Reason Number 37 Not To Skip School: The Unintentional Misfire

When an unnamed DeKalb County, Georgia, police officer saw 16-year-old Marquez Redden running, what was he to think?  Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Police were called to a home in the 2600 block of Streamside Court. A woman who had barricaded herself inside said invaders had broken into her home.

Two alleged burglars were found in the attic, police said. The officers believed as many as two more possible suspects got away, police said.

In the meantime, Marquez Redden wasn’t where he was supposed to be that day. He was supposed to be in school. He wasn’t.  When he saw all the police, Redden was afraid he was going to get in trouble, so he ran.

[DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric] Alexander said officers saw one of those suspects running from the Streamside Court home.

The officers assumed the teen “was part of those (suspects) that were running away from the crime scene,” the chief said. “But actually, he’s running because he’s truant.”

A problematic conflict borne of limited information. The cops knew about the burglary, so assume whatever might happen was related to whatever they knew. Redden knew about his truancy, so assume whatever might happen was related to whatever he knew. Neither knew what was going through the minds of the other.

Alexander said one of the K-9 officers who saw the teen gave chase. When the officer’s dog tracked the teen to a shed the teen startled the officer and the dog, Alexander said.

“That’s when we had an unintentional misfire,” Alexander said.

Let’s be clear up front. Until there can something described as an “intentional misfire,” there cannot be anything described as an unintentional one. But if anyone was going to be startled, it was Marquez Redden, who was tracked down by cop and dog.  Of course, because the story involved the police shooting Redden, the story has to be spun with Redden at fault for startling the officer and dog. Dogs are so easily startled, you know.

That the police, seeing Redden running away from the area where they believed burglars had just fled, surmised that he might be one of their suspects is not only fine, but absolutely proper. They had reason to believe he might be a burglar, even though it wasn’t accurate, and had reason to track him down. The problem comes in when the police officer, with dog no less, found him. It’s not like he was an armed truant, and it’s pretty darned hard to formulate a story where 16-year-old Redden did something, like turn with boxer shorts in hand, making the officer and his dog fear for their lives.

So when a police officer, under these circumstances, shoots an unarmed teen who’s fearful he will be caught for skipping school, there isn’t much to be said to explain why his gun went off.

“That’s when we had an unintentional misfire.”

If Redden had attended writing class that day, he might be in a position to correct his passive tense assertion. At worst, that was when a police officer wrongfully fired his weapon into a young man who skipped school.  But that doesn’t sound nearly as benign as an unintentional misfire, as if the gun did it without the officer’s knowledge or involvement.  Fortunately, Redden was only shot in the arm rather than the head, so to the extent a bad thing happened, it’s one that will not prevent him from becoming a 17-year-old truant.

It makes no sense, of course, to chastise the gun, so Alexander explained how this near-tragedy could have been avoided.

Alexander said that, had the youth stopped running, the incident probably wouldn’t have happened.

“Absolutely it would’ve been different,” he said. “Had he stopped right there … That would have been it.”

Except Redden had no reason to stop, since he couldn’t have possibly known that the police were there for a burglary, and not to capture and return this misguided youth to school, where he might have been given a week’s detention and a stern talking-to.

More importantly, if Redden’s shooting was the product of an “unintentional misfire,” then it had nothing to do with running or stopping or any combination thereof. There was no basis for the officer to shoot regardless of what Redden did, and therefore there was nothing Redden could have done differently to prevent an “unintentional misfire.”  Much as logic can ruin a good excuse, that’s just how it works.

On the other hand, Redden’s aunt and legal guardian, Geraldine Lloyd, said “it was a close call, but she’s relieved the teen will survive the shooting.”  Most people are relieved when their nephew survives an undeserved shooting, and it’s good to know Geraldine shares that relief.

She said she’s not angry with the police.

“I’m not going to allow myself to get upset,” she said. “I told him he knew better, he should have been on the school bus. If he’d been at school this would have never occurred.”

Now that’s true, that this unintentional misfire following Redden’s running from the scene of a burglary would never have occurred.  Plus, he might have learned something.

16 comments on “Reason Number 37 Not To Skip School: The Unintentional Misfire

  1. Tim Cushing

    The image of the cool, calm and collected police officer who exercises skill and good judgement under pressure has almost completely evaporated at this point. Between this unarmed teen and the shooting death of Derek Lopez (among many others), it’s become a bit like arming bunnies.

    1. SHG Post author

      Such a mean, harsh assessment, Tim. It’s a very hard job. They risk their lives for us. Do it for the children. The next time you’re in need, call a criminal. Did I miss anything?

      1. REvers

        “The next time you’re in need, call a criminal.”

        Might as well. As often as not, that’s what shows up anyway.

        1. SHG Post author

          No, don’t go there. The next thing I’ll get here is the union protesting that they’re stealing their jerbs.

  2. DannyJ119

    “That’s when we had an unintentional misfire.”

    By definition, a misfire is when the trigger is pulled and the round fails to discharge. Claiming that an ‘unintentional misfire’ nearly cost someone their life causes severe discomfort within my cranial cavity.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s the other kind of misfire. This is the Georgia kind of misfire. You know, like a Brazilian wax versus, well, whatever.

      1. REvers

        Now you’ve made me wonder what an unintentional misfire of a Brazilian wax would look like.

        I suspect I really don’t want to know, though.

    2. Mark Draughn

      Yeah. As described, this wasn’t a misfire. This was an accidental discharge. Accidental discharges usually happen when the person holding the gun isn’t following the safety rules.

      This post makes me miss Joel. He would have been scathing about this.

  3. Paul B.

    Note how there seems to be shifting of more blame onto the kid, and very little on the cop. The attitude of police, and even his family, seems to be that when one runs from cops, this is the sort of thing that just happens.

    I call BS on the “unintentional misfire.” This was a negligent discharge. Guns–at least modern service pistols–do not go off unless the gun is out of the holster and the shooter’s finger is on the trigger. What was it about this kid’s behavior that justified the cop drawing his gun and putting his finger on the trigger?

    1. REvers

      “What was it about this kid’s behavior that justified the cop drawing his gun and putting his finger on the trigger?”

      He was black and running. Cops go into attack dog mode when they see that.

      A couple of years ago I had a case where a cop on his way to a riot call saw a black kid running down the street. He chased the kid down and arrested him for Obstructing an Officer, and found a blunt in the kid’s pocket during the resulting grope incident. At the suppression hearing I asked him why he arrested the kid. The answer: “He was running so that meant I had to chase him down. That interrupted me on the way to my call so I arrested him for Obstructing.” I kid you not.

      Fortunately I had a good judge. I stood up to argue my motion after we’d finished the testimony and he told me to sit down. And granted my motion. :)

  4. Ken Bellone

    In the military, any time a weapon is checked out of the armory and issued to an individual, and a round is fired anywhere other than its intended target, be it a paper bullseye, a steel pop up target, into the ground or another serviceman, it is known as an “ND”, or “negligent discharge”. It is can be grounds for removal from a unit, and in the Special Operations commumity, be it the Navy SEALs, Army SOF and especially the British Special Air Service (SAS), it is grounds for the ending of a career, even one that spanned over a decade. No second chances for negligence. It is not “accidental”, as it violates all the tenets of firearms handling: knowing your background, keeping ones finger off the trigger, shooting only at something you intend to kill etc.

    The police, in most cases, like to fancy themselves “operators”, like our SOF men, yet when something goes horribly wrong, they are quick to call them “accidents”. there are no accidents, only actions of negligence, and they can only be dealt with once. But then again, we don’t have unions who cover our every move.

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