Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Stuff You Couldn't Make Up if You Tried

From the AP by
way of MSNBC:
Off-duty cop dressed as clown kills alleged robber
Authorities say an off-duty Chicago police officer dressed as a clown for a fundraiser shot and killed a teen who authorities say was trying to rob him.
Police say the officer was headed home from a children's event Friday night when the suspect approached him, asking for money.
When the officer said he didn't have any, police say the teen pulled a gun.
After a struggle, the officer grabbed the gun and fired, killing the teen.
The officer sustained minor injuries. A weapon has been recovered.
Authorities haven't released the names of those involved.
The Independent Police Review Authority is investigating the incident.

This raises a lot of questions.  The one that occurred to me first was....why would a teen think that a clown had any money on him worth stealing? 

This brings up every movie and television faux fight where two or more people wrestle over a gun, and the gun goes off, with the momentary suspense of ambiguity over who (if anyone) has been hit.

And of course it raises the question which examining news reports of shootings should always raise for us to discuss here - where do the criminals get these guns, and how?  What more can we do to keep all criminals, but especially kids, from getting their hands on firearms? 

I have to wonder how much our cultural attitude which tends to glamorize firearms rather than a down-to-earth and more realistic approach to weapons and violence.  There is nothing which could perhaps add such a macabre quality to this tragedy - and it is a tragedy - as shooting someone while costumed as a clown.  I'm sure that the last thing that anyone exerting themselves to raise money for children would wish to do is to kill a kid; and teenagers are still children, and not yet really adults however much they try to be.


  1. "That was actually my very first thought."

  2. Well dog gone you asked all the right questions that will never be answered because when you love guns-blood-guts-war all the fine things Amerika stands for you don't answer questions like that ya see.

    You might shoot the sob that asked them for questioning your sincerity but answer questions - not gonna happen.

  3. Not sure what happened to my original post so here it is again:

    "The one that occurred to me first was....why would a teen think that a clown had any money on him worth stealing? "

    That was actually my first thought as well.

  4. "I'm sure that the last thing that anyone exerting themselves to raise money for children would wish to do is to kill a kid"

    The last thing that cop wanted to do that day was to die, the second to last thing was probably not wanting to kill that kid.

    "and teenagers are still children, and not yet really adults however much they try to be."

    He stopped being a child when he picked up a deadly weapon and pointed it at someone.

  5. My first thought was did they really have that sort-of struggle for the gun which results in a discharge that could have killed either one? Or did the clown cop prevail in the struggle and execute the boy?

    I know there's no evidence to sggest that, except of course the attitude of cops and other gun owners towards young punks who do stuff like this.

  6. We don't know the age of the teen from this story, MikeB, or the relative size and strength of the two. But given that this policeman was headed hom from a fundraiser / children's event, the available information would suggest that this is a policeman who cares about kids. From that, and the detail that the officer also sustained injuries (although minor) it seems to me the officer was genuinely acting out of self-defense and necessity in response to a very real threat. I can't see this cop executing a kid for trying to shake down a clown.

  7. Anonymous wrote:
    "He stopped being a child when he picked up a deadly weapon and pointed it at someone."

    Except that he is not. I refer you to the neuroscience, that illustrates how very much teens are not adults, not able to make the same decisions as adults.

    "[neuroscientist] learned that that it's not so much what teens are thinking — it's how.

    Jensen says scientists used to think human brain development was pretty complete by age 10. Or as she puts it, that "a teenage brain is just an adult brain with fewer miles on it."

    But it's not. To begin with, she says, a crucial part of the brain — the frontal lobes — are not fully connected. Really.

    "It's the part of the brain that says: 'Is this a good idea? What is the consequence of this action?' " Jensen says. "It's not that they don't have a frontal lobe. And they can use it. But they're going to access it more slowly."

    I'm a biosciences geek, particularly interested in certain aspects of how our brains work - the differences in the teen brain development, particularly in frontal lobe functions which include impulse inhibition and judgement functions, is huge. We have limitations on teens drinking, smoking, and giving sexual consent for good reasons. It is not fair or reasonable to hold them to the same standards as adults. I'm not suggesting they don't possess an understanding of right and wrong, they do, and they should be held accountable for their actions. But not held accountable the same way we hold adults.

  8. Dog gone: “the differences in the teen brain development, particularly in frontal lobe functions which include impulse inhibition and judgement functions, is huge.”

    This teen showed some seriously poor frontal lobe function. In your opinion, would you say this makes teen criminals particularly more dangerous in that they are more likely to impulsively kill their victim? An adult is more inclined to fully grasp the consequences of murder.

  9. I think you could argue TS that it makes teens more prone to respond in panic, which could include killing as a fear response. Further, teens, particularly teen males, tend to exhibit a lack of understanding of their own mortality, leading to greater risk taking...which can then put them in more panic-prone situations.

    Beyond that, there are so many distinctions in kinds of killing - murder for example which is premeditated, calcuated, planned; and accidental killing, the various degrees of manslaughter, and so on, that make it difficult to answer your question fairly.

    Did you read the content of the link I quoted, which described a driving error that resulted in an accident which totaled a car?

  10. Dog Gone, good point that the cop was involved in a kid's event which would indicate he's not one of the hard-line guys. Still, I find it difficult to give the benefit of the doubt when a cop kills an kid.

  11. We certainly know that teenagers will get themselves into compromising situations a lot more readily than adults, so response to panic is only part of the problem. Still, I didn’t see that article as concentrating on panic response. Lines like this are what I was referring to:

    They aren't yet at that place where they're thinking about — or capable, necessarily, of thinking about the effects of their behavior on other people. That requires insight.

    Before we go much further Dog gone, I want to grasp what you are actually saying. Are you suggesting that victims should respond differently to a teenage attacker vs. an adult attacker, and how should that response vary?

  12. TS: Of course, the response varies--the real question is for you: why wouldn't it?

  13. And how should it vary, Jade?

  14. Jade - what is your response to a 14 year old pointing a gun at you and saying "give me your money" vs. a 28 year old doing the same thing?

  15. Well Jim, I suppose it depends on the 14-year-old and the 28-year-old.

    A young teen who looks like he's pulling his first robbery might get a different response from me than an older ex-con-looking guy with facial tattoos.

    How about you? You'd blow them both away equally quickly?

  16. So what was the cop suppose to do? Die? Give up all of his money? Even Die?

    I live in Chicago and the south side is filled with kids like this, that don't care who they hurt or scare to get what they want. Every summer it gets worse.

    Why should this cop be another victim? Do you know how many cops have been killed in the city since last summer? A lot.

  17. What kind of different response mike or jade? What specifically would you do differently?

  18. Cornelius, Thanks for you comment. I know lots of cops have been killed. I've blogged about it. My point is often that gun violence on the street is not justification for police brutality or unnecessary shootings.

    Jim, It depends on how exactly it went down. If killing an offender can be avoided, it should be.

  19. So it is not so much the age of the criminal it is more "how it went down?" I thought you said the response should be different because of the age of the criminal.

  20. It is very much about the age of the kid, Jim. We don't know from this article for example if this was a just-turned-13 year old, or a senior high school aged kid about to turn 18.

    I also don't claim this is ONLY about age, but rather that age and how kids think differently than adults affects their judgement.

    I'm not second guessing this cop; and clearly I don't wish anyone to die. Not the cop, and if possible, not the kid. Adults are supposed to have better conflict resolution skills, to be able more often (not always) to talk their way out of situations like this.

    What is NOT reasonable is to assume that because a gun was involved, that this kid is thinking and acting like an adult.

    He's not; he was thinking and acting like a teen, who happened to have a gun as part of the equation. That is different; different phyiscal capacity, different training, different judgement, different experience.

    To consider this kid the same as an adult - as Anonymous suggested - is not very smart, or insightful. It demonstrates a very superficial way of looking at a tragedy like this; a very callous way.

    I imagine that the death of this teen is a horrible thing for this police officer, as weas being held up in the first place.

    I'd like to know where and how the kid got this gun.

  21. dog gone - as you have pointed out, the teen brain is not the same as an adult brain. However, from what you describe, it seems more likely that a teen criminal would shoot a person in this situation. So as far as how to react, is it reasonable to assume that a teenager is more likely to use that gun against you and therefore is more of a deadly threat?

  22. I think it is less likely that a teen would have a gun at all than an adult, and more likely they would fire it accidentally.

    I think you may be confusing the different brain centers, possibly.

    Certainly a teen would not have an inherently lesser respect for life than an adult, just because they are a teen. Where it would make sense they might react differently - but not as predictably as you suggest - would be to over-react or under react to a perceived threat to them.