Friday, January 6, 2012


An unfortunate tragedy occurred when police responded to a Lockdown incident at Cummings Middle School in South Texas. The shooting happened during first period at the school in Brownsville, a city at Texas' southern tip just across the Mexican border. Responding officers were required to shoot an eighth grade student who was holding a weapon.
The fifteen year old student, Jaime Gonzalez, had assaulted a fellow student and pulled a black pistol (see picture above) triggering the Lockdown response by school authorities. Jaime had walked into a classroom and punched a boy in the nose for no apparent reason. Police did not know why he pulled out the weapon, but "we think it looks like this was a way to bring attention to himself."  Teachers were notified over the school intercom that the school was on lockdown. They locked classroom doors and turned off lights, and some frightened students dove under their desks. They could hear police charge down the hallway. Students described the panic they felt during the lockdown. Renee Almazon, 15, crouched with her teacher and classmates away from all windows and doors. "We all moved to the corner where they couldn't see us," she said. Her teacher kept telling the class, "This is a real thing,"

A recording of police radio traffic posted on TV website indicates that officers responding to the school believed the teen had a handgun. An officer is heard describing the teen's clothes and appearance, saying he's "holding a handgun, black in color." The officer also said that from the front door, he could see the boy in the school's main office.  The student continued to brandish the weapon while police arrived and police repeatedly instructed him to drop the weapon which he failed to comply. The police were required to shoot him for their safety and the safety of others. Officers shot the teen with assault rifles, the interim police chief said. Unfortunately the boy died and his weapon turned out to be a replica (see picture above) Glock pellet gun. About 20 minutes elapsed between police receiving a call about an armed student and shots being fired, according to police and student accounts. Authorities declined to share what the boy said before he was shot. Police Chief Rodriguez said the teen was pointing the weapon at officers and "had plenty of opportunities to lower the gun and listen to the officers' orders, and he didn't want to." The chief said his officers had every right to do what they did to protect themselves and other students even though there weren't many others in the hallway at the time. Police said officers fired three shots.

Parents Reaction: Jaime’s distraught parents demanded to know why police took lethal action against their son. "Why was so much excess force used on a minor?" the boy's father, Jaime Gonzalez Sr., asked The Associated Press outside the family's home Wednesday night. "Three shots. Why not one that would bring him down?"  Then she flipped through three close-up photos she took of bullet wounds in her son's body. "What happened was an injustice," she said angrily. "I know that my son wasn't perfect, but he was a great kid." Jaime had gunshot wounds on his shoulder and rib cage, and one in the back of his head. "That's the shot that bothers me the most," Jaime Gonzalez Sr. said to The Brownsville Herald.

The officers will be placed on leave, a normal procedure in this type of event. Students, who were bused to another high school after the incident to meet their parents, Administrators said the school would be closed Thursday but students would be able to attend classes at a new elementary school that isn't being used.

Superintendent Carl Montoya remembered Gonzalez as "a very positive young man… Just something unfortunately happened today that caused his behavior to go the way it went. So I don't know," he said Wednesday. Gonzalez Sr. said he had no idea where his son got the gun or why he brought it to school, adding: "We wouldn't give him a gift like that." 

The Associated Press and The Brownsville Herald contributed to this report.

Points For Discussion: 
  • While this is certainly a tragedy, if ANYONE in a school commits a violent act and then brandishes a weapon (real or a realistic replica) causing a LOCKDOWN which then triggers an emergency law enforcement response (active shooter or hostage situation), and that individual refuses to put the weapon down when directed by police, they will be shot, and if shot, they stand a good chance of being killed.
  • Many school shootings are over in the first few minutes before law enforcement arrives adding to the sense of urgency by law enforcement.
  • Where did the boy get the replica pellet gun from? Why did he bring it to school?  Who else knew he had it?
  • If this young man brought the replica gun to school to get attention, he did, and the replica gun put his own life at risk, and his failure to comply with armed officers cost him his own life.
  • All students KNOW any weapon or something that looks like a weapon is FORBIDDEN to be brought into a school for this very reason.
  • When Law Enforcement tells you to do something requiring them to draw a baton, taser, or firearm, YOU DO IT. You can ask questions later, complain, or make a complaint if you feel justified, but YOU COMPLY, especially in an emergency.
  • After the fact, hindsight can appear to be 20/20 but unless YOU have ever responded in-extremis to a life threatening situation requiring the use of deadly force with even a rudimentary understanding of terminal ballistics, then you shouldn't second guess the police.
  • This shooting like all shootings will be professionally investigated and the results and actions will be reviewed and disseminated.   

Final Comment: I feel sorry for the young loss of life (although understandable under these circumstances) and for the law enforcement professionals that were required to use deadly force because they faced a threat to the safety of the school community and their fellow officers. My prayers go out to his family and the law enforcement officials (and their families) who will bear the burden of what happened. God Bless.  

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