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A New Theory on Police Shootings

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It seems as though the nation's cities and major metropolitan areas are sitting in anxious anticipation for the next police shooting; the next "senseless" loss of someone who didn't have to die.


That's unfortunate. There are too many questions surrounding these shootings, and while the answers do eventually come, rarely are they complete, and certainly the pain does not subside because some plausible explanation is given.

I predict these shootings will continue. I hope I'm wrong.

They won't be regular, and each one needs to be examined in the eyes of the public, the communities, the courts and all institutions of government for their individual merits of what went wrong and who's to blame. It's a fool's errand to assign this to naked, blind racism.

Black cops shooting black suspects; white cops shooting black males; black murderers shooting black, white and Hispanic cops...the permutations are numerous. Many of these instances -- as in the case of the shooting recently in El Cajon, California -- involve veteran officers with decades on the force.

So how about examining these instances through another lens. Sure, let race play a role. And let those in the communities concerned about human life such as Black Lives Matter and the church, ask important questions. It's their right as citizens.

But what else beyond hate drives behavior? What if there's something deeper-seated here? Something that would instill a fear in these officers and cause them to be anxious, alert, poised for action?


See, I think fear is what drives these shootings. Not all of them, but certainly the ones that can't be easily explained. Fear of what, you may ask? Terrorism. I believe in the wake of 9/11, when terrorism in its most raw, demonic form arrived on our shores, it spurred a new kind of fear among the people. Sure, we were told that if we walked around in fear, the terrorists would win. We couldn't allow that. It would be...un-American.

But as each week that passes, and senseless stabbings, shootings in malls, exploding bombs on city streets become more prevalent in a 24-hour news cycle, we will see more shootings by law enforcement.

If you are a police officer, and you read of the same violence that others do, and one day you encounter a person - white, black, Hispanic, it doesn't matter - pointing a round cylindrical device toward you, legs spread as though he's ready to fire said device, your first reaction is not, "I bet that's an electronic cigarette he's holding."

Seconds stand between whether someone lives or dies. And as much as we would like to believe cops get it right all the time, sometimes they do not. But are we expecting a behavioral dynamic from the police that we ourselves would NEVER get right if we found ourselves in the same situation?


If a police veteran stumbles upon a terrorist activity about to be committed, and risks his/her life to stop that, they are heroes. But if that suspect was strung out on PCP, the the same police veteran is now a racist murderer.

Look, as a black man, I'm not here to excuse or assign blame. What I am doing is raising another, larger question - just how much does the scourge of terrorism haunt our society? How big is that shadow terrorists cast, even if they're not in our towns? What can we expect of those institutions entrusted to guard us, when the enemy has no moral compass, no respect of human life? Big questions indeed...

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