2009-12-04 / Editorial/Opinion

Calm Follows Police Shooting Of Gun-Toting Teen

In 1972, New York City police officers fired 2,510 shots at civilians, something of a record, even for this then drug-crazed city. In 2008, there were 105 incidents of police shooting at civilians. Such incidents, whether the thousands throughout the 1970s or the hundreds last year, typically draws a loud reaction from the community in which the shooting takes place and from a wider community that often includes the Reverend Al Sharpton joining state and local politicians in condemnation of the police for "assassinating" young men. There has been none of that condemnation, however, following the shooting of 18-year-old Dashawn Vasconcellos by police officers after the Rockaway teen allegedly pointed a gun at a 101 Precinct crime team. The three cops fired 15 shots at Vasconcellos, hitting him 11 times. Yet, there has been calm in the Far Rockaway community. Sharpton has not been heard from at all. Perhaps he is busy with his reality television show. None of the politicians who easily complain about police brutality in the Far Rockaway community have come forward. Not State Senator Malcolm Smith nor City Councilman James San ders Jr. who regularly complain that Far Rockaway youth are mistreated by the police even as Far Rockaway youth die at the hands of their neighbors. Perhaps, they have learned a lesson from the past. Vasconcellos was carrying an illegal handgun. That gun had been "defaced," meaning the gun's identifying serial number had been filed off to keep officials from tracing the weapon. Only criminals deface their weapons. He ran when faced with a simple police stop and frisk as he exited Bayswater Park, which at night becomes a place to buy illegal drugs. It was tragic that Vasconcellos died that night, but he did everything wrong. Perhaps the community forces that always excoriate the police and elevate the person that the police were forced to shoot have come to the understanding that gun use in Far Rockaway has become a plague that takes only their own. Of those who were intentionally shot by police last year, 25 of them faced the police officers with a loaded weapon. Five others pulled knives or other edged weapons and refused to drop them when ordered to do so. Another three tried to run the officers over with an automobile. Police should not draw their weapons lightly, but pointing a weapon at a police officer is never a good idea.

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