Death Becomes Us

"Anything to help a kid along, he went the extra mile." -- Fellow black officer outside Police Officer Kevin Crayon's Sept. 6 visitation The above quote is damage control if ever I've heard it. S

Jul 14, 2000 at 2:06 pm

"Anything to help a kid along, he went the extra mile."

— Fellow black officer outside Police Officer Kevin Crayon's Sept. 6 visitation

The above quote is damage control if ever I've heard it. Sincere and ironic, no doubt, but damage control nonetheless.

In fact, nearly every word publicly uttered and written since 12-year-old Courtney Mathis dragged Officer Kevin Crayon to his death and was shot to death by Crayon has been little more than a sick sundae of damage control topped by flakes of news bytes.

There have been countless press conferences held by all sides concerned, including one by Crayon's family during which his sister gave a poignant and moving portrayal of Crayon as a father, brother, husband and son.

I felt bamboozled. Then again, I guess I shouldn't have expected the sister mourning the death of her brother's highly publicized death to own up to the fact that Crayon acted rashly and prematurely.

Had one of my brothers been in a similar situation, I now feel comfortable and confident in saying I'd first have to own up to the mistakes that took him away from us before I could publicly honor the man. C'mon, people! It's called accountability.

I'm not trivializing Crayon's life or his personal legacy, but the officer acted so irresponsibly that it's truly heartbreaking and even baffling.

Add to that the speculation as to what would have happened had Crayon not tried to reach inside the maroon Ford Taurus to thwart Mathis from illegally driving out of the parking lot of that United Dairy Farmers, and what do you get?

Mass confusion, cynicism and gaping holes where two black men — one an established family man, the other a young life with infinite potential — used to stand.

Should Crayon, who ordered Mathis several times to stop, have reached inside the car? Absolutely not. If a 12-year-old kid is driving around, he's undoubtedly high strung and will react likewise.

This isn't the movies, and judging by Crayon's picture, he wasn't Clint Eastwood, so he should have left the heroics for Hollywood. From what I've heard, police aren't trained to jump in through the windows of moving cars. That's left to their discretion, but Cincinnati cops seem to like to do that. Why?

Should Crayon, who was dragged by Mathis more than 800 feet, have pulled his service revolver and shot the kid in the chest?

Again, no. In hindsight, however, who's to know what Crayon — who no doubt saw his life, his family and his career scraping by in the pavement beneath his body — was thinking in those last moments? Perhaps he thought he'd shoot out a tire. What he ended up doing was shooting out a future. Two, actually.

But neither mourning family needs to hold another press conference. No, we don't need anymore follow-ups, no "year after" pieces. Let these families rest in peace.

What we do need are detailed explanations from the Cincinnati Police Division explaining how it trains its cops. Further, the division needs to let us know if the collective mental and emotional temperature of its force is taken after such a debacle.

Are cops told to calm down after an incident like this or are they, like Mathis, jumpy and paranoid?

And why, for God's sake, have the streets of this city been turned into the Wild West? There are too many cops grabbing their weapons. It's almost as though they're told at the Police Academy to shoot first, hold a press conference later.

Wait a second. OK, I'm back. I had to peel the target off my back.

Right now I fear for my two young nephews. God forbid should they ever stray from their parents' Christian love and guidance and do something as stupid and reckless as Mathis. If they did, would a cop also panic and take them out?

Would we be holding a press conference outside my brother's home to explain, puffy-eyed and broken-hearted, what "good boys" they were? I certainly hope not.

What this all comes down to is that young lives aren't expendable and, once again, black folks are afraid to say when one of us has messed up. Meanwhile, white folks are just glad it wasn't a white cop pulling the trigger. Who needs that?

If Crayon, who was a father, had been thinking clearly, he'd have treated Mathis just as he'd have wanted another cop to treat his own children. And everyone still would be alive.