According to reports, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot and killed by plainclothes officers after the police chased him into a subway car. Witnesses said that Menezes was wearing a heavy, padded coat and that he was seen coming out of a house that was under surveillance after the recent London bombings.
The police thought he was a bad man, they asked him to stop, he ran and they shot him. Some would call this erring on the side of caution.
Since the mistake, London officials have apologized. But I'm not sure if I were a trained police officer, I wouldn't have responded the same way. For there are more than a couple of things that might justify what happened. Please understand that I'm not condoning gunning down innocent civilians because they look like they might be a threat. But at the same time, I don't want a potential threat to be ignored.
It seems like Senior Menezes had the deck stacked against him from the get-go. Let's take a look at what he had going against him.
Number one, he was seen coming out of a house that was under surveillance following the first round of London explosions.
Number two, he was wearing a heavy, padded coat. Ordinarily, that would not be unusual. But since he came out of the suspicious house wearing a coat that looked concealing, that might have heightened the threat.
And number three, he ran. Common sense tells me that if he was not doing anything wrong and if he had nothing to hide, then he should have just stopped and answered whatever questions the officers had for him.
Since September 2001, we have seen several examples of what can happen when a person is seen running through a crowded transportation center. Since that horrible day, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that trouble might be associated with the runner. So we're taking no chances.
We're not taking any chances with suspicious attire, luggage or the simple act of tying one's shoe.
Remember the attempted shoe bomber? If it weren't for a couple of astute passengers on that flight, there might have been another tragedy in the history books.
Our own judicial system has already demonstrated that we're not going to ignore suspicious acts. And unfortunately, running quickly through a transportation center has been deemed suspicious. Recall the man at the Atlanta airport who was racing through the concourse to retrieve his video camera. That incident caused delays and missed flights as passengers were forced to revisit security. And while that man wasn't shot (although I'm guessing several travelers wanted him to be), he was punished for his thoughtlessness.
The bottom line, don't do anything that might be deemed suspicious. And if you are asked to stop and explain yourself, do it. There will always be another flight, bus or subway car.
Tom Mark is sports editor of
The Tifton Gazette.
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