Greater Cincinnati State Rep.: Those Shot by Police Are "Punks"

In his monthly newsletter to constituents, Ohio State Rep. John Becker said that those shot by police are to blame for their fates, even if they aren't armed

click to enlarge State Rep. John Becker - Ohio House of Representatives
Ohio House of Representatives
State Rep. John Becker

Ohio Rep. John Becker, a Republican representing Clermont County, today in a newsletter to constituents said that he's fed up with police being blamed for officer-involved shootings of minors.

"'I've about had it with all of the finger pointing at law enforcement officers after shooting a punk in self-defense," Becker writes in his monthly "Becker Report," listing off hypothetical situations and objections to his point of view before seeming to zero in on a recent incident in which Cincinnati Police tased an 11-year-old girl who had stolen chips and soda from a local Kroger.  

Police shootings of unarmed individuals, especially unarmed black citizens, have been a focus of ire and media attention since the police shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in 2014. Since that time, a number of cases have caused public outcry, including the shooting death of Cincinnati resident Sam Dubose, John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

It's unclear which police shootings Becker is referring to in his remarks. Becker mentions a case in which someone is shot for having a pellet gun, however, perhaps a reference to a recent officer-involved shooting in Walnut Hills. In that case, an officer shot a man after he reached for the officer's taser and produced what appeared to be a firearm. It later turned out to be a pellet gun.

Other high-profile cases, including Rice's and Crawford's, also involved pellet guns. Rice was just 12 years old when he was killed by an officer while playing with a toy gun at a park. Crawford was shot and killed while standing in a Walmart holding a pellet gun over his shoulder that he got off a shelf at the store.

"Do you expect a police officer to bet his life on that? Not me. I would have shot him too," Becker wrote. "Or maybe the punk wasn't armed but the officer mistakenly thought that he was. Well, that's unfortunate but should the cop be charged with a criminal offense when he acted in good faith?

Becker continues, calling a hypothetical person shot by police a "dead punk" and listing off more hypothetical objections to his statements.

" 'Hey Becker, you wouldn't be saying that if it were your kid lying dead in a pool of blood,' " he writes. "That might be true, but rather than blaming the cop, I'd be blaming myself and endlessly soul searching to figure out how I failed as a parent and why my kid grew up to be a punk."

The self-described "pro-life, pro-gun, limited government" advocate does get a little more specific midway through his newsletter, touching on the tasing of an 11-year-old by a CPD officer at Kroger earlier this summer. That incident triggered an investigation by CPD and an apology from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.

"We are extremely concerned when force is used by one of our officers on a child of this age," CPD Chief Eliot Isaac wrote in a statement following the incident. "As a result we will be taking a very thorough review of our policies as it relates to use of force on juveniles as well as the propriety of our officer's actions."

Becker has a different take.

"My response would be to march the kid back into the store to pay for the pilfered items and apologize to the management," he writes. "Next, the kid will apologize to the security guard for failing to comply and forcing him to use his taser. And then I'll deal with the kid after we get home... I'd be ashamed and embarrassed that she did something stupid enough to get herself tased."

Becker's Democrat opponent in the November election, Patricia Lawrence, seized on the comments today.

"Every American has a right to a fair trial and due process under the law," she wrote in a statement. "John Becker's comments show not only a lack of respect for the US constitution, but a lack of respect for human life. No human being deserves to die on the street without a chance to defend their actions. And no human being has the power to decide in a chaotic moment that an alleged crime is punishable by death."Police shootings are sometimes necessary to save lives or prevent violence, but they are always a tragedy, and must always be a last resort."