I can fully understand anyone’s frustration with the inaction of the police most anywhere to solve petty thefts. I had a bicycle stolen more than a year ago, and called the police to report it. The bike has not been seen or heard from since.
But the police did give me a difficult bit of advice to follow. “If you see your bicycle, don’t try to confiscate it yourself. Call the police,” the officer who took my report told me. Good advice.
Still, for months, until I bought a new bicycle, I looked at every bike I saw, straining to see an identifying mark or sign that it was mine. I carried a copy of my police report and two locks with me as I rode around town, thinking that if I saw my bike parked somewhere, I could put a lock on it so it could not be removed while I waited on the slow-as-molasses police response.
I never saw it. Eventually the compelling need to get my old bike back left me.
If that is good advice for me, a civilian, then a 22-year-veteran police officer should know that lesson better than me. In particular to Officer James Haskel.
But I suspect that Officer Haskel and a buddy of his, another veteran officer and instructor at the Police Academy, had something else in mind, when they went patrolling his neighborhood in Southeast D.C. on Sept. 17. I suspect they intended to “roll out” in his big SUV, not just to find the mini-bike which had been stolen from his garage in a gated community, but to also teach some neighborhood thugs a lesson.
They sure taught one to 14-year-old DeOntÃ© Rawlings. The only problem is, Mr. Rawlings won’t be able to apply his lesson learned. He was shot in the head by Officer Haskel under some odd, extra-legal circumstances.
The two police officers went riding in a civilian vehicle, similar to the type used by Corner Boys. They were off-duty, out of uniform. And when they saw what the officer thought was his mini-bike in the possession of Mr. Rawlings, Officer Haskel called out to the youth, but he didn’t identify himself as a policeman.
The child, and maybe some of his acquaintances in the Condon Terrace Public Housing complex, may have thought the men in the SUV were thugs, who meant to do harm to them. Maybe they thought the men were rivals from another housing project. Maybe Mr. Rawlings and his associates were up to no good, and so naturally, they may have thought the police were also up to no good.
It takes a thug, to know a thug.
The strange thing is that even after the child allegedly shot at them, only one of them drew his service weapon and returned fire. The policeman and the youth allegedly engaged in a running gun battle, until the child was shot in the head. The other officer drove away in the SUV to supposedly hide it so that the neighborhood riff-raff would not be able to recognize it and retaliate against it when the officer’s wife and family drove in it around the neighborhood.
Still, neither officer called in a report. The police department learned about the shooting from “Shot Sensor” devices on top of buildings in so-called “high crime” neighborhoods. On-duty police were dispatched to the scene where they discovered the dead child, and the shooter, apparently crouched behind another vehicle. He had not called to report the incident. He had not called for back-up. He had not “secured” the scene, so that “evidence” was supposedly spirited away. The evidence being the mini-bike itself, and the gun, the teenager purportedly used to shoot at the cop.
All that is very, very, very suspicious.
To this date, the gun has not been found. A mini-bike (supposedly the one in question) was discovered several days later, many, many miles away in Prince George’s County, Md.
I think the officer just figured, the courts and the cops would never render any justice in his case, and in order for him to get his “stuff” back, and teach the thugs who broke in and stole it a lesson, he had to “ride out on them” on his own, with his buddy.
There have been reports that the gated community–the Walter E. Washington Homes–was a frequent target for crime from the public housing project. Children would climb the fence, or squeeze between the fence bars. All that is likely true. But how in the world could a child get a mini-bike over a fence, or through the gated bars?
Why wouldn’t police officers report the shooting to the authorities, instead of apparently trying to hide some of the crucial evidence, namely the vehicle in which they were riding, which was allegedly struck by the child’s gunfire? It seems to me, that an “officer-under-fire” call would get immediate back-up response.
And how in the world could a child carry a .45 caliber hand-gun, a pretty large-sized weapon (.45 caliber shell casings were apparently recovered from the scene by forensics officers), on one of those tiny little “pocket bikes,” or mini-bikes?
My suspicion is that the police officers involved meant to teach the neighborhood thugs a lesson, in the language that they felt the thugs best understood–high-powered thuggery, Godfather-style! Don’t wait for the judges or the ineffective court system. Roll up on them. Teach them who’s boss!
It takes a thug to know a thug. It takes a thug to teach a thug.
Too bad, 22-years of police training gave way to a vigilante spirit of street justice.