This Case of the Week is about a police use-of-force event in California on February 9th in which six police officers shot and killed a suspect, as reported by The Hill. (Hat tip to Tim G. on Facebook for forwarding me this story.)

What’s notable about the article, in a totally expected manner, is how hard the “journalists” writing about this event are working to make it appear to be yet another racially motivated killing by racist police in institutionally racist America. We can literally see the false racial narrative being created in front of our eyes. The victim of the police use-of-force in this instance was a black male name Willie McCoy, a rapper who goes by the name of “Willie Bo.”

The races of the officers involved are not mentioned, but given that the police are part of the amorphous “institution” the narrative presumes that the officers are agents of institutional racism regardless of their individual races.

What Actually Happened?

Here are the actually relevant facts supported by actual evidence:

The management of a fast-food restaurant called the police to report a driver passed out in a car in the drive-through lane of the restaurant, about 10:30 PM. The police observed a handgun (later learned to be stolen) in the driver’s lap.

From the police statement on the shooting (embedded at the bottom of this post):

While officers were still positioning a patrol unit to the rear of the vehicle, and waiting for the supervisor, the driver began to suddenly move and looked at the uniformed patrol officers. Officers gave the driver several commands to put his hands up. The driver did not comply and instead he quickly moved his hands downward for the firearm. Fearing for their safety, six officers fired their duty weapons at the driver.

The driver died of his wounds.

What False Narrative is Being Created?

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, it ought to be. But that wouldn’t fit the narrative.

Is this story headlined “Six California police officers fatally shoot suspect reaching for gun”? Of course not.

The headline in The Hill is instead: “Six California police officers fatally shoot rapper found sleeping in car.”

Here’s the headline used in the UK Independent “news” site in covering this story: “Willie McCoy: Rapper shot dead by six police officers in California as he slept in car outside Taco Bell”

Here’s the Yahoo Finance—yep, Yahoo Finance—headline: “6 Cops Kill Rapper Willie Bo While He Slept in His Car”

Here’s the BuzzFeed News headline: “An Aspiring Rapper Who Was Asleep Inside His Car Was Shot And Killed By California Police”

Wait, did the police shoot this suspect for the “crime” of sleeping in his car? Was the suspect asleep when the cops shot him?

Of course not. But that’s clearly the narrative being constructed in real-time, right before our eyes, and it’s likely to be just another of the false narratives that we’ll have to live with for years to come.

Not Our First Time at the False Narrative Rodeo

This is much like the false narrative that Trayvon Martin was killed for the crime of wearing a hoodie and having Skittles, rather than killed in lawful self-defense when he tried to maim or murder neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Or the false narrative that Michael Brown was simply a “gentle giant” who did nothing to deserve being shot, rather than a criminal thug who viciously attacked a police officer who then shot Brown in lawful self-defense.

Or the false narrative that Freddie Gray died because of a neck injury allegedly caused by some never-specified physical abuse by the officers who arrested him, rather than from his own stupidity in standing up in a moving van while handcuffed and shackled and falling on his head as a result (all the officers involved were ultimately cleared of all charges).

Fully Half the Story Given Over to Suspect’s Family

Also notable is that fully half the news report is devoted to quoting the dead suspect’s family, even though none of them has any personal knowledge whatever of the events that led to the suspect’s death, and thus cannot possibly have anything substantive to contribute to understanding whether the officers’ use of force was justified.

Naturally, the article tells us that “McCoy’s [the suspect’s] family has since public questioned the police response.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with questioning any police use of force—police need to be held accountable for their use-of-force decision-making just like anybody else. Naturally “held accountable” does not necessarily mean “found guilty of misconduct,” it simply means “evaluated for lawfulness.” This should always occur whenever one person kills another.

Such “questioning” is also only useful if it is based on actual facts, actual evidence, and actual law, and isn’t merely an emotive exercise (of course, an emotive response is a normal response for the suspect’s family members, which is why they aren’t the ones who evaluate the lawfulness of their family member’s killing).

Too often, too, such “questioning” appears to be not a search for the truth of what happened but rather part of a concerted propaganda-based effort to extort §1983 money from the taxpayers.

“There was no attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution.”

The Hill article quotes the suspect’s older brother as bemoaning: “There was no attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution.”

Actually, there was an attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution: that’s precisely what “Don’t reach for the gun!” and “Put your hands up!” are. It’s an explicit attempt to try to work out a peaceful solution. That goes out the window, however, once the suspect actually reaches for the gun.

“This was senseless … shooting a man sleeping in his car.”

The Hill article also quotes a cousin of the suspect, who claims: “This was senseless … shooting a man sleeping in his car.”

The false suggestion, again, is that the police shot the suspect for the “crime” of sleeping, rather than the actuality that they shot the suspect for presenting an imminent threat of deadly harm.

The Hill reports: “McCoy’s family has since called on the officers involved in McCoy’s death to face criminal prosecution.” Coincidentally (not), a criminal prosecution would contribute substantially to the strength of a §1983 civil suit against the officer’s department, with the prospect of a huge taxpayer-funded payday for both the suspect’s survivors and their lawyers.

Bottom line: How do you know the media is lying, participating in a false narrative creation, or at least substantially deceiving, about a self-defense event?

Easy: they’re covering the story.

Pro-Tip: Don’t Want to Be Shot? Don’t Act Dangerous

Pro-tip, folks: If you don’t want to get lawfully shot by police, or anybody else, don’t conduct yourself in such a manner as to be reasonably perceived as presenting an imminent deadly force threat.

Remember: You carry a gun so you’re hard to kill. Know the law so you’re hard to convict.

–Andrew

Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

If you enjoyed this case of the week I urge you to take a look at the Law of Self Defense Blog, the premier source for authoritative education and insight on self-defense law. There’s always free content, as well as premium content for members of the Law of Self Defense Community.

Here’s that police statement referenced above:

[Featured image is a screen capture from a “Willie Bo” rap video found on Willie McCoy’s Instagram account.]