Monday's shooting involving two Lansing Township police officers has sparked plenty of emotions and has left many waiting for answers. Dozens of citizens, public officials, and high ranking police officials met for a town hall meeting Tuesday night to discuss these matters.
But, social media posts and replies suggesting that this is another abuse of power by law enforcement authorities may be a bit premature. As details unfold about the incident, this mindset seems to be becoming a bit unfair and irrational, also. Any comparisons to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri with the Michael Brown shooting, and to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York, in my opinion, are completely derived out of fear and emotion, and really have no place in discussion with our tragic event locally.
Given the facts released from Lansing Township authorities, investigators from the Michigan State Police, and the words of one of the involved parties in Monday's incident, it seems that the second, third, and fourth hand accounts and descriptions I've seen on Facebook this week are a brutal reminder of the feeble fodder we must filter on a daily basis on the worldwide web.
How much fact can be taken from fabrication designed to stir the pot of drama and controversy? I understand that emotions will run high in situations like this. After all, there is a family mourning the loss of a loved one so close to the holidays. And plenty of friends also miss 27 year old Randall Minier.
We also need to be careful on how we judge the officers involved. We don't know how this affects them mentally and emotionally. How does this affect their families? It also affects the rest of the community and our trust in those public servants we expect to protect our families and property. That's why it is important to step back from the emotion of the moment, and rationalize what we've been told.
According to the information released by authorities, a traffic stop was made Monday afternoon around 1:30 p.m. on West Kalamazoo Street. A second officer was called in for back-up. Three occupants were in the vehicle. The subject in the back seat was armed with a handgun.
Now, let's jump to the words of the driver, Tyrell Washington, as told to the Lansing State Journal and other media outlets. Washington stated that Minier held his hands in the air with the gun in his hand, trying to tell police he was armed. Washington said he heard two orders by police to drop the weapon, and without delay heard the gunshots. Photos of the scene show the shots were fired through the left side of the vehicle's back window.
Minier was shot dead, the officers are on paid administrative leave. Details on Minier's background were sought by media and residents alike, especially in light of the racially charged police incidents in recent weeks. He is listed as Hispanic according to records with the Michigan Department of Corrections, and has a felony record, having served time for obstructing and resisting police and drug possession charges. All that can be taken for certain from these background details is that Minier was illegally in possession of a handgun as a felon. Whether police knew these details upon approach or not isn't clear.
If they did know, it's too soon to call foul on profiling. Let's not forget that we are not too far removed from a 2013 incident near Ludington where MSP Trooper Paul Butterfield was shot in the head by two-time felon Eric Knysz, about to be facing felony strike three, as he approached the vehicle for a routine traffic stop.
If police did know that Minier was in the car, and knew of his background, how did this play into consideration of a split second decision of the LTPD officer(s)? And, if they didn't know, would it matter? How would anybody, trained or not, react to the sight of a handgun in the hands of somebody you were approaching? What decision would be made if any other motion besides an immediate drop prompt? Does Minier's felony status really play a part in this decision? Does the fact that he was trying to turn his life around for the better, as reported by the Lansing State Journal, play a factor in this split-second?
On social media this week, I read some pretty reactionary accounts and comments, starting Monday evening by an alleged relative stating that Minier was reaching for his registration when he was shot. (In the back seat?) That alone starts the social media skepticism. It's a reminder of how stories can get completely misconstrued as they're reported before any investigation takes place or details are released and confirmed.
I would point out the downfall of sites like Facebook and Twitter, and how information relay and broadcasting should be left to professionals, but even modern-day journalists trip over themselves, their credibility, and the truth to get to the first scoop and byline.
It's easy to understand the initial outcry of emotions and opinions that I read through posts and various chat sites. But it's time to reel ourselves in and take a look at the big picture, especially as details about this incident continue to emerge.
To make comparisons with Minier's death and Ferguson,Missouri or Staten Island are completely baseless, and derived out of blind emotion. To call for radical action in response is just plain absurd. Ferguson's residents put that on full display for the whole world to see.
Using the information we've been given by investigators and Washington, and a little bit of common sense, it should be easy to conclude that multiple facets of this tragedy could have been handled differently. Unfortunately, the biggest mistake, right now, appears to be that of Minier by deciding to brandish his weapon, with or without bad intentions, prior to the officer making full visual contact with all of the vehicle's occupants. Let alone, the mistake of committing another felony by having the handgun on his person to begin with (In Michigan, it's a felony for a convicted felon to be in possession of a gun).
Tragically, he won't be able to live and learn from those mistakes.
It's time to let the facts unfold before jumping to any more conclusions.