Shelly Frey
There is a time and a place for excessive force, when a police officer is justified in drawing a weapon and killing an individual who is a clear threat. Shelly Frey was not one of them. The mother of two was fatally shot in the parking lot of a Houston Walmart on Thursday by an off-duty deputy who worked the security detail as a side gig. Suspecting Frey of shoplifting, he confronted her and her two accomplices, Tiasa Andrews and Yolanda Craig, and chased the trio into the parking lot. Things got ugly and Frey is now dead.

Louis Campbell is a 26-year veteran of the force. Houston is not anybody’s Mayberry, so I’m sure he’s seen the worst that violence and debauchery has to offer. Nearly three decades of service has given him more than enough time to hone his judgment and intuition, which is probably why he sniffed the three women out in the first place. But shooting into Frey’s car -- where two small children were riding in the backseat -- and hitting her in the neck was over the top. Walmart merchandise is hardly worth a life.

If he indeed felt threatened when he was standing in between the car door and the driver’s seat, as he says he did, reacting at that point would’ve been one thing. But I question how he could’ve felt unsafe when she peeled out and was driving away. Even then, I agree with Frey’s mother: putting a bullet in a tire to disable the car seems like a more appropriate action than flexing his shoot-to-kill training like she was a hardened criminal.

Her poor parents, disillusioned as parents often are, are devastated. Her father, Shelton Frey, told the local news, “Shelly was the perfect mom, perfect friend, perfect daughter.” Clearly, she wasn’t perfect. But she was a person, she was obviously loved, and she deserved the chance to live and rectify her mistakes rather than be killed in the process of making them. Campbell took that away, and her family -- and her two kids, including a two-year-old baby with sickle cell anemia -- are grieving the death of young woman who was only 27. She was doing wrong, but it wasn’t worth her life.

When I was 15, I went through a phase when I was a shoplift-aholic. I started with makeup and progressed to stuffed animals, clothes, and CDs. It was an adrenaline rush -- albeit a crappy one -- and to top it all off, I was good at it. I never worked my five-finger discounting at Walmart, but I eventually got caught, got it together, and grew up to be a productive member of society. Thank God nobody saw fit to snuff me out in the process. I don’t doubt Frey could’ve made the same kind of turnaround.

Guess we’ll never know and I guess, in the grand tradition of snap judgments and trigger-happy justice, this killing will be justified and forgotten like the thousands that came before and will undoubtedly be the subject of news stories in the future. It’s sad, and it’s sad how vehemently she’s being badmouthed in the wake of what this is -- a tragedy. She’s not perfect, but clearly most of the rest of us are.

Do you think the officer did the right thing?  

 

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