News & Politics

Here's a Shooting of an Unarmed Young Man That You Haven't Heard About

In recent days, police have been taken to task for shooting two unarmed young black men — one from Baton Rouge and another from Minnesota.

These are horrible tragedies and the accompanying videos of both killings appear to put the police in the worst possible light. There doesn’t appear to be any justification for the use of deadly force.

The killings have outraged the country. But there was another tragedy in Fresno on June 25 that involved the police firing on an unarmed man that has barely registered a blip on the media radar.

Why haven’t we heard about that one? Simply, and sadly stated, because the victim was white.

The Los Angeles Times spends 1100 words on the release of a cell phone video of the shooting without once mentioning the race of the victim, although when the paper mentions the Confederate flags at a demonstration you get the picture. Meanwhile, President Obama stands before the country and makes sure that the public knows that the victims of the other shootings were black.

Does it really matter? Should we be more outraged if the victim of an unjustified police shooting is black?

In Fresno, the tragedy is no less poignant because the victim — Dylan Noble — happens to be white.

Dyer said Noble twice raised his shirt with his left hand and used his right hand to reach under his shirt into his waistband. The officers, he said, feared for their lives.

Officers warned Noble not to reach into his waistband because they believed he was trying to retrieve a firearm, Dyer said.

That’s when an officer fired two shots with his handgun. Those shots, he said, are not depicted in the witness video. The officer then fired another shot. A second officer delivered the fourth and final shot, firing one round from a shotgun.

The video, Dyer said, doesn’t tell the whole story of the shooting, which lasted about 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

The officers’ body cameras will show exactly what happened, since they were standing 12 to 15 feet away, he said.

The department will review the officers’ actions to determine why they fired at Noble while he was on the ground and if there were other options, he said. Officers have to make split-second decisions, he noted.

“There is going to be questions,” he said.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney general’s office have agreed to investigate the shooting and will have access to all evidence, Dyer said. The chief said he didn’t want the public to think the police department isn’t “fair and objective” in its handling of the investigation and that FBI oversight would provide more transparency.

The request came after Dyer said he learned Noble was unarmed and noticed the community’s perception of the shooting was unfavorable.

Next page: See the video for yourself. 

The eyewitness testimony suggests this may have been a “suicide by cop” attempt by the victim:

Lt. Burke Farrah said Noble refused to show his hands and tried to conceal one hand behind his back, then in his waistband. Noble, he said, got out of his truck.

Officers repeatedly ordered Noble to show his hands and get on the ground. That’s when Noble turned toward the officers with one hand still behind his back, telling them that “he hated his life,” Farrah said. Police said Noble advanced toward officers, who then fired four shots. Farrah told The Times that Noble did not have a weapon.

Noble was taken to an area hospital and died during surgery.

The circumstances were slightly different in the shootings involving the black victims, but the injustice is the same. Is this injustice less egregious because it involved a white man? Some activists would have us believe that.

A recent study by a researcher at John Jay School of Criminal Justice shows that more whites are killed by police than blacks, but that coverage of minority deaths is far more extensive. We are appropriately concerned about all of these tragedies because they involve our first line of defense against criminals who would do us harm and because they raise serious questions about the competence of the police.

But giving greater weight to an incident involving a police shooting because of the color of the victim’s skin only serves the political agenda of activists, and doesn’t bring us any closer to answers.