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Police facing tough choices in doing job
It did not generate headlines like the Michael Brown episode in Ferguson, but St. Louis police shot and paralyzed a 16-year-old youth at a St. Louis park Saturday evening when he tried to flee while holding a .40 caliber pistol.
The tragedy is just the latest in a string of police shootings that has divided this nation along racial lines.
But the real story centers more on the reaction of family and friends, who took the same tired rhetorical path as others and blamed law enforcement for the shooting.
There is no disagreement that Brandon Claxton, 16, was holding a stolen pistol in a public park Saturday night.
There is no disagreement that Claxton ran from police and ignored their requests to stop.
But the growing narrative from family and friends is that police were not justified in the shooting because the youth did not actually point the weapon at police.
Claxton's 15-year-old brother was also arrested on a parole violation. His 14-year-old sister had been accidentally shot and killed two years earlier. And his mother said several gunshots had hit their house through the years.
To put it bluntly, it's a tough neighborhood.
Acknowledging that he should not have had the gun, the mother nevertheless blamed police for the shooting.
She is seeking an attorney and a protest is planned at the police station.
So what are police to do?
If a report is issued of a person with a gun on a playground, are police to assume they are safe until the point where a weapon is aimed in their direction?
And when a fleeing suspect with a gun is being chased by law enforcement, are police now prohibited from protecting the public until they are fired upon first?
One bystander - while blaming the police - offered the most unusual explanation for the episode. The bystander said the youth was holding the gun in his hand only because it was too big to put in his waistband.
Well, that explains it all.
Another bystander said police were unjustified in the shooting. The officer "shot that boy for no reason," the bystander told police.
A suspect with a gun on a playground was running from police.
Is that not a reason for police to respond?
The growing national dialogue on law enforcement is being led by the highest officials in this nation and is designed to promulgate an anti-police mentality.
For argument's sake, let's say that police abandoned their chase of this armed suspect and allowed him to run loose in the housing project playground where the chase began.
The end result would be an armed young suspect in a tough neighborhood.
Just how do you think that story would end?