Baltimore, MD – The murder of a Baltimore County police officer by a 16-year-old boy has the killer's supporters suggesting that people are only upset because the officer was a white female, and her killer is black.
Social media posts about the murder of the highly-acclaimed police officer have run the gamut from calls for lynching the teen to cheers from angry cop-haters who were glad an officer was killed.
The Albuquerque Journal described the situation a “volatile mix,” as many of the calls for justice have been labeled “racist,” and the killer's apologists claim that the nation treats young white killers differently from black ones.
The attorneys for teen cop killer Dawnta Harris even held a press conference on May 24 and tried to pin the blame for the murder on his victim, 29-year-old Officer Amy Caprio.
“Forget about the optics. Forget about all the elements that makes this case dramatic and ones that people cry out for. We want to know what was in the officer’s mind at the moment she deployed deadly force. What probable cause did she have to believe that this person was going to harm to her or some other individual in this residential district?” asked J. Wyndal Gordon, of the attorneys for Harris.
“This was an extremely tragic accident. And it’s not lost on any of us out here that a police officer lost her life in the line of duty. It’s not lost on any of us,” Gordon said.
“But we want to know why Officer Caprio felt it necessary to draw her weapon on a 16-year-old child,” the attorney asked. “We want to know why this was necessary.”
His attorneys have repeatedly referred to the 16-year-old repeat offender as a “child.”
They have blamed the juvenile justice system for the fact that the unsupervised teenager murdered Officer Caprio while he was supposed to be on house arrest for a series of car thefts he’d committed since December.
Police supporters, and most generally law-abiding citizens, were outraged at the attorneys’ attempts to victim-blame the murdered police officer who was run over by Harris in a stolen Jeep Wrangler.
Authorities have said Harris was acting as the getaway driver for three friends who were burglarizing a nearby house.
Baltimore County resident Stuart Tamres called out the victim blaming in a Letter to the Editor of The Baltimore Sun.
“If you listen to [Warren Brown] and others on his defense team for Dawnta Harris, the 16-year-old accused of killing Baltimore County police officer Amy Caprio, they will be bringing suit against the fallen officer for assault on their client as well as violation of his civil rights. I firmly believe that every defendant deserves a defense, but, Mr. Brown, you have gone over the bounds of decency in your zeal to make a name for yourself,” Tamres wrote.
Many of the messages posted to the Baltimore County Police & Fire Facebook page got so ugly that they were having to be closely monitored, and all profanity and full-caps posts were being deleted, Baltimore County Fire Spokeswoman Elise Armacost told The Albuquerque Journal.
Numerous posts called for Harris to be hanged, shot, run over, and raped, The Albuquerque Journal reported.
A column titled “The online lynching of Dawnta Harris” that ran in The Baltimore Sun on May 29 lamented the demonization of the cop-killer by “electronic thugs.”
E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who is a journalist in residence at Morgan State University, compared the coverage of recent school and church shooters who were white to the angry response to cop-killer Harris.
Shipp opined that the world’s response to the senseless killing of Officer Caprio was inappropriate, and that he thought most people would agree that the situation was “awful for both families.”
“While in an ideal world race and gender would be irrelevant to any reaction to a bunch of teenagers behaving irresponsibly and triggering a tragedy, ours is far from that nirvana. And so you see in social media posts and hear in radio blather that black ‘animals’ and ‘thugs’ should die. There’s little of the reserve and concern expressed when white teenagers go on shooting sprees in the nation’s schools,” Shipp wrote.
However, a quick review of comments on articles about still-living school shooters shows hundreds to thousands of comments calling for them to be executed in a brutal manner.
At the time of this writing, a white killer is on the loose after murdering a law enforcement officer, and and top comments on those articles indicate that race isn't factored in to people's feelings on cop-killers.
Not all the newspaper’s readers were willing to allow excuses for Harris, or allow the killer's behavior to be characterized as typical irresponsible teenager.
“Throwing out the extreme and hurtful rhetoric and insults, I personally find one significant fault with this article. The phrase ‘a bunch of teenagers behaving irresponsibly and triggering a tragedy’ is, in itself, irresponsible journalism. As reported and given in confession by the young men, they were committing multiple felonies while the death of the officer occurred. How has it become so ordinary that we can call burglary, etc. as just irresponsible behavior? Does the Baltimore Sun not have editors?” asked one reader who posted a comment on Shipp’s column.
“Hey, Shippy, maybe folks are getting tired of excuses being made for criminal behaviour. Sure, some on here are filled with hate and vitriol. Most of us want him to have a fair trial, even though odds are that if he's convicted, some special interests will cry foul. There is something that was very cruel in this matter. It takes a true lack of conscience to just run someone over. Being ‘scared’ or in ‘survival mode’ does not cut it as an explanation. This murder touched a nerve... and after seeing the tactics of Dawnta's lawyers, I have a feeling the trial will be very ugly. Besmirching Officer Caprio will get them nowhere,” another reader wrote.
The Baltimore Sun also ran a column that characterized Harris as a frightened child who ran over the police officer who had stopped him by accident – exactly the message his attorneys had delivered at their press conference.
“He is being charged as an adult, but that is simply a legal fiction. Dawnta Harris is a child with all of the limitations that come with adolescence,” wrote Lila Meadows, of the University of Baltimore’s Juvenile Justice Project*,* in an opinion column titled “Dawnta Harris is a child. That matters,” which ran in The Baltimore Sun on May 24 shortly after the press conference concluded.
In her column, Meadows allowed that Officer Caprio lost her life too soon, and that emotions were running high in the wake of her death. However, she urged the community to seek “accountability that is proportional to culpability” because, of course, the cop killer was only a “child.”
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