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Did Texas Middle Schooler Jaime Gonzalez Have To Die?

Did Texas Middle Schooler Jaime Gonzalez Have To Die?

Could the death of 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez have been prevented?

That’s the question that residents of Brownsville, Texas, are asking themselves. And the child’s anguished parents are demanding to know why police didn’t try a Taser or beanbag gun before resorting to deadly force. Police officers are insisting that they had no choice.

It Happened Last Wednesday, January 4

Jaime was fatally shot in a hallway of Cummings Middle School during first period Wednesday, following frantic calls to police from school officials who, along with responding officers, believed the boy had a handgun. It was, in fact, a pellet gun, but according to a recording of the emergency call, Jaime refused to drop the weapon.

From Education Week:

Before police arrived, school administrators had urged Jaime to give up the gun. When officers got to the school, the boy was waiting for them, (Brownsville Interim Police Chief Orlando) Rodriguez said.

Moments before he was killed, Jaime began to run down a hallway, but again faced officers. Police fired down the hallway—a distance that made a stun gun or other methods impractical, Rodriguez said.

If the situation had involved hostages or a gunman barricaded in a room, police might have tried negotiations. But instead, Rodriguez stressed, this was an armed student roaming the halls of a school.

The two officers who fired have been placed on administrative leave—standard procedure in police shootings. Rodriguez expected them back at work soon.

Pellet Guns Required To Have Orange Band – But This One Didn’t

Under federal law, pellet or BB guns must be sold with an orange band around the tip of the barrel so they can be distinguished from real weapons. But law-enforcement experts say users often remove the bands, and the coloring can sometimes be hard to see.

Gonzalez’s gun had no markings, according to Rodriguez.

There was also broad agreement among law-enforcement experts that if a suspect raises a weapon and refuses to put it down, officers are justified in taking his life.

In a recording released Thursday of the 911 call from the school, the assistant principal says a student in the hall has a gun, then reports that he is drawing the weapon and finally that he is running down the hall.

Police can be heard yelling: “Put the gun down! Put it on the floor!” In the background, someone else yells, “He’s saying that he is willing to die.”

Still, the death of 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez has disturbed many residents of Brownsville, near the U.S.-Mexico border, where parents already burdened by economic woes and street gangs are now faced with explaining the tragedy to their children.

Jaime Was A Good Kid, Didn’t Get In Trouble

What makes this case especially heartbreaking is that Jaime was a drum major who danced in his church’s annual religious festival, stayed out of gangs, never got into major trouble, and had two parents who closely watched him.

We cannot know what was going through Jaime’s head as he brandished a pellet gun, knowing that it closely resembled a handgun. But we do know that this was a senseless death, that it didn’t have to happen, and that all police officers should seek alternate ways of helping troubled teenagers rather than resorting to killing them.

What do you think? Did Jaime have to die?

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174 comments

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1:03AM PST on Feb 15, 2012

Often police must make splint second decisions based on what they see. And no matter what decision they make it may be the wrong one. What if it had been a real gun and he had shot other students or a police officer? People would be asking why Jaime hadn't been shot. We need to remember that shooting a gun on a range is quite different from shooting a person during a high pressure situation. I had a marksmen badge when I was in the military but I'm not sure I would be as accurate in a high stress situation. Yes there are police who do a crappy job but there are so many that join to try and make a difference. Training can differ from county to country, even department to department and sadly not all police are trained in all methods of stopping a person with a gun.And with every method there are problems. Why wasn't a negotiator called? Does anyone now why he brought the gun to school? Perhaps rather then a orange band that can be removed the color must be on the entire pellet gun. Andrew C. to decide that ALL police are simply thugs who work for the rich is as silly as deciding that all persons of color are criminals. Neither statement is true. Why don't you look up how many police officers were killed while trying to help someone? I was in law enforcement ( I worked in a Juvenile detention facility) and I can tell you that I worked hard to make sure the kids I worked with were able to make positive changes in their lives and I didn't make alot of money at it. I got

7:35AM PST on Feb 1, 2012

A most tragic event... There is something funtamentally wrong with a society when the police shoots to kill first... and then asks questions. The gun frenziness MUST be controlled, otherwise this won't be the last such incident.

3:34AM PST on Jan 11, 2012

I am sympathetic to the police, but there is way too much militarization and the police seem to overreact all to often in minority communities. The only thing I can see is more community policing and more embedding of the police into the local community and less free access to guns where the police would think it reasonable a middle school student might have a gun (and unfortunately it is all too common).

6:49PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

noted

4:52PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

if they did shoot to maim, what would happen in the future? if he had his "knees blown out" and a sholder maimed, leaving him in a wheel chair, possibly half legged with one working arm.

would there be a life time of suing?

all I know is now I won't take a plastic sword with me in public to see how people react. i want one porportiate to my body.

4:02PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

I do understand it could've ended in a different way. But the fact that Jaime ran away, possibly in the direction where there were students, and had a gun, was also his fault. 15 is not young, he was not stupid and I have to say that it was also his fault that it ended that way. If they had tried to negotiate with a possibly rebellious boy, and let him run away with that gun, which they couldn't tell if it was real or not, it could've put other people's lives in danger.

12:01PM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Jaime Gonzalez is depicted as a very clean cut kid. So what went wrong? Why did he bring a pellet gun to school; why didn't he put it down when teachers asked him to; why didn't he put it down when police threaten to shoot? He was a smart kid he had to know they would shoot to kill. What scare him so much that day or in the previous days before the shooting? This kid was frighten, but of what or whom? It sounds like a suicide by cop situation. These are the questions we should be asking and answering, because it can happen to another Jaime Gonzalez if we don’t.

We already know the answers to: did Jaime Gonzalez have to die? There is no reason for police to shoot to kill in ALL situations were a weapon is shown by a suspect. Those who know how to use a gun or a rifle know full well that there are areas of the body you can hit to disable a person; plus there are rubber bullets, tasers, etc. It seems this mindset among law enforcement leaders, “…if a suspect raises a weapon and refuses to put it down, officers are justified in taking his life” gives blanket permission to officers to shoot to kill at will; no matter the weapon, age of the suspect or mental/emotional condition of the suspect. The bottom-line is we need better educated and better trained police officers in the United States, NOT bigger military type weapons in their hands.



10:20AM PST on Jan 10, 2012

The only reason that I can think of why a good student would bring a gun to school is if he was being bullied. In my experience, authorities pretend that bullying does not exist but are very quick to label the victim for "not fitting in", "being the cause of problems", and teachers have a habit of putting such remarks in the student's report so that way the student is stigmatized even if he/she decides to move to a new school (by "bullying" I also mean psychological abuse, name-calling and exclusion from team activities). If authorities are incompetent to solve these problems then the student involved should be given the option of home-schooling (with professional support if the parents need it).

9:51AM PST on Jan 10, 2012

Andrew I agree with you, shoot him where you couldn't have moved or shot the so called "gun". It happened so many times before and they still did not learn from their past mistakes. That is sad! Cops are so well trained to take you out.
And yet in defence of an officer, how would we react in a situation like that? Sometimes I think some cops are just panicking and shoot!
We don't know, we did not walk in any of their shoes, not the young boy nor the officers. I think it is sad for all sides involved. Not all cops are bad cops.

9:35AM PST on Jan 10, 2012

A gun does not have to be lethal in any case.

If I can hit a soda can at 38 feet with a 90 pound $37 crossbow, a cop can blow out a kid's knee at 100 feet with a 9mm.

Sure the kid would likely be crippled for life afterwards, but he'd still be alive.

Those @#$!holes just wanted to kill a kid.

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