#1144 – Dick Bernard: The "Incident" in Falcon Heights MN July 6, 2016

NOTE: Responses welcome, to: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Indicate if you are willing to share your reponse; it and others will be included in a later post at this space.

Thursday, I posted about the 100th anniversary of the end of the awful carnages in 1916 at the Somme and Verdun, France.
Jeff, who recommended the reminder of the horrors of 1916, mentioned almost off-handed what had just happened just hours before in the Twin Cities suburb of Falcon Heights (my home address about 30 years ago). I had not yet heard of the killing of the African-American by a policeman during what seemed a routine traffic stop Wednesday night, but I had included something of a footnote to the main post, and called the killing in Falcon Heights an “Incident” in my headline.
My friend, Christine, Parisienne, was first to respond: “You would be crucified in France to call [the killing in the St. Paul suburb] an “incident”!!!
I asked her for an alternative, and her comment, and my response follow Andrena’s below.
Jeff, again, in suburban Burnsville, sent a comment yesterday from a business person in his circle: “I got an email today regarding business, the guy is an Italian ex pat who has lived in Ethiopia over 30 years. He has an agricultural cleaning and exporting business. He is in his early 70’s.”
At the end of the Italian-in-Ethiopia’s email was this comment:
“St. Paul is very near to Burnsville [Jeff’s home area]. When the police asks for the driving licence do they ask at gun point?”
But today’s commentary, about how it is to be black in this country, in the raw, came on Friday from Andrena, a good friend of mine and others. Andrena is a professional woman, and gave her testimony about being black in St. Paul sometime a week or so earlier.
At the end of the post, I will add my own two cents. But first, Andrena, with her permission:
“I can’t deal with any of this today. I’m back in the crying and anger mode. Why? Because white folks are pissed off about [MN] Gov. Dayton’s comments yesterday when he stated, Philando Castile [who was the man killed by the policeman in Falcon Heights] wouldn’t have been stopped if he were white.
Also, they (white folks on WCCO radio) were questioning, the authenticity of the tape and wondering ‘what happened before the tape was rolling’. Well, it seems, Philando Castile was pulled over because he had a ‘wide nose’ not due to a busted tail light. And now, with the sniper killing in Dallas, those perpetrators will be punished to the fullest extent of the law (which they should be) but, more often than not, police are not held to the same standard when they murder innocent citizens especially, with a 4 year old in the back seat.
I wasn’t angry yesterday but I felt extremely sad and helpless as I do today.
What I didn’t post on FB [Facebook] last week is I was almost pulled over by St. Paul police last week.
I was leaving the Franciscan house after my rosary prayers located [at] Hamline and LaFond avenue [St. Paul]. I was headed to Cathedral Hill to meet a friend for a late dinner at Red Cow restaurant located [in] Selby/Western Ave. I took Thomas Avenue and crossed over Dale. As soon as I passed Thomas Ave and Kent Street which is the corner of St. Agnes Catholic church, the St. Paul police car spotted me and turned onto Thomas Avenue from Kent Street. The time of day was approx. 8:50 pm., nearing dusk. A black woman driving in Frogtown.
I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed the squad car was extremely close on my bumper, I purposely slowed down without hitting my brakes. As fate would have it, I saw the pastor of St. Agnes Catholic Church walking down the street as I was approaching a stop sign and the cop was literally on my bumper, I stopped, rolled down my window and spoke to Fr. Moriarity, waving my hand at him. Fr. Moriarity stopped and we talked for approx. 30 seconds while I was at the stop sign with the cop behind me.
I wanted the … cop to know, I’m not a bad person and I know this priest and he addressed me by my first name.
I then took Thomas Avenue to Western Avenue crossing over University Avenue and 1-94 while still on Western. … cop followed me on Western Avenue until Marshall. The point I’m trying to make is I knew I was being followed aggressively and yet, there wasn’t anything I could do about it.
I’m a professional woman with a high level…security clearance and yet, none of that made any difference. Why? Because in that officer’s eyes, I was a black woman, driving through Frogtown at dusk in a decent looking SUV who he felt was suspicious, probably up to no good, probably trying to score drugs. I’m certain he ran my tags and wanted to know [what] someone with a Woodbury address was doing in Frogtown. I don’t hate the police and they serve and protect us. The only problem is they serve and protect some of us.
Enough of my rant. I’m still weepy and pissed off today………………”

Dick: I responded back to Christine’s initial “incident” comment: “Perhaps I’ll be crucified here, too. Not really. What would it be called? I might change the word, if you give me a good alternative.
We are a basically decent country – you know that. But until the gun issue is dealt with, these outrages will continue. We are accustomed to people being killed by guns every day. It leads our news every night. The death in Falcon Heights has all sorts of different elements, which might make it more effective to demand change.
1) An apparently Innocent African-American who had a legal right to have a gun, which he said he had beforehand, was blasted away by what appears to be a frightened policeman.
2) He was a school worker who was popular and well liked in his job at an elementary school in St. Paul.
3) His killer was a young policeman whose name sounds Hispanic, but likely was 100% American. You can bet the policeman’s ethnic background will be talked about.
4) Most important, the victims girlfriend broadcast the entire incident live on Facebook and it will be seen worldwide, and people like you and I can talk about it.
I presume you saw the amended version of the post (I put up about 2 a.m.).
On July 2, in my usual understated way, I talked about the pre-eminence of gun violence in this country.”
Christine responded: “We would simply call it a mortal police blunder. I am not sure whether blunder would be strong enough…. accident might be better…
Une bavure policière mortelle
I am not trying to correct you but just comparing the way we would speak…The word incident would be understood as a non important event…and will bring millions of comments and threats and insults…”

Summary, from my personal point of view: Those of you who read these posts regularly know that I like “Just Above Sunset” to summarize the national scene, and the Friday night post, long as usual, does so well.
Personally speaking, we are all victims. We are held hostage by those g*ddamned GUNS which some insist should be almost completely unrestricted. Imagine a scenario in Falcon Heights in which a gun wasn’t a player. In the civilized world, restriction on guns works. Here we are less than civilized, too many of us.
I feel some empathy for that young policeman who did the killing in Falcon Heights. He was not a rookie, but nearly so, and he was probably scared, too. He had a wife and a kid, and now everything is gone for them. As I say, “imagine a scenario…in which a gun wasn’t a player.”
In my U.S. Army days back in 1962, we had a basic training drill with fixed bayonets on our old M-1 rifles. As we thrusted our rifle forward, in response to the chant, “what is the purpose of a bayonet?”, we said in unison, “To kill.” Yes, it sounds barbaric, but even back then, in the very early 1960s, the presumption was that you may have to do the evil deed of killing someone with an actual knife, hand-to-hand, person-to-person. That was also true in WWI.
By the mid-sixties we had the sniper in Texas picking off a dozen or so university students in Texas, and on we go. Our societal reverence for guns is insane.
Still, Andrena’s message is the one which most resonates with me. We have, we Americans, a major problem with relationships: the racial divide is real, and it is disgusting.
I don’t think we will ever get past racism: it is ingrained in everyone of us.
But I do think that there is potential for better, and as catastrophic as the last few days have been, we are making progress.
Yes, we are making progress.

COMMENTS:
from Jeff:
Well done. [The following is] worth a good read: (from MinnPost, here.)
from Larry: The woman [Andrena, above] who was followed by the police tells an eloquent story that’s quite relevant to the horrible behavior of the Falcon Heights police officer. This pathetic excuse for a police officer, obviously poorly trained and unsuitable to carry a loaded firearm, seems (from what I’ve read so far) as a reincarnation of the TV character, Barney Fife.
The Falcon Heights tragedy started with the hiring process and then the training. Clearly, both of these processes failed in this case.
from Mary: Always interesting to read perspectives but I hesitate to blame guns – there is a real intolerance for difference and an unhealthy appreciation for angry rhetoric. The very unfortunate reality in America is that it is deemed judgemental and politically incorrect to be respectful of others and there remains an unhealthy willingness to escape into the safety of firewalled technology to avoid the 70% or so of communication that is non verbal. I am with Christine…this is far more than an incident. This is disgusting no matter what your color or persuasions are……we must grow up and learn respect for each other.
Response to Mary: Thanks. I have no problem for what I call “farm guns” – the old 12 gauge and .22 and the like, and someone going hunting for duck or deer or such. We are long past those innocent old days. Now, with communication being as you well describe it, a gun is like a lit match over a can of flammable liquid. If people had to settle their differences with bayonets and machetes, hand to hand, there would be a whole lot less killing…though the killing will never end. It is now out of control, at least in our civilized nation.
from Bill: Two comments:
1. The policeman who did the shooting had on a previous stop of a minor traffic infraction pulled his gun on a woman driver. This may indicate a character flaw in his personality unfitting for a policeman.
2.One commentator on TV about this problem of how police approach a black person said “if you are afraid of approaching a person with a skin color different than yours you should not be in the police profession.”
from Bill: Thanks, Dick…nice job with all the comments….Mary started with “I hate to blame guns….” and then she went into intolerance, etc. Go ahead and include guns in the blame, nothing wrong with that! We just returned from Norway where – outside of a maniac (singular) a number of years ago, their gun violence is nil. Same with the U. K. Police there, as you know, do not carry guns. Ya, we “hate to blame guns” but there are WAY to many of them in the USA and too many of the wrong kind: the models that are only meant for killing people. Look at any weekly circular from Mills Fleet Farm…always a couple of pages of Bushmasters with 30 round clips. Really sick.

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