It was one of those videos that didn’t seem to make much sense, the shooting and killing of Dillon Taylor by Salt Lake City Police Officer Bron Cruz. Shaun King at the Daily Kos gave a moment by moment run down of what happened, but it clarified nothing.
At 0:17, Officer Bron Cruz gets out of his vehicle. You will notice people confused by his presence.
At 0:22, Officer Cruz walks past two men who were friends with Dillon Taylor.
At 0:24, Officer Cruz walks behind Taylor, who has on a white T-shirt and is listening to music.
At 0:33, we see the officer has his gun drawn and is yelling at Taylor, who’s holding his sagging pants up and does not appear to hear Cruz.
At 0:36, the officer shoots Taylor. It would be fatal.
Starting at 0:41, you will notice the headphone cord coming out of Taylor’s pocket.
At 0:48, you will see that the headphones were clearly going up to Taylor’s ears.
At 0:52, the officer asks Dillon to “give me your hands,” but Taylor is already near death. His friends begin screaming and crying in the background.
At 1:03, the officer handcuffs Taylor.
At 1:48, the officer turns Taylor over, the headphones are visible, and the officer states “it’s clear”—meaning that Taylor was actually unarmed.
At 2:54, the officer turns Taylor completely over, keeping him handcuffed, and begins talking to him and trying to get him to talk. Taylor appears nearly dead and is completely covered in blood.
At 4:56, the officer is rummaging through Taylor’s pockets instead of providing any first aid.
It seems as if there was something significant missing from what could be seen, as it was just too bizarre, too inexplicable, to believe. And, indeed, there was more.
“He couldn’t hear them, so he just kept walking. Then … they had guns pointed at his face. That’s when he turned off the music,” Taylor’s brother Jerrail Taylor told the SLC Tribune. “I saw them point guns at my brother’s face, and I knew what was going to happen.”
One officer told Taylor to get on the ground, while another told him to put his hands on his head.
“He got confused, he went to pull up his pants to get on the ground, and they shot him,” Jerrail Taylor said.
After all, when you turn around and see a cop pointing a gun at center mass, one’s first reaction isn’t “are my pants hitched up on my waist at just the right height.” But when one cop says “get down” while another says “hands up,” the choice of what to do isn’t exactly clear.
Added to the mix is that Taylor had no reason under the sun to think that either cop might have a reason to shoot him under any circumstances. After all, he was on the “good guy curve,” having done nothing wrong, and therefore having no reason to think that he was the target of the police per se, or the object of fear and loathing.
Dillon Taylor wasn’t just confused as to the commands being screamed at him, but as to why anyone would be screaming at him at all. That was what was happening in his head. In the cops’ head, the situation was different.
Taylor, his brother, and his cousin were exiting a 7-Eleven in an area where police were searching for a suspect who had allegedly been waving a gun around. These uninvolved young men allegedly matched the description.
From the perspective of the cops, young men, description waving gun, meant that they were on a search and destroy mission, and justifiably so. After all, that’s a recipe for violence and it was their job as cops to prevent such violence and save the public from harm. So they shot and killed the wrong guy who behaved exactly the way someone who wasn’t doing anything wrong would be expected to behave, because the cops had a different image in their minds.
And on October 1, the district attorney in Salt Lake City, Sim Gill, ruled that the killing of 20-year-old Taylor was justified. Even in his determination, though, he stated that “Taylor’s shooting was justified not because he posed an actual threat, but because (Officer) Cruz reasonably perceived a threat.”
Cruz was responding to a call about a young man with a gun. Taylor was a young man. Should Cruz be forced to actually see something threatening before killing Taylor? Was it not enough that Cruz was unwilling to risk any potential violation of the First Rule of Policing by awaiting the glint of steel, or whatever glints off matte metal, before killing someone who may have been a young man in search of the perfect Slurpee?
That there was no actual threat is beyond dispute. That there was no reasonable basis to perceive a threat should similarly be beyond dispute, but clearly that wasn’t the case. The distinction is that “perceived threat” has morphed into perceived potential for a threat, rather than a threat itself.
Could, given the information Cruz had in his mind, this young man have had a gun, have reached for his waist and pulled it out, have then aimed it and shot it such that Cruz would be at risk of harm or death? Sure. But the risk was still steps away, hard factual steps that would, had Cruz not been so cowardly, scared and self-protective, have provided him with ample opportunity, his gun drawn, to protect himself if and when an actual, perceivable threat materialized.
It never did. But Dillon Taylor is dead anyway, and a sigh of relief was heard throughout that Salt Lake City Police Department that the dead young man wasn’t one of theirs. That’s all that really matters to them.