Wednesday, June 15, 2005

And not far from my house...

A few days ago police shot dead 18 year-old Daniel Rocha who, according to several eyewitnesses, was lying face down on the ground when he was killed. The Travis County medical examiner confirmed that Rocha had been shot once, in the back.

The police report said that Rocha had engaged in a "violent struggle" with two of three police officers present. Sgt. Don Doyle threw Rocha to the ground, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to an Austin American Statesman reporter, and at that point officer Julie Schroeder shot Rocha.

Schroeder said that "she thought Rocha had taken her Taser during a struggle and was about to use it against her or [Sgt.] Doyle." (Austin American Statesman)

The medical examiner's report said that Rocha's body showed no marks consistent with a violent struggle. Rocha was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 132 pounds, according to the medical examiner. He had a history of petty crime, including one charge of burglary and one of marijuana use.

Now this is normal news anywhere in America. So why am I talking about it? Mainly because this particular incident happened to occur near my house. And, as it happens, I recently posted a blog on a seemingly senseless police use of tasers during a traffic stop. In it, I referred readers to a video clip of police cruelly tasering a woman who was slow in getting out of her car.

Police justified that particular cruelty, and others like it, on the grounds that it prevents shootings--like this one here in Austin.

But wait. We can't have this both ways, um, can we? Well, police, apparently learning from the example of day-in and day-out Republican brazenness in American politics, have decided that they can.

If someone gives you lip, taser the hell out of them. Or, alternatively, if two of you are trying to subdue a strapping 5 ft. 5 in. youth and you have him face down on the ground, and decide for whatever reason to shoot him in the back, you can say, hey, I thought he was going for my taser.

All I can say is, whatever happened to the idea of using--handcuffs? This would seem to be a situation made-to-order for that procedure.

The police, again learning from what they see in national politics, promise to conduct an investigation of themselves. They also "have developed plans to reach out to residents of [the] Southeast Austin neighborhood" to calm growing anger. They are passing out fliers and planning on having the police chief go to neighborhood meetings once the whitewash investigation is complete.

Street memorial for Daniel Rocha
death scene

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