As I write this letter, the family of St. Louis Police Officer Tarmarris T. Bohannon is mourning his death. He was shot in the head on Saturday night in the line of duty. This was a young black American who dedicated himself to serving his fellow citizens. He answered the call and ultimately sacrificed his life. He leaves behind a devastated wife and three young children.
You won’t see a spun-up media amplifying the circumstances of this hero’s murder. Jacob Blake, on the other hand, had a warrant for his arrest for sexual assault. A woman called the police to ask that he be removed. He resisted arrest when the cops showed up, and allegedly reached for a weapon in the moment before he was shot to death. We need not prejudge the ultimate outcome. What we do know now is that Officer Bohannon was trying to save lives. Jacob Blake was up to no good, and he was sought by the authorities for an outstanding warrant.
Yet, Mr. Blake is lionized as an innocent victim, a virtual saint, while Tarmarris Bohannon is ignored as if his life doesn’t matter. In almost all of the recent cases of police shootings, the tragedy happens when a suspect resists instead of cooperating with police. Yet no one seems willing to say, “Stop Resisting Police!” When a suspect decides to fight and attack police, it’s not likely to end well. It’s a measure of the professionalism of our law enforcement officers that most suspects who injure or kill police are arrested and tried, not killed in streets.
What could have saved the life of Officer Bohannon? Perhaps nothing. Once someone puts on that uniform and takes an oath to wade into difficult and dangerous situations, every day could be his or her last. On the other hand, leaving aside any decision made by the officer in the Jacob Blake shooting, we know that if Mr. Blake had simply complied with the officers’ commands, he never would have been shot.
It’s time to introduce personal responsibility into this equation. Responsibility lies not only with the officer forced to make split-second decisions, but also with the suspect, who could choose to simply cooperate with law enforcement. If an officer is over-stepping his bounds, that can be adjudicated later, but if a suspect is compliant, the situation will not escalate.
This is part of the message we want to convey in “The All Lives Matter Movement.” Your contribution will help get this message out.