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.