Saturday, June 13, 2015

Stephen Hunter On The Police Shooting Of Tamir Rice

Stephen Hunter, author of I. Ripper and a good number of thrillers featuring former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger, offers a piece on the police shooting of Tamir Rice for
We first got to know Stephen Hunter when he was the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post movie critic. He is best known as a successful novelist, and he happens to know a great deal about guns. I, Ripper is his new novel. Published last month, it is in bookstores now.

Here he offers his reflections on the case of Tamir Rice on the occasion of a Cleveland judge sounding off on the fate of the cop involved, as covered by NBC News. Submitted for your consideration:

We all know that the police are waging war on young black men. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the November shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland while he was holding a toy gun. A white officer emerged from his car and in less than five seconds fired lethal rounds into the innocent youngster holding–oh, wait, it was a pellet gun.

Hmmm. Seems to be some confusion here. Was it a toy gun or a pellet gun, which are quite different? Well, one place you won’t find the truth is NBC News, which tonight identified the pistol as BOTH a toy and a pellet gun, the first by anchorman Lester Holt, the second by a field correspondent. Of course both were wrong.

It was a Japanese airsoft gun., which fires (on the propulsion of either spring or gas) a 6 mm BB. But the point of airsoft isn’t what it shoots, but what it looks like. These are brilliantly accurate plastic reproductions of real guns. They are accurate to size, color, precise location and scale of operating mechanisms such as safeties or take-down levers, sights, stocks (frequently wood) and even operation. On the automatic versions the slide may be jacked backwards as on the real things, a magazine may be inserted into the butt and, when fired, the gas pneumatically drives the slide back, as if to eject a shell and allow another shell into the chamber. On the revolver variations, the cylnders rotate and may be disengaged from the frame to allow insertion of extremely authentic appearing cartridges into the six chambers. They cock and function, in all interactions, just like the real thing. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Note: I've reviewed several of Stephen Hunter's fine thrillers. You can read my Washington Times review of The Third Bullet via the below link:


  1. I wouldn't last long as a cop. If someone -- of almost any age -- pointed a gun -- of almost any variety -- at me, then I know how I would react. End of career! Cops' challenges are too little understood by almost everyone. Anyone who bitches about cops ought to ride along with an inner-city cop for a week or two.

  2. R.T.,

    Good point.

    I attended the pilot Philadelphia Civilian Police Academy for 11 weeks as a reporter for a South Philly newspaper many yeares ago. One day I took the "Fats" test, which is a video portraying various incidents and you are armed with a laser pistol.

    You have to make a call in a second and shoot or don't shoot. I did fairly well, thanks to my military background, but some shot everything that moved. Others hestiated and were shot themselves. It is a tough call, and we knew that our lives or reputations were not on the line.

    I've gone out on numerous ride-alongs with the Philadelphia Police. They face many challenges and some parts of the media and some protest groups are just waiting for a cop to make a mistake so they can pounce on them. On the other hand, there does not seem to be much notice when a young cop is killed on the job.


  3. I should have added, unlike a cop on the street, we civilian academy participants knew our lives or reputations were not on the line.