Cops and Guns

I am generally pro-cop. Blue lives matter. In the military, I often worked side-by-side with American and German cops. I understand the pressures.

On the morning of July 30, the city police of Aurora, Colorado, shot and killed Richard “Gary” Black Jr. at his northside home. Mr. Black, 73, was a disabled Vietnam War veteran and was a recipient of a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Chad Hayashi, Mr. Black’s stepson, was sleeping in the Black’s home. Awakened by a commotion, he was confronted by a woman who told him, “My son is on drugs, and he has your baby.” Hayashi rushed to the bathroom, where he found a naked man soaking wet in the bathtub, choking his 11-year-old son and shoving the child’s face underwater. Hayashi immediately attacked the naked intruder, hitting him repeatedly until the man released his son and fought back.

When Mr. Black appeared, the intruder grabbed a vase and attacked him. Mr. Black pulled a handgun, shot the man twice in the torso and backed out of the bathroom.

Unknown to Mr. Black, his wife had called 911, apparently without giving a significant description of the intruder (although the family attorney, one Siddhartha Rathod, said Mrs. Black told police that the family was white and the intruder was black). The police arrived unexpectedly quickly. To this point, all of the incident seems to have gone about as we might expect for Dajon Harper, 26, a Denver-area drug addict, but what happened next added tragedy to an otherwise-predictable scenario.

Still in the bathroom comforting his son, Hayashi heard more gunshots before screams of, “Police!” He then heard people rushing into the home. While cradling his child, he looked out of the bathroom to see his father-in-law, the man who had just saved his life, dying on the floor. His handgun and a flashlight he had carried in the other hand lay nearby. It was too late to tell them that Mr. Black was practically deaf.

Hand opening a door

STOP! Do not open that door before you know who is on the other side. Do not open the door to the police if you have a weapon in your hand. The police are not mind readers. If you are involved in a self-defense incident, stop, think, and live.

Police said they were standing by the front door when they saw Mr. Black with a gun in one hand and a flashlight in the other, whereupon they shouted “at least five commands” to drop the gun, according to Police Chief Nicholas Metz (who was not present). Hearing shouting, Mr. Black turned in the direction of responding police, and an officer immediately fired four times, killing the grandfather, the veteran, the homeowner. The officer (whose name the police have to date refused to release) who killed both Mr. Black and another man on June 27 was placed on “paid administrative leave pending an investigation” by the police. (The man shot on June 27th apparently had a gun in his hand but was running from the cop, who shot him in the back. That time, the officer was placed on “paid administrative leave pending an investigation,” said Officer Kenneth Forrest, a police spokesman. The officer was cleared by “department evaluations.”)

Hayashi told news media that his father-in-law “lived a hero and died a hero. [They’d] all be dead if it wasn’t for him.”

I am not judging the police, but I definitely have an opinion about the actions of those who are sworn to protect and defend. You are welcome to read about this incident online and make your own judgment. There are numerous lessons in this tragic incident for those of us who carry and who believe in protecting what we have earned and often fought for.

When responding to a call, the police will not automatically know that you are one of the good guys. They are not prescient. They will not immediately understand the situation. They have mere seconds to make a decision. Whether or not you have a physical impairment, your senses will be dramatically altered when you grab a gun and are in the adrenaline rush of a live shooting situation. If you carry, or even if you just have a gun in the home for self-defense, remember that a cop who draws his or her weapon will be cleared, almost regardless of the circumstances. Whether you live or die or sustain horrible injury, however, is entirely up to you.

This situation might have ended very differently. It was caused by and is the complete fault of the drug user. Everyone else, including the cop who shot the homeowner, is a victim. Don’t be a victim.