By Matt, Deputy Sheriff
It has happened yet again in St. Louis, MO. No, I’m not talking about the white police officer shooting a young black man; I’m talking about the completely irresponsible reporting by the media and others that is leading to more civil unrest, racial tension, hatred and potentially more rioting.
What we know about the event, from what has been released by the police, is that an officer was working an off-duty job at a location where he observed three black males who ran when he tried to contact them. One of them was holding his pants as he ran, indicating to the officer (rightfully so), that the suspect had something in his pants. The officer chased that suspect, caught him and struggled with him. The suspect broke free, started to run again, turned and fired three shots at the officer who returned fire killing the suspect. The suspect’s gun was recovered at the scene. The dead suspect was a black male, 18 years old, who according to the police spokesman was no stranger to law enforcement, but due to privacy concerns, he could not say more about the dead guy’s criminal history.
Before much of anything was known publicly about the incident (about 45 minutes after the shooting), St. Louis’ own local version of Al Shapton, one Antonio French, an elected city official who came to national attention during the Ferguson riots, piped up with this completely irresponsible tweet:
As an elected public official, his first duty should be to the safety and security, to the wellbeing of the city and its residents. Can someone please explain to me how a statement like his can be taken as anything other than a statement intended to fire people up? Taken completely out of context, I suppose the argument could be made that his tweet was directed at the criminal actions of the young man, and that those need to stop. However, when put in context, with all of the other statements he has made in the past, about the racist cops unjustly killing innocent black youth, it puts an entirely different spin on his tweet.
Reports by several news sources continue to list the suspect as a “teen” and as the “victim”. While technically correct, at 18 years old one is still a teen, but they are also deemed legally an adult. Calling him a teen is done intentionally to make the reader/viewer conjure images of someone younger. Worse than that though, calling him a “victim” immediately tells the reader/viewer he was innocent. Victims are innocent, that is why they are called a “victim”. The English language has many words that can be used to refer to the person who was shot, but not all of them put the blame on the shooter like the word “victim” does.
CNN’s story on their website, while overall is a fairly balanced story, starts off on very shaky ground when it opens with this:
Just 12 miles south of the spot where a police officer killed Michael Brown, it happened again: Another 18-year-old died at the hands of police Wednesday.
An off-duty officer opened fire on the teen, and the policeman didn’t stop until he’d fired his weapon 17 times, authorities say.
The LA Times headline reads “Tensions rise as white St. Louis police officer shoots black man dead”. Nope, no overt sentiments conveyed in that headline…
Maybe it was just a catchy headline, maybe the article was less biased. Maybe not:
A young black man was shot to death by an off-duty white police officer in St. Louis on Wednesday night, and a tense crowd gathered at the scene nearly two months to the day after a white policeman shot an unarmed black man to death in the nearby suburb of Ferguson.
This time, police say, the man was armed and shot at the officer, who returned fire. But people who identified themselves as family members said the dead man was holding a sandwich, not a weapon.
The shooting happened about 7:30 p.m. in the 4100 block of Shaw Boulevard in south St. Louis when the officer attempted a “pedestrian check,” St. Louis police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said in an email. Police did not elaborate on what a pedestrian check is or why it is done.
While that reporting by the LA Times is both biased and misleading, it is not nearly as bad as broadcasting completely baseless information produced by someone with absolutely no firsthand knowledge of the event who, as a family member of the suspect, has every reason to lie to minimize the suspect’s culpability. No one in their right mind would do that though, right? Wrong!
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that people claiming to be relatives of the victim identified him as 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers, Jr. One woman, who claimed to be the victim’s cousin, told the paper that the officer had mistaken a sandwich for a gun.
St. Louis Post Dispatch has this gem in their latest report:
“My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich. Security was supposedly searching for someone else. They Tased him,” Williams said. “I don’t know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That’s outright murder.”
The Washington Post also has included the quote via the St. Louis Post Dispatch in their article.
Relatives quoted by local news organizations said the man had only a sandwich, not a weapon.
“He was unarmed,” Myers’ cousin, Teyonna Myers, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun.”
Reporting the incident should absolutely be expected. Reporting versions from both sides of the event is completely reasonable. What is not acceptable, and which leads to the confrontations such as those that happened last night, is irresponsible reporting of something like the cousin’s statement. She was not there and has absolutely no idea what happened! Airing her statements out about the incident, as if she has some firsthand knowledge, is totally unacceptable.
To quote Wildstyle from The Lego Movie, “Hey everybody, you don’t know me but I’m on TV so you can trust me.” Sadly, there is a large portion of the population where that statement rings very true. By airing the baseless comments of the cousin, the media gives that story credibility despite the fact that it is based on nothing.
The NRA released a video on August 25th that really hits this topic head on.
It is time for the mainstream media to remember what their job is. They are supposed to report the news, not make it, skew it or taint it. The drive to be first with the story, facts be damned, is not only destroying the media’s credibility, it is causing serious damage to society because many people only remember the first version of the incident, not the later “now that all the facts are in” version.
Race Before Facts
Before any information had been released about the actual incident all that was known was that a white cop shot a young black male. However, that was more than enough to bring out the demonstrators. That was all that was needed to set Twitter afire with claims of racist cops gunning down innocent blacks. That was all that was needed to have the family of the suspect baselessly claim he was murdered by the cops.
Next page please…
People who knew nothing about the incident arrived and began protesting. Began threatening the cops, vandalizing police vehicles, and began chanting about the poor, innocent, unarmed youth who was murdered by the racist cops.
People began to gather at the scene shortly after the shooting. Family members of the victim on the scene were crying. Others at the scene yelled threats at the officers, but there has been no violence. Some also chanted “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” and “Stop! We don’t want racist police!”
Around 10:40 p.m. some members of the crowd grew disorderly. Some members of the crowd approached police in an aggressive manner and started chanting. Several protesters vandalized police vehicles, including the tail light and a windshield wiper of a police SUV.
News 4’s Julian Johnson also saw several people following officers and getting in officers’ faces. Police said officers did not fire shots during the demonstrations. However, several shots were heard during that time, but it is unknown who fired. (KMOV Channel 4 News)
Turns out, the unarmed innocent youth fired three rounds at the officer with a 9mm Ruger that was recovered at the scene. He tried to fire more, but the gun reportedly jammed. That same poor, innocent youth was currently out of jail on bail, and was supposed to be on an ankle monitor. What was the poor young man previously arrested, you should absolutely be wondering.
Myers was scheduled to stand trial in November for unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest. According to court documents, the incident happened June 27 in St. Louis. Myers was a passenger in a car involved in a high-speed car chase. The car crashed just after midnight in the 1100 block of South Grand Boulevard. Myers got out of the car, and a police officer yelled at him to stop. Instead, Myers ran off and tossed a gun into a sewage drain. Police caught him nearby. Police recovered the gun, a loaded .380-caliber pistol.
Myers was jailed for a few days. Then, in early July, Myers was released on bail after posting $1,000 cash bond. His bail originally was set at $30,000 by Judge Rex Burlison but was dropped to $10,000 after Judge Theresa Counts Burke agreed with a defense motion that it was excessive. Burke allowed Myers to post 10 percent of that in cash. As a condition of bail, Myers was supposed to be under house arrest and wear an electronic ankle monitor. (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
For those who are going to try and turn this into a “those silly black people” type of story, from the photos I have seen from the “protests” (side note: it is not a “protest” when there are threats, vandalism and gunfire) there were plenty of white people there too.
The problem here is not the race of the people protesting, but rather their mentality. How about we all start acting like adults? How about we stop instantly blaming the cops? Let’s get some facts before we run out and start acting the fool based on little to no information. And just to clarify, by “us” and “we” I am specifically referring to the idiots who ran out their door to protest as soon as they heard about this shooting.
Questions We Should Be Asking
Where are the people calling for young men like this to give up their lives of crime? Why is it that it is socially acceptable for the family members to blame the cops for this incident instead of their criminal relative? Why is it that the media gives ample venue to those who want to push the blame anywhere and everywhere, except where it belongs? When is society going to wake up and see that this, all of the above, is the wrong path and it is leading us to our own self destruction?
Whether you like them or not, the cops are the glue that holds the fabric of our society together. If all facets of society keep attacking the cops, eventually the good ones are going to walk away. Without cops, anarchy will reign. If that is what you want, by all means, keep on doing what you’re doing.
Matt is a full time Deputy Sheriff that has been on the job for 17 years. During his time as a LEO he’s attended countless training classes and is a court recognized firearms expert. Matt brings a unique perspective given his LEO experience and life time appreciation of firearms and our 2nd Amendment rights.