The Maddening Ordinariness of the Miami Shooting

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CW: egregious police violence

I’ve seen a lot of people calling the police shooting of the UPS driver in Miami “unthinkable” or “unprecedented” or other similar adjectives. The facts are unquestionably grotesque, with roughly 200 shots fired into the truck by police with no evidence of return fire (despite police claims of return fire), and four people (including a hostage and a bystander) killed. I have a brief story in response; one that’s cobbled together from things I bring up frequently.

People tend to recall, for some reason, that the US Department of Justice came out with an absolutely scathing report on the rampant and unchecked misconduct in the Cleveland police ranks shortly after the Tamir Rice shooting. The timing was almost perfect, really: the report dropped on December 4, 2014, only 12 days after the shooting.

The report came out that quickly because it was completely unrelated to the shooting. The 59-page report has exactly zero mentions of Tamir Rice. The actual incident that led the DOJ to step in was arguably much worse.

On November 29, 2012, police apparently thought they heard a gunshot coming from a car outside the municipal courthouse in downtown Cleveland. A chase ensued, with “at least 62 police vehicles” involved. Eventually, the car turned into a middle school parking lot and was surrounded by a number of police cars.

Shots were then fired. Police reported fire from the car, which ultimately caused 13 police officers to fire 137 shots at the car. Michael Brelo, who fired 49 shots, more than anybody else, jumped on the hood of the car after firing 34 shots and fired fifteen more shots aiming downward through the windshield.

There was no weapon in the car. The sound cops heard was almost certainly the car, a 1979 Chevy, backfiring. The fire that police reported from the car was simply crossfire from other cops shooting at the car. Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams had both sustained over 20 gunshot wounds.

Brelo was ultimately acquitted after a bench trial, although he and five other officers who shot at the car were fired by the department in 2016. An arbitrator ultimately ruled in 2017 that those five other officers must be reinstated.

Consider this: deterrence has virtually nothing to do with the severity of the sentence and is largely based on the actor’s perceived likelihood of facing consequences.

Consider this as well: the last Miami-area officer shooting to make waves was the shooting of Charles Kinsey, a therapist trying to convince a patient with autism to return to his home. The patient was holding a toy truck, which the officer claimed he mistook for a gun. (Kinsey, thankfully, survived.)

Consider, finally, this: the officer charged in Kinsey’s shooting was ultimately acquitted of attempted manslaughter but found guilty of a misdemeanor just this past June.

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