Monday, July 25, 2005

An Open Letter to Alex Pereira

Dear Alex,

I have to admit that I was one of the people who read the news of your cousin's shooting death and my heart leapt. In the complete blackout of information from the London police, I assumed they had done their job correctly and prevented another bombing attack. I was shocked when I found out they, and by extension I, was wrong, and to be honest, a little dismayed at my initial joy.

When anyone dies before their time, it is a moment for quiet reflection on what might have been and the times we had with the person who is now gone from our lives. It is a time to spend with family and friends. Time to raise a glass to memory and the good times. This is not the time to allow yourself to be baited into vitriolic statements like, "They had to kill someone to show the whole population they are working and make the country safe." This is not the time to threaten legal action.

The police force was well into an investigation that, to this point, had been praised for its thoroughness and restraint. I am not sure how things are done in Brazil, but the police in London did not need to prove anything to the public. They certainly did not need to kill anyone.

Let us carefully consider the facts, as reported by the AP:
  1. He emerged from an apartment block that was under surveillance.
  2. He was wearing an unseasonably heavy coat.
  3. He refused police orders to stop.

Now let us carefully reconsider these facts, keeping in mind that this incident too place the day after the second round of bombings to hit London in three weeks:

  1. He emerged from an apartment blokc that was under surveillance. This means the police already suspected the involvement of someone in that apartment block and would be hypersensitive to any odd behavior form anyone living in the building.
  2. He was wearing an unseasonably heavy coat. All the better to cover your explosive-laden vest with.
  3. He refused police orders to stop. He fled from the police. Again, I do not know how they do things in Brazil, however in most of the civilized world when a police officer orders you to stop, you stop. The only reason you could have for fleeing is if you are guilty of something (or you are in Mexico, which was clearly did not apply here.)

Jean Charles de Menezes is dead, and that is sad, but he was not killed by a police force known for their brutality. He was ordered to stop by the police. He ran. I cannot emphasize this enough. In a city which had just suffered the second round of bombings in three weeks. He was ordered to stop by the police. HE RAN. He put the officers pursuing him in the worst position one human can put another. They had to decide, right then, whether to take one human's life in order to protect others. Jean Charles is not dead because the police were in dire need to make a statement to the public. In the end, Jean Charles is dead because he made a bad decision. I am sorry for your loss, but feel no more pity for him than people that die from drug overdoses or people who get bit by sharks while surfing or fishing.

The true tragedy here is that the officers who shot Jean Charles have to live the rest of their lives knowing they took a life. They came to the only conclusion Jean Charles allowed them to make. He was a terrorist. In seeking to protect their fellow Londoners, they followed their orders. They shot to kill. Ultimately they took the wrong life. They have to live with that for the rest of their lives. I almost said innocent there, however Jean Charles is not innocent. J'accuse, Jean Charles. Your foolishness cost you your life. What price will those officers have to pay? Will it be sleepless nights? Will they hesitate the next time? Will this hesitation multiply the death toll due to your moment of stupidity? I hope not. My sincere prayers and condolences are with your family, the officers, and their families.

No comments: