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Officers wait–and wait–at Uvalde.
credit: uvaldepd

In a comment in response to School Attacks 2022, Part 4: We’re On Our Ownregular reader/commenter optimisticallypessimistic wrote:

Mike, what are your thoughts for how parents of children in the school should respond to police cordoning off an active shooter to wait for the shooter to run out of ammunition/victims?

In Self-Defense In A World Gone Mad, back in June of 2021, I addressed a number of the issues pertinent to optimisticallypessimistic’s question, including the elements necessary for the lawful application of the use of deadly force.  By all means, take the link and read that article, ideally before continuing with this article.  Also take this link to an article by the invaluable Victor Davis Hanson on our two—and more—tiered system of justice, which in about half of the country is actually a system of social justice–political retribution.

In a rule of law system, the police have broad powers, and may use whatever force is necessary to make a lawful arrest.  Citizens may lawfully resist an unlawful arrest, but that’s always dangerous—citizens usually don’t know the law or what the police know or have been told–and courts may not agree with their actions later.  Better to go along and argue later in court.  At a school attack, the courts are virtually always going to agree with a police force when they prevent anyone from entering the perimeter as they deal with the attack.

Let’s examine the case of Angeli Rose Gomez at Uvalde.  The SMM Uvalde archive is here.  As what would eventually be around 376 police officers arrived at the school, many parents also arrived, and noticing little or nothing was being done to evacuate children, or to stop the killer, became very angry.  They demanded the police do something, and they did: they pepper sprayed, tased, restrained and handcuffed the parents, including Gomez, a tiny woman.

Gomez knew a Uvalde officer and was able to talk him into letting her go.  She moved out of sight, jumped the fence, went inside and rescued her two children.  Other parents helped children escape through classroom windows. Gomez:

‘Message to the cops: turn in your badge, this isn’t the job for you, you aren’t willing to protect and serve. If you can’t own up to your job, turn in your badge. You let everyone down,’ Gomez told Fox News Digital. ‘All need to turn in their badge. All the cops mistreating us outside need to be punished. If they would’ve just left all the parents would’ve done way more than they would’ve done.’

‘I don’t know where I got that bravery,’ she added. ‘I just kept thinking I am not going to stand here and wait for my kids to die and wait for them to tell me hours later that my kid is dead.’

Angeli Gomez and her children

After the incident, some police officers harassed and threatened Gomez:

Gomez claimed she got a call from someone in law enforcement, who said if she kept speaking out about the botched police response to the massacre, she’d be charged with a probation violation for obstruction of justice, CBS News reported.

Fortunately, she has not been charged:

After she shared her story with reporters, she got the threatening call, dangling charges that could upend her probation related to charges filed more than a decade ago.

But Gomez said the judge overseeing her probation told her she did not face new legal problems and that her bravery would be rewarded with a shortened probation.

In this case, a variety of factors were involved.  As is now known, the police response was entirely incompetent.  No one knew who was in charge and the many agencies present were apparently trying not to step on each other’s toes. It was almost certainly because of this confusion Gomez was able to get into the school and rescue her two children.

Because Texas is a red state and the rule of law still applies—Austin and Houston being at least partial exceptions—officers who threatened Gomez were forced to stand down.  They must have realized the backlash for prosecuting a woman who did nothing but save her children while they so utterly failed would have been more than they could handle.  After all, the final, state level, investigation is ongoing and no one in law enforcement knows how much of the blame they’re going to have to bear, so cooler heads probably prevailed and they’re all keeping their heads down.  They were embarrassed and angered by their own fecklessness, but understood the consequences for taking their anger out on Gomez would have been horrific.  In red states, the police still must take into consideration public opinion.

One thing people can do is always congratulate the police when they do it right, and offer constructive, polite, but unrelenting criticism when they do it wrong.  Demand they obey the law and their own policies and procedures (they all have those–get a copy).  Police response to that will reveal if they’re public servants or consider themselves the masters of the public.

For the moment, the Uvalde non-response seems to have been a bizarre anomaly, yet it left most Americans with a nagging doubt.  In this era of the Ferguson Effect writ large, where competent officers are fleeing the profession, prosecutors are more likely to prosecute the police than violent felons, and many of those that remain are doing as little as possible, is Uvalde the wave of the future?  Can citizens any longer expect the police to effectively respond to school attacks?

As I’ve so often written, we really are on our own.  The police have no obligation to protect any individual.  This sounds crazy until one realizes if the police could be sued for failing to protect people, what city could afford a police force?  Who would become a police officer knowing they’d spend every dime of their princely salaries fending off never-ending lawsuits?  That said, all professional, moral officers do feel an obligation to protect the people they can reasonably protect.  The unprofessional, immoral…?

What does this mean for a parent rushing to their child’s school, finding a perimeter of police officers “containing” a school shooter?  Police officers, particularly if they think lives are at stake, are going to be very aggressive about stopping people who might interfere with them.  They are always sensitive to threats to their authority.  Every jurisdiction has laws that allow the arrest of anyone interfering with police officers, and “interference” is generally broadly defined.  Judges in such situations, particularly if the police are eventually shown to have acted properly and professionally, are virtually always going to side with the police.

Sadly, circa September 2022, Americans have to reckon with a multi-tiered system of justice.  Where the rule of law holds sway—blue states with a few exceptions—citizens will normally experience the traditional American justice system of equal justice for all.  Probable cause is required for arrest, the police won’t engage in political vendettas–they don’t have the time, inclination or manpower to pursue people just because they don’t like them–and Americans can count on having their civil rights respected (yes, I know: there are exceptions).

Even in red states, one can expect to be arrested and ardently prosecuted if they try to rescue their own children, even if it appears the police are doing nothing.

In blue states, social justice tends to rule.  Actual criminals are not prosecuted and are loosed on Normal Americans, while the only “crimes” prosecutors pursue with fervor are those of people who run afoul of the political commissars of the ruling uniparty.  In such places, one can also expect to be arrested and prosecuted, but conditions of bail, incarceration and sentences, when one is inevitably convicted regardless of the evidence, will not conform to the Constitution, but to the ever-shifting mandates of social justice.  An offense that might result in nothing more than a small fine in a red state can easily turn into a ruinous fine and a long jail term in a blue state.  In such places, one can never know exactly what is against the law and what the penalty will be.  Yes, such “laws” are void for vagueness.  Any law the average citizen can’t read  and know what is and isn’t illegal is unconstitutional.  But in blue states, that’s the point.  If people can’t know what’s illegal, or which never-enforced laws will be selectively enforced, they have a strong incentive to shut up and keep their heads down, to obey their self-imagined betters without complaint.

Here, gentle readers, is our quandary.  When government refuses to uphold its part of the social contract, when it takes power on loan from the public and abuses it, when the rule of law is gone, or best case, uncertain, what is the honest, normally law-abiding citizen to do?  When any reasonable person would believe their children’s lives are in imminent danger and the police, such as they are, are doing nothing, what is that reasonable citizen to do?

Ms. Gomez was able to take advantage of what we all hope was a once-in-a-millennia aberration to rescue her children.  Normal Americans legitimately see her as heroic, a woman to be praised and emulated.   I suspect some other parents were able to do the same at Uvalde, but one local police officer was not so fortunate.  He was called by his wife, a teacher at the school, who told him she had been shot.   He rushed to the school and was forcibly disarmed and removed by other officers.  She bled out and died in an ambulance while hundreds of cops from multiple agencies did nothing, though they got to get out their cool rifles and other tacticool gear.

There is no easy answer. Every situation, every jurisdiction, is different.  Mrs. Manor, who knows the nature of police officers, police training, and the politics that enable and constrain the police well, has often told me if she’s in a hostage situation, she wouldn’t trust anyone but me to rescue her.  Whether I’d get the chance is another matter.

If one were able to get past the police without their knowledge, as Gomez did, and managed to rescue their children and/or neutralize the threat, the authorities in a rule of law state would be hard pressed to prosecute.  However, if one with the best intentions in any way made mistakes, or if things could be twisted by angry and vindictive cops and politicians to make it seem they did, they would certainly not breathe free air for many, many years.  In a social justice state, political concerns would rule, and it’s hard to tell exactly what would happen, though were one a white male, it’s a virtual certainty an entire library of books would be thrown at them.  An entirely politicized federal justice system can also be expected to step in to prosecute even if local jurisdictions refuse.

Should our union continue to deteriorate, citizens may well find themselves having to personally uphold the rule of law.  In any case keep in mind the state at every level is jealous of its power, and will respond forcefully to any threat, real or imagined.  Government has no conscience and cares nothing for the rights of any individual, which one may discover when they attempt to demand government respect those rights.

Are there politicians and other governmental employees who recognize the importance of upholding the Constitution and the rule of law? Certainly.  The problem is, when things are falling apart, how do you recognize them?  Should one do what is right, what is moral, even if it may be against the law, and isn’t that the definition of courage, even character?