Underneath a torrent of bedlam unleashed in just minutes at a northwest Aurora house is the crux of American gun politics turned on its head.
For now, Aurora has to set aside temptation to immediately lay blame for the tragic death of an elderly veteran killed seconds after saving his grandson from the hands of a drug-enraged madman.
Police still have myriad questions to answer about how they reacted to a surreal calamity that started in the early hours Monday in a house on Montview Avenue.
After days of silence from Aurora cops, which police say prosecutors forced them into, Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz on Thursday revealed some of the sordid details of the night.
In the middle of the night, a drug-crazed Dajon Harper left a party across the street from the home of 73-year-old Richard Black. In an insane move, Harper kicked down the door of the Black home, made his way into the bedroom of Black’s 11-year-old grandson, dragged him into a bathroom, locked the door and tried to drown him in a bathtub.
Chaos ensued in the house. Neighbors who had been partying with Harper came into the house to try and get Harper out. Police were called, and some of the people inside the Black home ran out. While there are endless holes in this sordid tale, Black somehow got inside the bathroom and shot Harper, saving his grandson, just as police were rushing into the house.
Black leaves the bathroom, his gun and a flashlight in hand, and police are rushing in, yelling for him to drop his gun. Thirteen seconds later, Black raises his flashlight and one of four cops that rushed the house shoots Black dead.
If you’ve already picked a side in this horrendous tragedy, it should be easy to talk you out of it. Whether you think police were negligent or reacting the only way they could during an impossible situation, both police defense and their prosecution make perfect sense right now.
A credible conclusion is going to take answers to many more questions and an independent analysis of video, witness testimony and the chain of events leading up to an officer shooting dead the rescuer of a young boy.
What’s clouding this case already, like none ever before, is the traditional politics of guns and cops in a world polarized by the Black Lives Matter movement and a surging campaign to expand the rights of people who love guns.
Rabid fans of the NRA and, here in Colorado, many Republicans and members of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners Association, would likely say this lurid catastrophe started out to be a legend they would hold over gun-control activists for all eternity. Evil, naked, drug-infested dude breaks into the home of a decorated veteran in the middle of the night and obscenely tries to do God-knows-what to the veteran’s grandson while drowning him in the bathroom.
Thanks to Colorado’s Make My Day Law, the vet heroically uses his Second-Amendment Clad firepower to shoot down this bad guy, saving his grandson and the day.
What could go wrong? Now we know.
This isn’t a textbook case about the facts that concealed guns and gats under your pillow can easily be turned against you, this is much more bizarre than that.
Now the story speaks to those same NRA and gun-lover types who sneer at the Black Lives Matter movement, who eternally cluck their tongues at those gunned down by police for just doing their jobs, playing on a playground, driving while black or any growing list of things and places across the country where cops wrongly shoot people dead.
Always obey a cop, they chide blacks. The list of conservative gun advocates who always back police during these controversies is long. And the reasons they give for standing behind cops who wrongly shoot blacks are the very same reasons Aurora Police Chief Nick Metz is standing behind the cop who shot Black early Monday.
Aurora has, sadly, grown used to writing large checks to members of the public who police say were not victimized by cops, but who were cheaper to pay off to go away than to disprove allegations of police malfeasance.
This is different, though. This case speaks to the dubious wisdom of keeping a gun in the house, in case a naked, drug-crazed marauder tries to drown someone in the bathtub some night. It speaks to how police must anticipate that someone inside every house calling desperately for help in the middle of the night will have a stunned, stricken, confused, hearing impaired or belligerent law-abiding person inside, who needn’t be shot dead just because he is holding a just-fired gun in his hand and refuses to follow commands.
This case will define whether Aurora’s ineffectual independent review system will finally be fixed. This case will help determine just how deficient the tardy trickle of information from police and prosecutors to the public really is. This case will reveal to the public how dangerous it is to take comfort in the myth that all things are solved by guns, and especially that a good guy with a gun can make everything right.
And underneath all that, we need to know what happened during the 13 seconds that turned a bizarre tragedy into an absolute nightmare for everyone in the house, for Aurora police, for a community struggling with the rights of guns, blacks, police and for all of us who thought we were immune from what looked to be other people’s problems.
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