San Diego police officers encountered Lance Tamayo, a reportedly suicidal man, around noon in August 2014. The police tried to negotiate with him. They offered Mr. Tamayo counseling and pleaded with him to surrender. Tamayo responded by getting a gun out of his car and pointing it at several people, including the police.
Moments later, Mr. Tamayo “rushed towards officers with his weapon out,” Capt. Al Guaderrama told reporters. An officer fired one shot, hitting Tamayo in the abdomen. He toppled to the ground with his gun still within reach. “We were all praying for this person that somehow he would live and get the help he needed,” a witness said. Their prayers were answered. For the crime of waving a gun at the police, Tamayo received a single bullet, 180 days in jail, probation, and community service.
I do not know what stopped the San Diego Police officers from unleashing a tidal wave of gunfire the second Lance Tamayo threatened their safety. But it was not there when Officer Michael Slager shot a fleeing Walter Scott in the back five times. And it was not there when Officer Jason Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times. Police dashcam video shows rounds entering McDonald’s nearly motionless body on the ground.
I do not know what led the San Diego police to negotiate with Mr. Tamayo while he had a gun. But it was not there when Officer Timothy Loehmann shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice within seconds of arriving on the scene. I do not know what the San Diego police officers felt when they encountered Lance Tamayo. But what I saw was unmistakable. I saw a willingness to spare his life.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” — Matthew 25:40
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