Middleton, 60, of the 200 block of Shadow Lawn Lane in Warrington, was shot in the leg about 2:42 a.m. Saturday while trying to retrieve a cigarette from his mother’s car in the driveway of their home. A neighbor saw someone reaching into the car and called 911. While he was looking into the vehicle, deputies arrived in response to the burglary call. Middleton said he was bent over in the car searching the interior for a loose cigarette when he heard a voice order him to, “Get your hands where I can see them.” He said he initially thought it was a neighbor joking with him, but when he turned his head he saw deputies standing halfway down his driveway. He said he backed out of the vehicle with his hands raised, but when he turned to face the deputies, they immediately opened fire. “It was like a firing squad,” he said. “Bullets were flying everywhere.”Of course, there are two sides to every story. While I'm inclined to believe Mr. Middleton, who didn't get to be 60 years old by not knowing how to act around police, even if you take the cops at their word, backed up by the neighbor who called them in the first place, this is still a ridiculous story, redeemed only by Middleton's miraculous survival:
(Escambia County Sheriff David) Morgan said the deputies reported that, after they'd made multiple commands to Middleton to show his hands, he eventually lunged out of the car and spun toward them, causing them to "fear for their safety." "As much as we are trained and as much as officers -- which have Type A personalities -- like to say we are in control, we are not," Morgan said at the conference.Unfortunately, no video of the incident is available, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the terrifying "lunge" maneuver, here's a visual aid that might help:
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan held a surreal press conference on Monday, which included his assertion that Middleton (to whom he referred as the "suspect, or victim) didn't show both of his hands even after the deputies shot him, because nothing improves your ability to respond to commands like being shot twice. When Morgan explained that Middleton said he thought it was a neighbor playing a joke on him, he added "I don't know why," omitting the end of the sentence "maybe because he was in his own driveway doing nothing wrong?" But the best (or worst) part of the press conference was when Morgan inexplicably tried to challenge Middleton's claim that he didn't know they were cops right away by observing that the deputies were "dressed as law enforcement officers," and were "illuminated," and plainly visible to the neighbor who was looking at them, and to Middleton after he had exited the car. A reporter asked Morgan if it's possible that when the deputies first began shouting at Middleton, while he was in the car and had his back to them, that he didn't see them. "Anything's possible," Morgan replied. Cue Rod Serling.
There are many questions that remain in this case, such as how the deputies managed to show up before Roy Middleton could even find his cigarette. If this had happened in Detroit, he could have died of cancer before the cops showed up. But the real burning issue here is what the black community, or black culture, did to get Roy Middleton shot. He's 60 years old, so he doesn't pass the Mark Omara/Washington Post/Geraldo Rivera "young black man" test, no matter how good he looks for his age. I'm not sure if he was wearing a hoodie or sagging pants, but surely that glaring red flag would have made it somewhere into the reporting. The reports don't say if Middleton was born out of wedlock, but even so, 60 years is an awful long time for that chicken to come home to roost. Roy Middleton himself, however, is described as a "married father of two," so surely he gets some credit for that. He doesn't appear to have used the n-word, or been listening to any rap music at the time of the shooting, although the deputies were apparently engaged in a performance art rendition of 911 Is A Joke. He was inside his mother's car, so the only littering that occurred was the deputies' discharge of 15 shell casings, which I'm sure they picked up after. In fact, Roy Middleton didn't even live in a black community. The 15,000-member Warrington community he belongs to is 72% white, just like America. Maybe that was his mistake? The deputies who shot Roy Middleton have been placed on paid leave pending an investigation, so we'll see if that "lunging" defense holds up, but the fact is that it doesn't matter how slowly, deliberately, or unarmedly a black man gets out of a car, all a cop has to do is think (or say) he "lunged." Roy Middleton said he thought a neighbor was playing a joke on him, and although he wasn't that far off the mark, it's not a "ha-ha"-funny joke. The neighbor who called the police on him had lived in the neighborhood for about a month, according to Sheriff Morgan, but in the end, it was Roy Middleton who was judged not to belong there. That's the joke, that whether you live in a black community or a white one, whether you engage in all that black culture pant-sagging and n-word-using and Skittle-buying or not, if you're black in America, there are people with guns who will think you don't belong, and you can die for that.