some of them, while most authors on BBC do not.

    Which brings me to another technical detail: I am pretty sure we all know you, considering we read your personal blog. Can you get rid of the “Chris Hernandez is a 20 year police officer…” line and your large picture?
    At least on the front page, where it appears under every article and right now it takes up more space the short article you published.

    Your “About” page is awesome and I tend to link it as example of how those things should be done. But this short summary following every article on the main page is unnecessary visual clutter.


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