Rush to Judgement
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
--A Day in the Life, The Beatles
Ebony and ivory
live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard,
oh Lord, why don't we?
I opened the paper this morning to see the lede: Black man shot by white officer. Apparently the victim was shot while running off with the officer's Taser gun.
I thought about a similar shooting in our town last month that should have gotten press, but didn't. The man killed was a casual associate of Ranger's.
Garland Wingo, white male, age 64, was felled by three bullets fired by a black Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) officer while walking away from him down the street. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. It was a bright sunny early evening around 7:00 at Lake Ella, the favorite park in our area for socializing and walking after work.
On a nice day Lake Ella is always a popular place. Not really a lake but a drainage pond housing monster carp which seem to thrive on the effluent, but it is as close to a nature park downtown as Tallahassee comes. All ages and colors mingle freely at all hours of the day in this outpost of general safety in a town growing increasingly unsafe. The park abuts the police department, adding to that sense of security.
On 18 April, someone is said to have reported Mr. Wingo as having a gun on his person to the police. At that time, he was reported as sitting on one of the many benches surrounding the lake.
Mr. Wingo was a long-time fixture of the Lake Ella area, as he usually took advantage of the Wi-Fi at the nearby Publix grocery food court. He was always neat and tidy, and fit-looking -- a bit quiet, but friendly when spoken to. No one recalls him as ever being loud, hostile or out of line.
The regulars say he had a concealed carry permit. Many people do in this area. It is not unusual to sit down to a meal at a restaurant and see a civilian's gun peek out from under her clothing. That is just how it is in these parts.
The only report with any details was given on 19 April by the Famuan, the campus paper of Florida A & M University; still, it wasn't much. They reported, according to TPD spokesman David Northway,
“At approximately 6:55 p.m. Wednesday evening, TPD received a call about a man with a weapon at Lake Ella sitting on a park bench.”
"(Zackari) Jones, who was the first officer on the scene, found Wingo walking in the roadway on the south side of the lake. Jones went up to Wingo. Officer Northway said, the two 'made contact with each other.' At some point, Jones had to draw his weapon and fire, striking Wingo. Emergency medical services were applied but Wingo died at the scene.
"TPD officers came to the scene to assist and section off the scene. The Homicide and Forensic Units collected found a handgun on Wingo’s body."
There are no details given regarding what was said, or why the officer felt he had to fire three shots into 64-year-old Mr. Wingo. What is certain is that no witnesses reported that Mr. Wingo was brandishing a weapon (though the headline in one news outlet said just that.) One woman reported seeing the officer fire three shots and then standing over Wingo's body.
I guess Mr. Wingo's killing at the hands of a black police officer doesn't merit national coverage because ... maybe it doesn't happen that often (except in the case of now-dead Mr. Wingo.) It must be that white people just don't get killed at the hands of officers of the law, and certainly not black officers.
Perhaps it is that Tallahassee is not that big a deal being a rather uneventful place, though it is the capital of the state. Surely it is as important as Ferguson, Missouri.
There are those who will say, "Carrying a gun is just asking for it," but it is legal to do so in Florida with a $135 CCW permit, which Mr. Wingo is said to have had. Surely it is no more egregious than reaching into an officer's car and grappling for his weapon. Probably less so on the measure of threat level.
But alas, the white-on-black meme will run 'round the globe via 100's of thousands of social networking posts. They won't accomplish anything beyond allowing the poster to expulse some of his or her bile for the moment. "Look for another such killing in a few more months," Chad Lorenz, Slate's news editor and Cassandra hopefully extolled today.
What comes of this fixation? Surely we continue to have a racial problem in the U.S., but are we seeing the whole truth? Are we understanding it? What are we not focusing on when we vent our holy outrage at the shooting du jour? What do we gain by our collective cognitive dissonance?
Our social platforms require speed over rigor, and we will suffer ignorance due to our addiction. Anger and outrage are the things that gain readership, and isn't one's number of followers the only metric for success today?
In Tallahassee two weeks ago the city held a forum to discuss the problem of crime in the predominately black South side of town. There will be grants awarded, but the police are not hopeful. A TPD spokesman speaking on the local NPR radio station said the problem was too complex to be fixed with one approach. Basically the grant would be a fallow gesture, is what he was saying.
White Mr. Wingo is still dead. The TPD Public Information Officer declined to return my call. Almost one month on, it is unlikely we will receive further.
Meanwhile, keep tuned for the next black man to be jumped by a white officer. Slate has promised it.
A little something to keep you occupied.
Correction: The video appears to show the victim, Walter Scott, did not have the officer's Taser when he was running. Still missing is film showing the period of time between the officer's dash cam showing the traffic stop and when the bystander began shooting his video of Mr. Scott and the officer getting up off the ground and Mr. Scott running prior to being shot by the officer.
UPDATE: Sgt. Bossio of the TPD returned my call today and said, though he could give me no further details, I could come to the station and view the incident report after the Grand Jury convenes 6 May 15.
Labels: black officer shoots 64-year-old white male, black people shoot white people, concealed carry permit, Garland Lee Wingo, Lake Ella shooting, Tallahassee police shooting, white people kill black people