Texas 8th-Grader With Pellet Gun Should Not Have Been Killed by Police

jamie gonzalezAnother parent's nightmare: Police shot and killed Jaime Gonzalez, an eighth-grader, in the hallway of his middle school yesterday. The 15-year-old had punched another student in the nose and was threatening people with a pellet gun that looked like a real firearm. It sounds like excessive force, but the police say they were responding to what they thought was a real threat.

"The suspect was ordered numerous times to drop this pistol and he disobeyed officers' commands," interim Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez says. "He pointed the weapon at the officers, at which point the officers that were actively engaged by the suspect fired at least twice." But even though the gun looked like a Glock and Jamie wouldn't listen to the officers' commands, I still think killing him was going too far.

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I understand that the police have to take these kinds of threats seriously. No one wants another mass killing like the one at Columbine. If the police see something that looks like a lethal weapon, they have assume it is a lethal weapon. But aren't there other ways of stopping someone in this situation? The police shot the kid twice in the chest and once in the back of the head! Why was that necessary?

Jamie's father wants to know, "Why was so much excess force used on a minor? Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?" This is what I always wonder in these cases: Why can't the police just shoot the person in the knees, or some other debilitating place that will stop the perpetrator without handing him a death sentence? Obviously what this kid was doing was heartbreakingly foolish and he needed to be stopped -- but did he really deserve to die?

And can't you imagine Jaime being in a state of panic? Apparently he was just looking for attention -- your typical eighth-grader is not a seasoned criminal. So when the police told him to drop his weapon, he was probably frozen with fear. And it turns out, he was tragically right to be afraid. I think the police got this one horribly wrong. Surely there's a better way to handle teenagers when they go off the rails and threaten other students.

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Do you think the police should have handled Jamie Gonzalez differently?

 

Image via ABC News

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