Run for your lives

By most accounts he wasn’t a nice man. Jeffrey Jacob Scott was a drifter and he’d been accused of breaking the law. But his big mistake in life was running away from deputies who were in an agitated state and carrying loaded guns. His mistake led to a death penalty.

Scott was officially wanted on suspicion of breaking the law, and for that he was killed by Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputies. Worse yet, no one on the department seems to have a problem with that.

Why should they? The Sacramento police department cleared its officers of killing the unarmed Donald Venerable Jr. who, unlike Scott, reportedly was a nice man, but was guilty of carrying a cell phone. After review, it appears that in Sacramento the message to law enforcement this summer is obvious: Don’t worry about killing unarmed people; you’ll be cleared by your bosses and prosecutors.

Scott was holed up in a Citrus Heights duplex when he was surrounded by deputies with an arrest warrant for assault. There were rumors of drug use and a more serious crime spree, so the SWAT team invaded the neighborhood. But that didn’t stop Scott from bolting out of a garage.

The deputies did the instinctive thing and just opened fire on the fleeing Scott, thereby acting as judge, jury and executioners. As Scott ran across the street the deputies opened up. Three bullets hit a wall (children were playing on the other side), and two rounds killed Scott. The Sheriff’s department said he was a possible “threat,” so it was OK to kill him.

In most communities in this country, this kind of indiscriminate use of deadly force would be an outrage. Here it has become a matter of course.

Last week the city of Sacramento cleared the officers who gunned down Venerable. Witnesses say that Venerable told the police he was unarmed, while other witnesses say he pulled a cell phone out of his pocket. Either way, trained professionals should not have gunned him down.

Without saying there was anything wrong with killing Venerable, city officials simply said some placating things about possibly changing procedures regarding demands cops make at the scene. How about demanding that the police not shoot unarmed citizens?

The so-called Police Accountability Director, who works for the city administration, simply said he thought the killing could have been prevented. Really? Why not say the cops were wrong to kill an unarmed man. Doesn’t that have to do with accountability?

The other big finding was that race was not a factor. This is not as reassuring as city officials hoped it would sound. Venerable’s race didn’t matter. Neither did Scott’s. The message is clear: Police will shoot unarmed people no matter what the color of their skin, and get away with it.