If you have not heard or read the story of a Duluth cop who managed not to shoot someone, give it a day or two. One of your racist relatives will send it to you.
The Lake Superior port city had a dangerous week, by its standards, with "five separate incidents where shots were fired," according to Duluth Police Department Chief Mike Tusken. One such incident landed two people in the hospital with injuries, and one "resulted in the arrest of two suspects and the recovery of a stolen firearm."
That description matches the story posted Thursday by Duluth Police Local 807, the department's union, which shared one officer's anonymously authored tale of a tough night on the job -- though one he says "happens across this country day in and day out."
The post invites those seeing it to read the account as published, "not how the media spins it" -- hey! that's us! -- "or some keyboard warrior tweets" -- hey! that's you! -- "about a world they do not live in and know nothing about." (Hey! That's... Duluth?)
As the police sergeant tells the story, his partner radioed that night that a "shooting was happening right in front of her very eyes." Officers responded to a scene where a total of 17 shots were fired, the post says, adding that "no race was said, no thought of our own safety was contemplated."
Those are strange things to emphasize, though, as this post makes plenty of mentions of race, and is dominated by its author's thoughts of his personal safety.
The sergeant says he arrived to find cops "on the ground fighting with one male, a black man." As the storyteller approached, a second Black man fled the scene. Told to stop the suspect, the sergeant and another officer ran after him.
Thinking back to the moment of pursuit, the sergeant recalls the stream of consciousness thoughts that ran through their head.
"Where is the gun? Does he still have it? Is he going to shoot me? My partners? Is he and innocent person just out for a walk? I give chase, he continues to run around a corner. Is he going to ambush me when I turn the corner? Where is the gun? My partners are yelling for more officers. The male keeps running until I and my partner gain ground on him and he stops. "Get your hands in the air!" He does not. "Get on the ground!" He does not. Where is the gun?!!!!! He turns his back hiding his hands from us, still not listening to commands. Where is the gun?!!!! I level my pistol at him. I put my finger on the trigger. Is this it? Is he going to shoot us? Am I going to have to shoot this man to save myself and others??? Will my wife wake up a widow, will my children no longer have their father? Is our community going to change forever because of me? Will everything burn only because we want to help? Because we want to live and not die? Because we don't want to see innocent people in our community die."
Pardon the media spin, but it sounds like the only person in the community of Duluth facing imminent death in this particular moment was... the one with the gun pointed at him.
Instead, the sergeant's partner moved in to tackle and fight the man, who is, for the second time in the Facebook post, referred to as an "'unarmed black man.'" Why the quotation marks? Because the cop writing this knows that the man "threw the stolen gun he was carrying in the bushes" while cops had chased him. Both men involved went to jail, the post reports, and "unharmed," as were the officers who arrested them.
"All of this while you slept comfortably in your homes," the sergeant writes, "safe from the wolves who roam our streets."
The post continues [emphasis ours]:
"This is what happens all across this country more often than you could ever imagine, but we are racist, we have to change. There must be accountability. Police must be defunded. Each and every day we dust each other off, make sure we are ok and go out into our communities and do the right thing. As the media, professional athletes, politicians, and social media warriors bash us day in and day out. Our promise to you as officers each day is that we will dust each other off, make sure we are ok, and go out into our community and die trying to make sure you are safe while you sleep in peace at night."
Should police assume all unarmed Black men were armed just moments before, have just ditched a "stolen" gun, and may in fact be fleeing a shooting? Does anyone aside from this cop have a problem with the idea that there "must be accountability"? Do you think a cop is more likely to pull his gun, and maybe its trigger, if he sees certain people he's hired to police -- and, in theory, to protect -- not as people, but as "wolves"?
Let's talk about that first bolded phrase. The officer who wrote this clearly thinks the wrong people are scrutinizing police behavior: namely, the ones with computers, Twitter accounts, or who sleep at night. If only there were someone who'd experienced this "world" that the rest of us "do not live in and know nothing about."
Someone like, say, Robert Grytdahl, former chief of the Duluth Police Department, who spent 30 years on the force, and later served as the city's chief human rights officer. In 2014, Grytdahl told the Duluth News Tribune he considered anti-racism training as basic and essential a part of police preparedness as any other.
"I don't hear people ask if first aid, firearms or safe vehicle training is mandatory," he said. "So why wouldn't it be important for an officer to understand the cultural, political and historical machinations of inherent racism when that officer will be in a community and be routinely interacting with people of color?"
As for that second bolded phrase, the one about how cops "go out into the community and die," it's one of several references to death in this retelling, which also wonders if his wife will "wake up a widow," his children "without a father."
Of course, that's not unheard of. But it's rare. The last Duluth Police Department officer killed in the line of duty was Sgt. Gary Wilson, in 1990. Three Duluth cops have been shot and killed in the last 80 years.
Suspects, meanwhile, like the one this cop briefly considered shooting, face considerably worse odds. The Duluth Police Department has killed five people since 2000, according to a Star Tribune database. That it did not kill a sixth last week is, evidently, cause for celebration. More than 142,000 people have shared the union's Facebook post, and the vast majority of 13,000-some comments are laudatory.
"Wait for the facts," the sergeant's post says, near its end. "Stop destroying us before we even have a chance!"
Weird. That sounds exactly like what's going through the mind of an unarmed man with a gun pointed at him.
Read the full post below.