As if it isn’t alarming enough to see police officers fatally shooting suspects without justification, what has made such recent police violence even more troubling has been the all too frequent instances of police officers callously refusing to offer any medical attention to the men they have gunned down. Oftentimes, this lapse seems to occur because the officers are immediately preoccupied with concocting a cover-up story to (falsely) make the shooting appear justified. This subterfuge motive, coupled with a casual lack of empathy, has yielded profoundly tragic results.
There have been a number of recent, high profile, familiar examples depicting police officers’ unwillingness to offer medical treatment to the men (or boy) they have shot. Most notably, after Walter Scott was shot repeatedly in the back in North Carolina, a video shows that the shooting officer’s partner was quick to make sure to plant a taser gun next to Scott, presumably to substantiate the officers’ false claim that the shooting was justified, but neither offered Scott any CPR or first aid. Similarly, after a police officer shot 12 year old Tamir Rice, surveillance footage shows the officers standing around instead of trying to administer first aid.
Though they received less national attention, police shootings in Florida and Oklahoma are also illustrative. In Tulsa, Eric Harris was fatally shot by a 73-year-old reserve deputy during an arrest, when the deputy meant to use his taser and accidentally used his gun. The deputy’s body camera captures the whole incident, including him saying, “Taser . . . I shot him. I’m sorry.” Harris is then visibly in pain on the ground, screaming, “He shot me! He shot me, man. Oh, my god. I’m losing my breath.” The officer’s response: “Fuck your breath. Shut the fuck up.” Instead of helping, an officer presses his knee into Harris’ neck. Harris was pronounced dead an hour later. The video is below, but be forewarned that it is graphic and disturbing, particularly the officers’ absolute indifference to the fact that Harris had been shot.
In another example, out of Florida, Jermaine McBean was walking with an unloaded BB gun straddled behind his neck, when police officers behind him yelled for him to drop the gun. McBean, however, had earphones on and was listening to music. When he did not hear/respond to the officers’ demands, an officer shot him in the back. A nurse who happened to be on the scene says that police stopped her from administering first aid to McBean before he died. The likely reason for this is appalling: it seems the cops were too busy covering up what they had done. During a later investigation, the officers swore repeatedly under oath that McBean’s earphones were in his pocket when they shot him and that they knew of no reason why he would not have responded to their demands, but the nurse’s surreptitious photo at the scene shows that McBean was clearly wearing his earphones and listening to music when he was shot. So, it appears that the officers decided that covering up their mistake – getting McBean’s earphones off of him and hiding them in his pocket – trumped getting medical attention.
This trend of police officers giving in to adrenalin and shooting unnecessarily; prioritizing the cover-up instead of the injured man (or child) before them; and then standing idly by or exacerbating the situation with a knee to the back or handcuffs, while the person dies, is just plain wrong. From a moral standpoint, from a legal standpoint: wrong. Basic human decency demands that police officers help the victims they shoot, rather than working on their alibi while yet another person dies at their hands.