Was the case of Paul O’Neal excessive force? Clearly not.
Screen out all the spin people put on the situation and look at what Paul did. He was driving a Jaguar that had been reported stolen from Bolingbrook. When officers tried to stop him he led them on a pursuit. Bodycam video shows he sideswiped one police vehicle and then aimed the car at a police officer without slowing down, presumably to try and get him out of the way. The officer was forced to jump on the curb. Then he rammed another approaching police vehicle head on, most likely to give him time to run, and attempted to escape on foot through nearby back yards. He was shot during pursuit and died at a hospital later that day.
When the police tell you to do something you do it. That goes for African Americans, Caucasians, Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, and anyone else. Be polite. If you have any negative feelings, like maybe believing you fell into a speed trap, keep them to yourself. The reason is simple: they have all the power in that situation. You can either take your ticket and be on your way or get agitated and risk making the situation much more serious. If you choose not to play ball you could end up in jail or worse.
Police officers see the worst of humanity every day. They might pull someone over on Lake Shore Drive in an apparent routine traffic stop. But the guy driving might have a huge brick of cocaine in the trunk and his hand on a pistol. When things go bad officers might only have a second or two to decide whether or not to react with deadly force, and that decision easily could determine whether they live or die.
Let us expand this concept to the Paul O’Neal situation. That was chaos. It is very easy for all of us to look at video after the fact and pick it apart for rule violations, which is exactly what happened. It was reported that the police officers violated a rule that prohibits firing at a car when it is the sole source of danger. But none of us had to jump out of the way as Paul O’Neal tried to run us over. None of us were in a police car rammed by him as he tried to escape. Afterwards the police on camera seemed to be trying to sort out the situation. Nobody seemed to know exactly what took place. That’s because this all happened in a fast-paced period of just a couple minutes. They certainly did not have time to pull out their rule manuals and look up the correct “by the book” course of action.
So how did the community react? The family of Paul O’Neal filed a civil rights lawsuit. Later that suit was amended with more charges. There were theatrical protests in front of police headquarters where African Americans were lying in the street in simulated death. Involved officers were given administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation.
This is all nonsense. It is a tragedy that Paul O’Neal was killed. But if he had not been driving a stolen a car, led the police on a pursuit, sideswiped one police vehicle, nearly run over a police officer, rammed a second police vehicle, and then attempted to escape on foot through nearby back yards, he would still be alive today. It was his fault. And as far as O’Neal’s family goes: I would have a much easier time taking them seriously if they were not trying to turn this tragedy into a big legal pay day. If they were serious about addressing the problem that really killed Paul they would have gone on television and said: “Paul embraced a life of crime and paid the price. We hope other young African Americans will take this as proof that crime is a path to nowhere.”
Until the African American community makes a serious effort at addressing its big internal cultural problems the map of fatal shootings is going to remain concentrated on the South and West Sides. We just had a two term African American President. There have been black CEOs, Mayors, Senators, and so on. Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Michael Jackson, Mellody Hobson and others have achieved massive success. All that proves there are options for them in this country other than being a hoodlum. If they choose crime and meet a bad ending it is not the Chicago Police Department’s fault or anyone else’s. It is due to their own poor choices.
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