Oakland Firefighter Plays Victim Card Until Police Release Video

Oh, how alluring, how comforting, how most pleasing is the mantle of victimhood.  So pleasing, in fact, that even when the claim to victim status is tenuous at best, some people cannot restrain themselves from rushing before the news cameras to inform the world of how they have been mistreated.  Pátio ergo sum.  I suffer, therefore I am.

Witness the case of Keith Jones, a firefighter in Oakland, Calif., who recently had a brief but mildly tense encounter with an officer from that city’s police department.  Jones, 43, was leaving an Oakland Raiders football game on Aug. 15 with his two sons, 9 and 12.  He had parked his SUV at Fire Station 29, which is a few blocks from the Oakland Coliseum, and when he and his sons returned to the station they saw that the doors to the apparatus bay had been left open, apparently by the on-duty crew that had gone on an emergency run.  Jones, being a conscientious firefighter and good citizen, went inside to investigate.

But someone on the fire crew had realized the doors had been left open and contacted the police, asking them to secure the station until the firefighters could return.  A police service technician, i.e., an unarmed employee, arrived and saw Jones’s two sons inside the darkened station.  Believing them to be burglars, he called for officers to respond.  An officer riding alone was first to answer the call, and he handled things in the very reasonable belief that the people in the station were indeed burglars helping themselves to fire department property.

I pause here to add that Mr. Jones and his sons are black and the police officer is white, so the reader now has an idea of where the story is headed.  In Jones’s version of events, told to an overly credulous Da Lin, a reporter from local CBS affiliate KPIX, his sons were “traumatized” by the police officer, who told them to put their hands up and not to move.  “And his hand is on his gun,” Jones said in the interview, “he was crouched, he was low, and he was basically in a shooting stance.”

How one can be in a “shooting stance” with his gun still in its holster was not a question the reporter thought to ask.  But then, informing the public on the truth of what actually occurred seems to have been a subordinate goal in presenting the story, far below that of presenting yet another tale of woe from a respectable black man put upon by a racist white police officer.  “[Jones] truly believes,” says Mr. Lin introducing the story, “this happened because he was black.”

Yes, in the aftermath of Ferguson, Mo., where the “gentle giant” turned out to have been not all that gentle, Jones’s story must have been all the more compelling to those at KPIX who choose which news stories are deserving of a few minutes of their precious air time. Imagine, television viewers, not even this firefighter and his two sons could be spared from the evils of racial profiling, not even in the fire station!

But it got worse. “I was thinking is he going to shoot my dad the whole time,” said 12-year-old Keith Jones II.  And 9-year-old Trevon was even more frightened.  “I was getting ready about to cry,” he said.  “My hands started to get tired, but I kept them up.”  That heartless beast of a police officer, the viewer is saying, putting these poor children through this.  Where is Al Sharpton?  Where is Eric Holder?  Where is the FBI?  We demand action!

Alas for Mr. Jones, there will be no Al Sharpton, no Eric Holder, no FBI, and no action, for the Oakland Police Department released a video of the incident, captured on the officer’s body camera, and it confirms that though the officer was cautious and even a bit brusque at the outset, he did nothing improper during the entire incident.  Given the time of night and the lack of lighting, the video is dark and offers little in the way of clarifying images, but the sound that was recorded provides all the information one needs to know that Mr. Jones erred in playing his victim card.