A man explains to arriving Lubbock (Texas) police officers that his request is both simple and reasonable. “All I want is my money back, bro,” he tells them. “My son couldn’t enjoy his meal because somebody else was trying to insult us.”
Seconds later the man is screaming, “Police brutality bro!” As he struggles with police, his son is heard screaming in the background, “Daddy! Daddy!”
All hell breaks loose.
“Somebody get it on camera!” the man shouts as he fights from his truck with multiple officers.
“I got it!” shouts a woman from across the Whataburger restaurant parking lot. Her film has running commentary: “The little boy! … Get the little boy out of the other side! … Oh my God, why are they doing this in front of that little boy! … They’re punching him, and they’re holding him down, and they’re punching him—still tasing him! …”
“Danny, I love you!” the man shouts at the child in the truck from the ground, “Don’t ever forget that!”
Even in custody the man continues to push his narrative. “You hit me first bro,” he tells the arresting officer.
And you must admit: It looks bad. An officer who appears to be white and a suspect who appears to be Hispanic; a suspect who is making every attempt to sound reasonable while resisting compliance; a suspect who insists that it is he who is the victim;a suspect who repeatedly appeals to his traumatized son; a suspect who, indeed, declares it an act of “police brutality” and calls on others to bear witness.
But there’s more to it than that.
The Lubbock PD also released the audio from the 911 call that landed the officers in that Whataburger parking lot. The callers describe the suspect and the child with him. And they describe the suspect as harassing customers sexually and threatening them with violence. According to the callers, multiple security guards weren’t able to subdue the man.
Clearly, and understandably, the callers feared for the safety of the child.
Now how does this change things?
For one thing, the officer’s command to keep his hand out of his pockets makes a lot more sense with this perspective. So does asking, and then demanding, the suspect to put his hands on the vehicle. The pat-down attempt is not only legal, it’s absolutely imperative to the safety of the suspect, the officer, and all present (including a very proximate, traumatized child).
[Author’s Note: I spent dozens, maybe hundreds, of hours creating our course Going Viral: Navigating in a Recorded World. If you enjoy this article, you will love this class. It’s extremely popular because the topic is so relevant in our lives these days.]
The public doesn’t understand violence: it’s what follows when a suspect resists lawful commands. Police aren’t magicians. Tasers aren’t magic. Force isn’t pretty.
Wrangling a hell-bent adult into submission is ugly–especially when that hell-bent adult is exploiting the presence and emotions of a child, as well as the gullibilities of an ignorant public. About this we can agree: It doesn’t look good, because it’s awful.