With so much news coming out of Texas and Missouri lately, you might have missed the story of the fatal shooting of a 93-year-old woman by a Texas police officer in May of 2014. This incident is back in the news in part because Stephen Stem, the officer involved, was fired for his use of deadly force and is lashing out against his former department, the city council, and the media.
The shooting took place Hearne, Texas, a small economically depressed town whose big claim to fame is that it is only city to have a Wal-Mart that operated at a loss. (The retail giant eventually left because employee theft was rampant. The Wal-Mart building was converted into a high school). According to reports, a family member of the victim, Pearlie Golden, called 911 claiming that the 93-year-old was brandishing a gun.
Stem claims that when he arrived on the scene, Golden had a handgun and was repeatedly asked to drop the weapon. When she didn’t comply, Stem fired three shots. Two bullets made contact and resulted in her death.
Here is what doesn’t sit well about this incident:
The victim was 93-years-old.
The victim was black.
The victim was female.
The victim was poor.
This was Stem’s second shooting in just three years of service.
Stem claims that he was fired not because he did anything wrong, but because the city council felt pressure to respond to public outrage. At the time of the shooting, this story did not make national news, but in light of other recent shootings that sparked violent protests, and Stem’s reaction to his subsequent firing, Golden’s death is gathering more public attention.
In my opinion
If the vague reports that have been made public concerning this shooting are correct, Golden did have a gun and Stem did ask her to put it down. Theoretically, he had the right to protect himself and make sure that he was able to go home at the end of his shift. Yet something just doesn’t add up about this incident (see above).
I don’t know what the solution is, but the death of Golden only makes it more obvious that something needs to be done about the antagonistic relationship between police and the public. We need to remember that we are in control. Not the police. Their job is to keep the peace by acting as mediators and enforcing laws. With that position comes a certain amount of power that cannot be abused. If you want to become a police officer, you should be prepared to responsibly handle the power that has been given to you and to be held to the highest of standards. As civilians, we need to hold our public officials to those standards.