Misplaying the race card

Last Saturday afternoon, an 84-year-old woman was stabbed in Providence, Rhode Island by a would-be purse snatcher. A suspect — one 26-year-old Esteban Carpio — was brought in for questioning. And during the questioning, Carpio allegedly overpowered Detective James Allen, took his gun, shot him dead, and jumped out a third-floor window to escape. He was caught a short time later.

When Carpio was brought into court on Monday, he was wearing a plastic mask that covered his face from the eyes down. Officials called it a “spit shield” and said it was used to prevent prisoners from spitting on officers. His family saw his bruised, swollen eyes and scratches and immediately started screaming that he had been “savagely beaten” by police. Officials say that Carpio had injured himself leaping from the window and had also “violently resisted arrest.”

While the police were preparing to bury their brother (Detective Sargeant James Allen was 50, a 27-year-old veteran of the force, and leaves a wife and two daughters), the vultures were already circling. People were already alleging “police brutality” and “racism.”

Massachusetts Senator Dianne Wilkerson (and I have NO idea how this came to her official attention) went on a Boston talk show and said she had received e-mails saying that Carpio had been put into the conference room with Allen for beating, and “the only way he could see to get out of there” was to kill the officer and jump out the 30-foot-high window. The FBI has announced that it wants to speak with the Providence PD about their handling of Carpio. And after the Providence chapter of the NAACP met last night to discuss the situation, the New England NAACP is calling for an FBI investigation into the arrest of Carpio.

This one element, more than any other, infuriates me. There is absolutely NO reason to be playing the race card here. Carpio (allegedly) stabbed an 84-year-old woman in the back, (allegedly) attacked a police officer in a police station, (allegedly) shot and killed him with the officer’s own weapon, and (allegedly) jumped out a third-floor window to escape.

It’s an informal law that cop killers do not get treated with kid gloves. It’s simple self-defense. If the police — who are armed and trained in the use of force — are not safe, then none of us are safe. Anyone who is willing and able to take on a police officer is more than capable (and likely) to go after any of us. And there’s also plenty of evidence that the jump from the window could have caused most of Carpio’s injuries.

Yeah, I think color played a role in Carpio’s case. Two colors — the blue of Allen’s uniform, and the red of his blood staining that uniform. Those and no other.

Anyone who thinks that there was a racial element in the particulars of his arrest had damned well be better to explain how his treatment wouldn’t have been as severe had he been white. I think not, and I base my opinion on two facts:

On Monday, Carpio appeared in court. He walked in under his own power, and could speak clearly through the spit shield. If those police really wanted to punish him, he probably wouldn’t have been able to do either less than 36 hours after his apprehension. Hell, he might not have even been alive, had the police truly wanted to extract vengeance for Detective Sargeant Kelly.

I’m just glad this happened in Rhode Island. Rhode Island still has a death penalty.

J.

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11 Comments

  1. Matt April 22, 2005
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