Supplemental: Fatal shootings involving toy guns!


One wasn’t the loneliest number:
The first thing we read this morning was Leon Neyfakh’s report at Slate. It concerned the decision not to prosecute the officers involved in the shooting death of Tamir Rice.

Neyfakh started as shown below. We were struck by the highlighted passage:
NEYFAKH (12/29/15): The two police officers involved in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland will not be charged with a crime, officials announced Monday. Timothy Loehmann, a rookie officer, shot Rice on Nov. 22 after he and his partner, Frank Garmback, confronted the boy at a park in response to a 911 call about a man with a gun.

It turned out that the gun Rice was carrying was not real—a fact that has made the tragedy of his death stand out from the many other cases of police-involved shootings in recent months.
We were surprised, and not surprised, by the highlighted passage. It can perhaps be described as “technically accurate,” depending on how kind you are.

As Neyfakh correctly notes, “the gun Rice was carrying was not real.” But according to the Washington Post, that situation obtained in 32 fatal shootings by police in the course of the past year. Videotape of at least one of those shootings can be found on YouTube.

You can perhaps defend Neyfakh’s presentation as technically accurate. A person could also respond by asking a question:

The Washington Post has performed a major service by compiling its data base on fatal shootings by police. Why don’t the nation’s journalists use that data base?

Different people might answer that question in different ways. For ourselves, we’re shoveling in the cold frozen north in the hope of making our way to the Amtrak station at an undisclosed location.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to the question of the New York Times’ coverage of Candidate Trump’s budget proposal. Meanwhile, if you want more information about those 32 fatal shootings, you can find it here.

(The Post includes a short description of each of the fatal shootings, plus a statistical breakdown. Click on the words “Toy weapon.”)

The Post has performed a valuable service by compiling that data base this year. They make it hard to find at their site. If you click that link, you’ll be there.

Our own incomparable ruling: For ourselves, we wouldn’t be inclined to describe Slate’s presentation as “technically accurate.”

Our expectations are higher than that! We’d be inclined to rate it “highly misleading” and therefore “essentially wrong.”

Also perhaps as “the same old same old,” given the shape of the times and the shape of the stories we’re preferentially told.


  1. Not that many years ago, Leon Neyfakh was himself a ten-year-old child.

    1. Not that many years ago Tamir Rice was himself a twelve year old child playing in the park with a toy.

      We were surprised, and not surprised that fact doesn't matter as much to Bob as a reporter not using the WaPo database.

    2. "Not that many years ago Tamir Rice was himself a twelve year old child playing in the park with a toy."

      I once had an armed robber pull a gun that looked for all the world like a 9mm to me, it ended up being a bb gun. I don't have any idea why they make "toy guns" that look so much like real guns, but they do. I know he was only twelve, but it appeared to be a gun, not a knife.

      I'm not in the habit of defending police shootings, but I find it highly misleading to refer to bb and pellet guns that look just like real guns as "toy guns."

    3. "Not that many years ago Tamir Rice was himself a twelve year old child playing in the park with a toy."

      I once had an armed robber pull a gun that looked for all the world like a 9mm to me, it ended up being a bb gun. I don't have any idea why they make "toy guns" that look so much like real guns, but they do. I know he was only twelve, but it appeared to be a gun, not a knife.

      I'm not in the habit of defending police shootings, but I find it highly misleading to refer to bb and pellet guns that look just like real guns as "toy guns."

    4. Focus on the "toy gun", and soon enough you forgot this was terrible police work*, "open carry" is only legal for some citizens, and the Prosecutor acted in defense of the police.

      *pulling up a few feet from someone you think is armed and dangerous, rather than from a safe distance where you can assess the situation is ridiculous. One shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a gun or a badge with this kind of incompetence.


    5. That may well be; I'm not applauding the verdict. However, I do think a normal reaction to bullshit* is to wonder why one side in an argument resorts to bullshit if the facts are on its side. I guess one of the ongoing themes of this blog is that liberals often undermine their own credibility by exaggerating to the point of bullshit even when the facts are on their side.

      In this case, the "child with a toy" formulation about a bb gun that looks like a real gun is going to make anybody who isn't already part of the choir think he's being bullshitted and react skeptically.

      Also, the WAPO files also incidents involving bb or pellet guns under "toy guns." I don't think that's the most intellectually honest way to go about it.

      *Using "bullshit" the way the book "On Bullshit" popularized ten years ago:

      "They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are."

    6. The thinslicing blogger would be proud of your hairsplitting skills, bjd.

    7. Really? Seriously? People can have an honest difference of opinion on whether obvious bullshit turns off people who might be inclined to agree with you & should be avoided when the facts are on your side, or whether you need to present your case as forcefully as possible. However, the use of the term "toy guns" is pure unadulterated bullshit:

      So for that matter, is phrase "child with a toy"

      Although, I'd certainly hope that police officers would approach 12-year-olds somewhat differently than adults. As bad as the NOPD can be, pretty bad, they managed to arrest a 12 & a 13-year-old without shooting either.

  2. The first Howler post we read this morning was the preceding one. It concerned an article Bob found misguided.

    We were struck by this passage:

    "Last week, the Tax Policy Center presented its analysis of Candidate Trump’s formal budget proposal."

    Considering that Trump has made no budget proposal we wondered how Somerby could consider that passage technically accurate. In fact it is "highly misleading" and therefore “essentially wrong.”

    Also perhaps “the same old same old,” given the shape of the mindset of the abandoned old blogger.

  3. This Was One Of The Safest Years Ever For Police, So Let's Put That 'War On Cops' Thing To Rest

    1. Good article, but beware of the bait and switch. The chart doesn't exactly show that This Was One Of The Safest Years Ever For Police. It shows that This Was One Of The Safest Years Ever For Police from gun murders.

    2. Davy Wavy, you ignorant slut. there is no bait and switch going on. the article is more than just the chart. and the focal point of the article and its headline is not the f'ing chart. for anyone who wants to prove for the millionth time what a right-wing douchebag Davy is, despite trying to sound clever and reasonable, go read the article . . . then compare Davy's characterization of it. if Davy and his ilk need help understanding the article, here are a few highlights: "The data never supported [the right-wing narrative that there was a 'war on cops'] -- not in 2014 and not at any point since -- but that didn't keep people from repeating it so much that it became a recurring segment on Fox News. Now, however, figures for this year show that despite the anxious rhetoric, 2015 was in fact one of the safest years ever for police officers....
      A total of 36 police officers were fatally shot in the line of duty this year, according to Officer Down Memorial Page, a website that independently tracks a broad range of data on law enforcement deaths. Four of the officers included on its list are K-9 units, however. An additional two officers were killed by suspects who used vehicles as a weapon, which brings the human total to 34.
      This number, while not official, would mark one of the lowest annual totals in more than 50 years of reporting.
      An average of 64 law enforcement officers have been feloniously killed each year since 1980, the FBI reported earlier this year. With 51 officers slain in the line of duty in 2014, it was still a below-average year, despite ticking upward from the previous year. And while any officer's death is tragic, we finished 2015 with about half the annual average number of police officers killed in the line of duty....
      Police are also facing less nonlethal violence today. While the FBI hasn’t released data for 2015, the data through 2014 clearly illustrates a downward trend in assaults against cops over the last decade. Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer, charted the 2014 FBI assault data earlier this year..."

    3. It's hard to believe the numbers are so low, with all the 2nd Amendmenters who own to fight "the tyranny of the government".
      Just kidding, everyone knows the "fight the tyranny of the government" types are just authoritarians.

  4. I shouldn't think most news consumers have availed themselves of the WAPO database. Therefore, it is fair for a reporter to say that the Tamir Rice case, being the most famous "toy gun" case in recent history, was indeed a "standout" in the minds of those people aware of the TamirRice case but not of the said database.

    To reiterate, the reporter called into question did not say the Rice case was the only toy gun instance; he said it was one that stood out in the minds of many people across the land. That is a reasonable statement.

    Maybe he could have followed up with a nerdy paragraph about the other toy gun cases in the database, but maybe a wise editor struck it out because it interrupted the flow of the story and, frankly, made it look like the reporter was showing off a little.

  5. My question concerns the young man who was shot in Chicago when he appeared on his steps with a baseball bat.

    Why did the officers choose not to Tase him or shoot not to kill?

    On the News Hour last night, "Jeff" never expressed curiosity about that matter of live and death.

  6. I think it's FAIRLY clear that what Neyfakh meant was the "recent high profile cases we have seen covered in the media in the last year." (The much discussed and trouble Chicago case goes back farther, but was not in the media until recent months).
    I would imagine Bob knows this is what the writer meant, but he's correct, it should have been clearer and a decent editor should have fixed it.
    Much of how these cases have been covered has been manipulated or misreported to appeal to readers of our tribe. I tend to think that's what's bugging Bob in this case. Does this really relate to point in question? Dubious.

    1. Well, your guess is as good as any other fan of Bob. Too bad Bob missed the point of the article entirely in order to chastise the author for not covering a story the way he would have had anybody ever hired him to report news.

      Come to think of it, nobody has ever covered things as well as Bob would have. If he hadn't thrown his career away on trivial pursuits.

  7. I want to share a pleasant memory and experience I had growing up in Baltimore. My baby brother liked to play with toy guns. In fact every so often he would use his allowance of a dollar a week to go to the corner drug store and buy a cheap toy cap gun. He would get some caps to go along with it and he would put the caps in the toy gun and when he pulled the trigger the toy would spark and make a popping noise.Our community also had a beat cop who walked the streets of the neighborhood twirling his baton.If the beat cop came by when he was playing with his toy cap gun my baby brother would point and shoot at him with it. The cop would always grab his chest and make a big display of falling down with great relish playing dead for a few seconds. He would usually say "Oh You got me Partner" or "Somebody get word to my posse" or something like that and then get up chuckling. The point is he never shot my baby brother.Just to let you know the beat cop was white and my brother is Black.If you have seen the video, this cop shoots Tamir Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. That cop had zero meaningful connection to that community he was supposed to be serving. If you are that terrified of a certain segment of the population that you shoot and kill children with toy guns then you do NOT belong in police work in ANY capacity.