Tootsie Tuesday

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For the past week have been trying to understand. Comprehend. Make sense of. Rationalize. Grasp. And Figure out why a 14 year old boy’s life was taken by a local Sheriffs Deputy.  I have been following the news, which honestly doesn’t begin to offer coverage that resembles what I know, I have read and I have heard.  For the past week I have been so confused and conflicted. I have relived every aspect of my training and asked myself over and over, again. And again. Would I have done the same? Would I have felt my life was being threatened enough to use excessive force? But each time my answer was the same. No. It was a young boy, wearing a hoody. A year younger than Buckaroo. Most likely wearing ear buds and not paying much attention to his any of surroundings. I know this because Buckaroo does the same. Yes the young boy was carrying an air-soft gun, a replica of an assault rifle. Buckaroo has a BB gun and a paintball gun. I wouldn’t allow him to walk to a friend’s house. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t do it anywaysWe live in a “good” neighborhood, on a “good” part of town. But I don’t want to believe where we live is only difference?

The photo was from earlier today.  When I went on a run I saw the helicopters flying over the scheduled demonstration.  And I burst into tears. For the first time in a week I was able to make sense of the confusion I have been feeling. It doesn’t matter how I have been trained. It doesn’t matter where I choose to work. It doesn’t matter who I know or the opinion I am supposed to have. I am a mother first. So what would have been 8 miles in the books, turned out to be 4.2 miles. I made it home as fast as I possibly could, jumped in my truck and drove to the demonstration.

10-29-2013

I didn’t stay long. But long enough to pay my respects and show my support. As a mother who has a young boy. And nothing else.

So Sad

 I feel better. I understand why it took me a week to realize I am a mother first. And that’s okay it shows me I have been trained well. 

I will leave you with an article so very eloquently written about the tragedy. The author seems to have been inside my head for the past week.

Gullixson: A death that drives us to our knees

Did a little piece of orange plastic cost 13-year-old Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa his life?

Rather, was it a missing piece of plastic — one about the size of a fingertip — that was the difference?

You know what I’m talking about, those plastic “muzzle” caps that go on the ends of toy guns to make it clear that they are not the real deal. The caps have been required under federal law for 25 years, mandated since the late 1980s to stem a rising tide of crimes being committed with toy guns.

Thus, BB guns like the one Andy was carrying as he walked down a sidewalk toward a friend’s house in southwest Santa Rosa at 3:14 p.m. on Tuesday are required to come with plastic caps.

But it wasn’t there when the young man turned toward two sheriff’s deputies who had pulled up behind him.

And now Andy isn’t here either.

Whether it was a piece of plastic or something else, what we do know is that the difference in this life-or-death moment was something small.

A turn of the body. The raising of a gun barrel. A twitch of a finger on a trigger.

And it all happened in the course of 10 seconds. Ten tragic seconds.

That was all the time, according to a chronology of events released by Santa Rosa police Thursday, that elapsed between the moment the deputies called dispatch to report a suspicious person with a rifle to the time they called back to report shots being fired.

Ten seconds.

We seem to know so much about what happened in that span of time — about how the deputies called for Andy to “put down the gun” at least twice, about how he apparently didn’t obey and instead turned toward them, and about how one deputy, believing lives were in danger, fired eight rounds, striking him seven times.

And yet there’s so much we don’t know. For example, is it possible that Andy wasn’t aware that the two deputies had pulled up behind him? Is it possible that when they called, he didn’t know it was two members of law enforcement who were giving the order? Even so, is it possible he didn’t know they were talking to him? After all, in Andy’s mind he was carrying an airsoft rifle, a toy — not a gun.

I’m familiar with young teens. There are days I can look my 14-year-old straight in the eye and he not only doesn’t hear me, he seems oblivious to my whereabouts.

Furthermore, is it even possible that Andy didn’t hear them? Police say he was wearing a hoodie sweatshirt. But was the hood up? Did he have earbuds on and, like so many teenagers, was he unaware of what was happening around him?

As is evident, I’m struggling to understand why Andy Lopez didn’t put down the gun. I’m struggling to understand why companies make these stupid things in the first place.

These guns are so authentic looking they too often end up being held aloft at police news conferences, side by side with a real weapon, as part of an explanation as to why somebody is dead — and how the slim difference between real and fake is to blame struggle to understand why America has more gun-related deaths than any developed country in the world and why children and young adults (24 years of age and under) are involved in 38 percent of all firearm-related deaths and injuries.

It’s all enough to bring us to our knees.

But as with so many people who have been participating in vigils and marches in Santa Rosa since Tuesday, I’m also having a hard time understanding why the deputy felt so threatened that he had to pull the trigger — eight times.

After all, it was not as if they had evidence that this suspicious person with his back to them presented a clear and present danger. He was not walking toward a crowd of people. The

deputies were not responding to a report of a dangerous person firing an assault weapon in the area.

Residents of that area in fact are used to seeing young men with airsoft rifles roaming the open fields. Andy was killed beside a large undeveloped lot where, in the spring, the grass grows so tall that it’s a fun place for children to run and hide — and play with BB guns. Were the officers not familiar with that?

I certainly understand why the deputies stopped and called for the young man to put down his gun. What I don’t understand is why Andy is dead.

As police described it, the deputy fired because, as Andy turned “the barrel of the assault rifle was rising up and turning in (the deputy’s) direction.”

Was that enough to take a life? Why is it always “shoot-to-kill” anyway? Wouldn’t this have been a good time to show force that was less than lethal?

I know I shouldn’t second-guess. I’ve never worn a badge. I’ve never been in that situation. And given all the gun violence — and cable coverage of it — there’s good reason for police and the rest of us to be on edge. Yet, as I wonder why the one deputy fired his weapon, I also can’t help wondering why the other didn’t.

Maybe we will find out someday. Two investigations, one internal, one

being overseen by Santa Rosa and Petaluma police, are now underway. But knowing the history of these things, I’m

doubtful we will ever get the full story of what happened in those 10 seconds, primarily because the one person who has the most to say can’t speak for himself.

And we’re all struggling with that.

Paul Gullixson is editorial director for The Press Democrat.

Damaged Heart

Here is the link to the local paper if you are interested in reading more about the tragedy.

I am off to prepare dinner, we are having enchiladas, everyone’s favorite. Then go to be early. Its been a tough start to the week, but I do know, it will get better.

Until next time, always be true to yourself and think like a boss!

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16 thoughts on “Tootsie Tuesday

  1. I’m not blaming the victim for his tragic death, but this does remind me why I never allowed my son toy guns or to pretend to shoot things. I never understood the “fun” in that sort of play.

    Just this morning I watched a recent episode of Law & Order SVU in which a 16 year old boy with a hoodie and earbuds in his ears got wrongfully shot. He just had his hands in his pockets and he failed to hear the woman who shot him tell him to stay back because of his earbuds.

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  2. I had not heard about this story, and it truly breaks my heart, as I ,too, am a mom first. I cannot wrap my brain around losing a child, but I can relate to the intense emotions that have been under the surface and that bubbled over on your run. Trying to make sense of a senseless tragedy is maddening, and there are no easy answers and so many victims in this horrible situation. Be good to yourself, Boss, just like the great mom that you are would care for Buckaroo and Princess.

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  3. My response since this happened is that if they killed him within ten seconds there’s no way that should have happened. But as I read your post and the other person’s thoughts on it, I realized this. If he was wearing a hoodie with the hood over his head, they don’t know he’s a 13-year-old kid. They also don’t know that he may have ear buds in. There’s just as much that they didn’t know as we don’t know now. I still say that they didn’t give him anywhere near the time or opportunity to drop the gun that they should have, but I’m starting to understand why the deputy fired. It’s a tragedy for the deputy, for the boy, for his family, and for the community.

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    • Yeah the 10 seconds is what keeps nagging at me. And actually they did think it was an adult, all the updates/info etc I got for nearly 12 hours was referring to “an adult male” and even after the parents identified the body. Keep in mind 10 seconds is when a suspicious person was called into dispatch to 8 shots being fired. I’ve lost sleep over trying to decide if I would have done the same, but I can’t wrap my brain around the majority of it. It’s plain sad for all those involved.

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      • Yes, ten seconds seems like such a short time, but as I said … if I think about it from the deputy’s perspective. You’ve yelled put the gun down twice and you have what appears to be an adult male with his head covered by a hood turning towards you and not putting the gun down. If that’s all true, I get it even if ten seconds doesn’t seem anywhere near long enough.

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  4. The scenario you laid out is a tragedy, pure and simple. There is no amount of thinking that will make it suck less.

    One thing that is for certain, that Sheriff’s Deputy will be haunted for the rest of his life. Until you’ve looked down the wrong end of a barrel, his reaction can never be understood, nor should it be arm-chair quarterbacked. You can be sure that his department has oversight for this. If it is found he was to blame, and I doubt he will, he will go down.

    Now this is where it gets tricky… Gun control will not curb gun violence, gun control exacerbates it. Gun control, boiled down, assures the law-abiding community that only the thugs, losers and the police will be armed. Our own government assured that Mexican drug lords and their posses would be armed while the general public is ill-equipped to defend themselves (Fast and Furious). Criminals will find a way to get guns, they always do.

    Finally, no amount of words will fix what happened or even make it understandable. It sucks all the way around.

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    • Oh most definitely, including the second one I think. And considering potentially being in a position where I would be, it’s is decision I pray I never have to make.

      And I agree, gun control doesn’t solve what I think is the the root of the problem, lack of mental healthcare/support.

      Indeed a tragedy for all those involved!

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