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Terrorized, Traumatized and Killed: The Police State’s Deadly Toll on America’s Children

John W. Whitehead
October 18th, 2019
The Rutherford Institute
Comments (13)

This article was originally published by John W. Whitehead at The Rutherford Institute. 

Mommy, am I gonna die?”— 4-year-old Ava Ellis after being inadvertently shot in the leg by a police officer who was aiming for the girl’s boxer-terrier dog, Patches

“‘Am I going to get shot again.’”—2-year-old survivor of a police shooting that left his three siblings, ages 1, 4 and 5, with a bullet in the brain, a fractured skull and gun wounds to the face

Children learn what they live.

As a family counselor, Dorothy Law Nolte wisely observed, “If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn. If children live with hostility, they learn to fight. If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.”

And if children live with terror, trauma, and violence—forced to watch helplessly as their loved ones are executed by police officers who shoot first and ask questions later—will they, in turn, learn to terrorize, traumatize and inflict violence on the world around them?

I’m not willing to risk it. Are you?

It’s difficult enough raising a child in a world ravaged by war, disease, poverty, and hate, but when you add the toxic stress of the police state into the mix, it becomes near impossible to protect children from the growing unease that some of the monsters of our age come dressed in government uniforms.

Case in point: in Hugo, Oklahoma, plainclothes police officers opened fire on a pickup truck parked in front of a food bank, heedless of the damage such a hail of bullets—26 shots were fired—could have on those in the vicinity. Three of the four children inside the parked vehicle were shot: a 4-year-old girl was shot in the head and ended up with a bullet in the brain; a 5-year-old boy received a skull fracture, and a 1-year-old girl had deep cuts on her face from gunfire or shattered window glass. Only the 2-year-old was spared any physical harm, although the terror will likely linger for a long time. “They are terrified to go anywhere or hear anything,” the family attorney said. “The two-year-old keeps asking about ‘Am I going to get shot again.’”

The reason for the use of such excessive force?

Police were searching for a suspect in a weeks-old robbery of a pizza parlor that netted $400.

While the two officers involved in the shooting are pulling paid leave at taxpayer expense, the children’s mother is struggling to figure out how to care for her wounded family and pay the medical expenses, including the cost to transport each child in a separate medical helicopter to a nearby hospital: $75,000 for one child’s transport alone.

This may be the worst use of excessive force on innocent children to date. Unfortunately, it is one of many in a steady stream of cases that speak to the need for police to de-escalate their tactics and stop resorting to excessive force when less lethal means are available to them.

For instance, in Cleveland, police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice who was seen playing on a playground with a pellet gun. Surveillance footage shows police shooting the boy two seconds after getting out of a moving patrol car. Incredibly, the shooting was deemed “reasonable” and “justified” by two law enforcement experts who concluded that the police use of force “did not violate Tamir’s constitutional rights.”

In Detroit, 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was killed after a Detroit SWAT team launched a flash-bang grenade into her family’s apartment, broke through the door and opened fire, hitting the little girl who was asleep on the living room couch. The cops were in the wrong apartment.

In Georgia, a SWAT team launched a flash-bang grenade into the house in which Baby Bou Bou, his three sisters, and his parents were staying. The grenade landed in the 2-year-old’s crib, burning a hole in his chest and leaving the child with scarring that a lifetime of surgeries will not be able to easily undo.

Also in Georgia, 10-year-old Dakota Corbitt was shot by a police officer who aimed for an inquisitive dog, missed and hit the young boy instead.

In Ohio, police shot 4-year-old Ava Ellis in the leg, shattering the bone, after being dispatched to assist the girl’s mother, who had cut her arm and was in need of a paramedic. Cops claimed that the family pet charged the officer who was approaching the house, causing him to fire his gun and accidentally hit the little girl.

In California, 13-year-old Andy Lopez Cruz was shot 7 times in 10 seconds by a police officer who mistook the boy’s toy gun for an assault rifle. Christopher Roupe, 17, was shot and killed after opening the door to a police officer. The officer, mistaking the remote control in Roupe’s hand for a gun, shot him in the chest.

These children are more than grim statistics on a police blotter. They are the heartbreaking casualties of the government’s endless, deadly wars on terror, on drugs, and on the American people themselves.

Then you have the growing number of incidents involving children who are forced to watch helplessly as trigger-happy police open fire on loved ones and community members alike.

In Texas, an 8-year-old boy watched as police—dispatched to do a welfare check on a home with its windows open—shot and killed his aunt through her bedroom window while she was playing video games with him.

In Minnesota, a 4-year-old girl watched from the backseat of a car as cops shot and killed her mother’s boyfriend, Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration.

In Arizona, a 7-year-old girl watched panic-stricken as a state trooper pointed his gun at her and her father during a traffic stop and reportedly threated to shoot her father in the back (twice) based on the mistaken belief that they were driving a stolen rental car.

In Oklahoma, a 5-year-old boy watched as a police officer used a high-powered rifle to shoot his dog Opie multiple times in his family’s backyard while other children were also present. The police officer was mistakenly attempting to deliver a warrant on a 10-year-old case for someone who hadn’t lived at that address in a decade.

A Minnesota SWAT team actually burst into one family’s house, shot the family’s dog, handcuffed the children and forced them to “sit next to the carcass of their dead and bloody pet for more than an hour.” They later claimed it was the wrong house.

More than 80% of American communities have their own SWAT teams, with more than 80,000 of these paramilitary raids are carried out every year. That translates to more than 200 SWAT team raids every day in which police crash through doors, damage private property, terrorize adults and children alike, kill family pets, assault or shoot anyone that is perceived as threatening—and all in the pursuit of someone merely suspected of a crime, usually some small amount of drugs.

A child doesn’t even have to be directly exposed to a police shooting to learn the police state’s lessons in compliance and terror, which are being meted out with every SWAT team raid, roadside strip search, and school drill.

Indeed, there can be no avoiding the hands-on lessons being taught in the schools about the role of police in our lives, ranging from active shooter drills and school-wide lockdowns to incidents in which children engaging in typically childlike behavior are suspended (for shooting an imaginary “arrow” at a fellow classmate), handcuffed (for being disruptive at school), arrested (for throwing water balloons as part of a school prank), and even tasered (for not obeying instructions).

For example, a middle school in Washington State went on lockdown after a student brought a toy gun to class. A Boston high school went into lockdown for four hours after a bullet was discovered in a classroom. A North Carolina elementary school locked down and called in police after a fifth grader reported seeing an unfamiliar man in the school (it turned out to be a parent).

Cops have even gone so far as to fire blanks during school active shooter drills around the country. Teachers at one elementary school in Indiana were actually shot “execution-style” with plastic pellets. Students at a high school in Florida were so terrified after administrators tricked them into believing that a shooter drill was, in fact, an actual attack that some of them began texting their parents “goodbye.”

Better safe than sorry is the rationale offered to those who worry that these drills are terrorizing and traumatizing young children. As journalist Dahlia Lithwick points out: “I don’t recall any serious national public dialogue about lockdown protocols or how they became the norm. It seems simply to have begun, modeling itself on the lockdowns that occur during prison riots, and then spread until school lockdowns and lockdown drills are as common for our children as fire drills, and as routine as duck-and-cover drills were in the 1950s.”

These drills have, indeed, become routine.

As the New York Times reports: “Most states have passed laws requiring schools to devise safety plans, and several states, including Michigan, Kentucky and North Dakota, specifically require lockdown drills. Some drills are as simple as a principal making an announcement and students sitting quietly in a darkened classroom. At other schools, police officers and school officials playact a shooting, stalking through the halls like gunmen and testing whether doors have been locked.”

Police officers at a Florida middle school carried out an active shooter drill in an effort to educate students about how to respond in the event of an actual shooting crisis. Two armed officers, guns loaded and drawn, burst into classrooms, terrorizing the students and placing the school into lockdown mode.

What is particularly chilling is how effective these lessons in compliance are in indoctrinating young people to accept their role in the police state, either as criminals or prison guards.

If these exercises are intended to instill fear, paranoia, and compliance into young people, they’re working.

As Joe Pinsker writes for The Atlantic:

These lockdowns can be scarring, causing some kids to cry and wet themselves. Others have written letters bidding their family goodbye or drafted wills that specify what to do with their belongings. And 57 percent of teens worry that a shooting will happen at their school, according to a Pew Research Center survey from last year. Though many children are no strangers to violence in their homes and communities, the pervasiveness of lockdowns and school-shooting drills in the U.S. has created a culture of fear that touches nearly every child across the country.

Sociologist Alice Goffman understands how far-reaching the impact of such “exercises” can be on young people. For six years, Goffman lived in a low-income urban neighborhood, documenting the impact such an environment—a microcosm of the police state—has on its residents. Her account of neighborhood children playing cops and robbers speaks volumes about how constant exposure to pat-downs, strip searches, surveillance, and arrests can result in a populace that meekly allows itself to be prodded, poked and stripped.

As journalist Malcolm Gladwell writing for the New Yorker reports:

Goffman sometimes saw young children playing the age-old game of cops and robbers in the street, only the child acting the part of the robber wouldn’t even bother to run away: I saw children give up running and simply stick their hands behind their back, as if in handcuffs; push their body up against a car without being asked; or lie flat on the ground and put their hands over their head. The children yelled, “I’m going to lock you up! I’m going to lock you up, and you ain’t never coming home!” I once saw a six-year-old pull another child’s pants down to do a “cavity search.”

Clearly, our children are getting the message, but it’s not the message that was intended by those who fomented a revolution and wrote our founding documents. Their philosophy was that the police work for us, and “we the people” are the masters, and they are to be our servants.

Now that philosophy has been turned on its head, fueled by our fears (some legitimate, some hyped along by the government and its media mouthpieces) about the terrors and terrorists that lurk among us.

What are we to tell our nation’s children about the role of police in their lives?

Do we parrot the government line that police officers are community helpers who are to be trusted and obeyed at all times? Do we caution them to steer clear of a police officer, warning them that any interactions could have disastrous consequences? Or is there some happy medium between the two that, while being neither fairy tale nor horror story, can serve as a cautionary tale for young people who will encounter police at virtually every turn?

Certainly, it’s getting harder by the day to insist that we live in a nation that values freedom and which is governed by the rule of law.

Yet unless something changes and soon, there will soon be nothing left to teach young people about freedom as we have known it beyond remembered stories of the “good old days.”

For starters, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it’s time to take a hard look at the greatest perpetrators of violence in our culture—the U.S. government and its agents—and do something about it: de-militarize the police, prohibit the Pentagon from distributing military weapons to domestic police agencies, train the police in de-escalation techniques, stop insulating police officers from charges of misconduct and wrongdoing, and require police to take precautionary steps before engaging in violence in the presence of young people.

We must stop the carnage.

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Author: John W. Whitehead
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Date: October 18th, 2019
Website: https://www.rutherford.org

Copyright Information: This content has been contributed to SHTFplan by a third-party or has been republished with permission from the author. Please contact the author directly for republishing information.

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13 Comments...

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  1. Clown World says:

    “Do we parrot the government line…”
    (In grey text.) In Gladwell’s examples, yes.

    Ironically, you were writing about the criminal element, parroting the govt line. They understand, verbatim, what is the way of the world.

    “These lockdowns can be scarring, causing some kids to cry and wet themselves. Others have written letters bidding their family goodbye or drafted wills that specify what to do with their belongings.”

    In my experience, they sit, upright, without any apprehensions, in front of the clear, glass windows, so continue to do the meaningless busywork, that should have been completed in the first 5-10 minutes of the period.

    While I did know some rare mutants, I was the only one in the whole school, of which I am aware, who asked what became of the (fake) perp.

    We have parables about a tiger, who can’t change his stripes, a scorpion, and a frog. I don’t personally believe that it’s possible to enlighten a tool on two legs, any more than an inanimate object.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Indiana incident took place in White County. The cops there have been caught lying under oath, falsifying evidence and theft. White County is notorious for personal vendettas against citizens, making up fictitious laws and calling actual laws just someones personal philosophy. One prosecutor is known to have stolen all the jewelry from a an old woman’s safety deposit box while having power of attorney. The other prosecutor had a business burned down for refusing to allow him to be a share holder. The cops there are paranoids and rightfully so, since they have the whole populace against them. This is why Indiana passed laws that if a cop enters your home unlawfully, you can kill them.

    • The Deplorable Renegade says:

      Anonymous, when I have to look at people with badges and law degrees the same way I look at Antifa and black lives matter you know something is wrong somewhere. They’ve done more to undermine themselves than any outside group ever could. They have no legitimacy left at all. The emperor has no clothes.

  3. The Deplorable Renegade says:

    Today’s breed of cops are so stupid, ignorant, bloodthirsty, and treasonous. They need to stop their war against the people before it’s too late. I hate to see any war break out between cops and the public but I don’t see how it can be prevented. Cops will lose because they don’t have the numbers to defeat 100,000,000 gun owners and a huge percentage of those are veterans. They and the judicial system have lost whatever legitimacy they ever had. What do they expect from us considering all the federal propaganda they’ve been brainwashed with? Those kids who have been victimized by cops will grow up being unable to trust cops. There’s really no reason for anyone to trust cops even now. They’re just government employees who ‘protect and serve’ the government, not the public. There’s no such person as a public servant. The federal and state supreme courts have ruled on this matter many times. I look at cops the same way I look at Antifa, black lives matter, etc. If I ever get into a situation where I’m confronted by some 2-legged animal for any reason I already know I’m on my own. I have to become my own ‘first responder’ and handle it myself. If the animal has a gun or any other weapon I’ll do what I consider necessary to get out of the situation alive. I won’t be thinking about any ‘law’.

  4. Kevin2 says:

    In perspective there are approximately one million law enforcement officers from local through federal. Therefore these incidents in the article, although despicable, are for practical purposes rare. What generally isn’t rare however is law enforcement, including prosecutors, virtual steadfast support for their brethren. Granted they on occasion abandon them but only in the most extreme cases. Wrong address and a citizen is killed is an oops; an error in good faith. Unfortunately the judicial systems tolerance and adherence to what I believe is defined as “Sovereign Immunity”, protecting government agents, tends to be the glue of overreach. The generally isolated events in the article are likely to significantly increase if, (I damn hope not when), a situation occurs that gets a great number in the population to protest; most likely the result of economic issues. ANTIFA and “The Proud Boys” doing stage show battle are far too small and isolated for my example. I’m referring to something akin to the combined sum of the anti war / civil rights protests of the 60s / 70s plus. I suspect agent provocateurs, false flags and the occasional nut will be used to demonize the otherwise lawful expression of discontent and to justify a heavy hand response from authorities. The revolutionary Boston Massacre of 1770 and later the Kent State Massacre of 1970, interestingly 200 years later, both had a galvanizing effect and were counterproductive to authoritarian goals. The psychology of the USA is such that the probability of this course of government action, historically not the right way to address it, is almost a given in response to wide spread civilian protest. If infested with flies the government tends to use a sledgehammer not a flyswatter as the tool of choice.

  5. Rock Roller says:

    I remember over 20 years ago in Kansas, a school bus full of grade school age children pulled over on the side of the road, and around 15 government goons all in black armed to the teeth that had the bus surrounded. Driving by slowly, it was obvious how scared some of the kids looked as they were staring out the bus windows. Some kind of a drill to indoctrinate they’re young minds to accept tyranny and obey the orders of costumed clowns with firepower.There might come a day when they show up at your door to drag you off or even kill you. Take as many out as you possibly can.

  6. Anonymous says:

    i happen to have first hand knoweledge of the detroit raid mentioned in youre article. The police were in the right apartment and a family member of the later convicted murderer grabbed the officers weapon and attempted to disarm him as they entered the residence. her actions caused the weapon to discharge. The lies told regarding this incident make me wonder what else you’re lying about in this article

    • Anonymous says:

      Obese people blame food.
      Drug addicts blame drugs.
      Criminals blame cops.

      Nobody wants to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions.
      It’s so much easier to blame race/poverty/society/other people,for the shortcomings in your life.

  7. jakartaman says:

    Not a big fan of police but this is just a hit piece on them.
    Most cops are good guys wanting to do good for their families and yours.
    `The violence is a result of our society losing respect for authority, all authority.When I watch live PD on TV its 95% minorities – Been saying this for years 13% causing 85% of our ass aches. So ya all can now call me a Racist for stating the obvious.

  8. jakartaman says:

    Moderation my butt – just stupidity!!
    Fix this site

  9. The Deplorable Renegade says:

    Anonymous, this man is one of the few people I know of with a law degree with honesty and integrity. Check out some of his other articles at his website before you pass judgment on him. I’ve had relatives who were cops who can back up a lot of what he says.

  10. Pelican says:

    Policing is a local matter. I’ve lived in areas under a police state. I’ve also lived in areas where police partner with the community. The difference in policing across our country is why we’re so polarized.

    I don’t view it so much as a race thing but more of a class issue. Police and the criminal justice system have different rules for the elite, middle class and lower class. Most of these incidents are likely happening in low income areas.

    I was held at gunpoint by multiple officers for running for the bus which I was doing because I didn’t want to be late for work. I was told I shouldn’t be running. And that they thought I killed someone in a building. Almost 20 years later and I can say I’ll never forget those comments. Best thing is to just move out of those areas if you can and push for criminal justice reform.

    • Clown World says:

      I have qualified immunity, in my own, fictional universe, where I am angelic, and you are low class.

      I thought you did (random, imaginary act).

      You shouldn’t be doing (whatever you are doing right now).

      Highly suspicious.

      ‘Freud considered that, in psychological projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings that cannot be accepted as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world and attributed to someone else.’

      ‘Parallel construction is a law enforcement process of building a parallel [universe] or separate, evidentiary basis for a criminal investigation in order to conceal how an investigation actually began.’

      I don’t personally see any difference between an anonymous tipster and your imaginary friend. Also, someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, saw you running.

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