Why would anyone want to become a police officer when even self-defense is now deemed "excessive force" and "racist?"
Those charges have been hurled at Los Angeles police officers, who, on July 10, shot to death 19-month-old Suzie Marie Pena -- because her father Jose Raul Pena held the child as a human shield as he fired a stolen semiautomatic handgun toward police.
Pena had wounded one officer during a two-and-a-half-hour standoff. What's more, police had managed to rescue Suzie Marie's 17-year-old sister, who had called the police because Pena was threatening her, and he did fire his gun toward her.
Were the police supposed to wait until Pena killed one of them before they stormed into the auto repair shop office?
Of course, the baby's death is a tragedy for her, as well as her mother, sister and brothers. It is also a tragedy for the police who shot at Pena and the child. (Police say they can't determine which officer fired the shot that killed the toddler.)
Still, Police Chief William J. Bratton has been clear that all fault lies with the father -- "a cold-blooded killer," who doomed his baby girl when he used her as a human shield while continuing to fire at the authorities.
As a nearby business owner confirmed to the Los Angeles Times, "The guy was shooting at (police) all the time. Bullets were pinging off cars. … This guy was no innocent bystander."
Lawyers for the baby's mother, Lorena Lopez, demanded a federal investigation. Demonstrations followed. U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, issued a statement in which she wondered why professional sharp-shooters "could not have disabled this supposed crazy and confused man."
Last week, the FBI announced it had launched a probe into the shooting.
Lopez blames the LAPD for her child's death. "The police killed my daughter. I want justice." But her anger is misdirected. Lopez can't get justice from a dead man, and if she wants to assign blame, she might look at her choice in men.
Pena, an illegal immigrant who had been deported in 1995 after he was convicted for cocaine possession, was high on cocaine and had been drinking during the rampage. The coroner's office later found traces of cocaine in the baby's urine.
Pena threatened to kill Lopez, her daughter, their baby and himself. Lopez herself called police, charging that Pena was threatening her. Later, her teenage daughter called police because he was threatening her.
I don't mean to suggest in any way that Suzie Marie's life was open to forfeit because of her mother's bad decisions -- an innocent child died an early death when that never should have happened. But I will argue that Lopez should consider how her own bad judgment in partners brought violence and mayhem into her children's lives.
To call the police and ask for protection, then expect them not to protect themselves or neighbors who could have been hurt, makes no sense. What is more, reports make it clear that officers were trying to save the baby as they charged into Pena's office.
Should the police have waited longer? It's easy to answer "yes" now. And I am sure that many of the officers involved have asked themselves that question countless times.
Members of the public should be asking questions, too: Do they want to hold police officers to such impossible standards that reasonable men and women don't want to wear blue?