Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | September 9, 2020

The Death of Common Sense

Jacob Blake’s name is the latest to be added to a roster of names associated with police shootings of black men. Every one of these shootings happened in a context of time, place, and palpable cultural tensions. All of these have contributed to some degree to the civil unrest that has gripped our nation over the past several months.

I have previously written about what I believe to be the unjust deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. I am however, troubled in particular by the context of the Blake shooting. And I am troubled by the rush to make Blake a victim or a role model or someone with altruistic intentions on the day of the shooting.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, police arrived on the scene in Kenosha in response to a phone call from a woman who said Blake was not supposed to be on her premises. These officers learned that Blake had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in May. Officers on the scene tried to execute that arrest warrant.

According to reports, Blake resisted arrest. This action prompted officers to use a Taser not once but twice in an attempt to subdue him. Video then shows Blake defiantly walking away from police officers with weapons drawn. Minutes later, as Blake leaned into his car, a police officer shot him seven times in the back. Blake survived and, according to investigators, later admitted to having a knife in his possession.

I am troubled by the fact that Blake was shot seven times in the back. This is the kind of action that has prompted calls for everything from reforms in police rules of engagement to calls for defunding the police. I wish Blake had cooperated and that cooler heads had prevailed on all sides but alas tensions escalated quickly.

The actual casualty of this particular shooting was common sense.

Blake does not get a free pass on being complicit in the murder of common sense by virtue of his race or any other reason — and neither does the police officer who fired seven rounds. Both are guilty of contributing to the death of common sense.

In regard to Blake, he should have had the sense to know that things generally do not end well when you try to settle maters with police on the street. Better to cooperate and settle things at the police station. It’s just as easy to call a lawyer from there than to have to hire one after an incident gone south. Blake may never walk again as a result of choosing to resist arrest.

I am also troubled that this incident happened in front of Blake’s children. Common sense should have prevailed there as well. A father has a responsibility to set an example for his children of how to intelligently deal with life’s troubling issues. However, by resisting arrest, Blake unwittingly communicated to his children that it is ok to disregard the police. Common sense sustained another gut-punch in those moments of resisting arrest.

As for the police officer who shot Blake in the back, I wish that he had shown some sense and restraint as well. Seven shots is a lot by any measure, and certainly more than sufficient to neutralize a threat. In light of all of the concern and debate and protest about the conduct of police, a cooler head should have prevailed. At this time in history, this shooting just added more fuel to a fire already burning out of control.

From his hospital bed, Blake has pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him. He will have his day in court as will the woman who has accused him of sexual assault. The police officer and others at the scene of the shooting will also have their day in court. Hopefully, our justice system can administer CPR to common sense and somehow revive it before the madness continues to spread like wildfire, consuming all in its path.

Because I believe in the sanctity of human life, I believe that all lives matter regardless of pigmentation, orientation, or station in life. But I also believe that brains matter. It is incumbent on each of us, regardless of the color of our skin, to use the brain that God gave us to make good choices. Had everyone involved in the Kenosha incident used even an ounce of common sense, things would have turned out a lot different.

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