Hit and run

Deputy's firing was justified; blow to the head was not

There is disagreement in some quarters over precisely what happened when a white sheriff’s deputy struck an already prone and straddled black Augusta teen Aug. 3.

But there can be little doubt that it was a severe violation of departmental policy – and monumentally imbecilic to boot.

We can’t see that Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree had any choice but to fire the deputy, as he did Monday.

Roundtree – the county’s first black sheriff – is reportedly firm in his belief that the incident wasn’t racial. As one source told us, the department believes the fired officer, Brian McDuffie, would’ve lashed out without regard to race, after the youth ran from the scene of a reported burglary in progress.

Still, with 15-year-old Kyvan James being black and McDuffie being white – and with the nation’s current racial climate, post-Trayvon Martin – you had to know the least whiff of impropriety by the officer could become an open sore.

What horrible judgment for an officer to put himself in that position, and to put the community’s race relations at that kind of risk.

On the strength of that
hideous lack of prudence alone, the officer’s job must be in play.

We don’t for a minute buy the canard that Trayvon Martin was some kind of innocent victim. But that’s the narrative that’s been sold in most of the media, and it is sure to infect incidents such as these across the breadth of the nation.

Indeed, young Mr. James reports having feared becoming another Trayvon.

Again, we believe that fear, while quite real, is sadly misguided. Trayvon Martin’s shooter was not a trained and uniformed officer. And in the Augusta case, all evidence indicates James had nothing to do with the crime the deputies were investigating.

The boy’s family says he ran from the scene out of such fear. As we have already noted, that was the evening’s first mistake.

Yet, in that combustible atmosphere, for a 260-pound white officer – the second officer on the boy’s back, no less – to take a gratuitous shot with a flashlight at the head of a 100-pound prostrate and partially-cuffed black teenager? That’s just insane.

Some, fueled by new claims by the fired officer, are arguing that the young man – who, again was underneath the first deputy – was casting about frighteningly close to the officer’s gun. They’re saying that justified McDuffie’s blow to James’ head.

But according to our source, McDuffie never made such a claim to his own sheriff’s department investigators – and he had several chances. Our source also says neither McDuffie nor the first officer to light upon the young man reported feeling threatened in any way by him.

Officers, our source says, are taught early on that the use of an “impact” weapon such as a baton or flashlight is reserved only for times of a life-and-death struggle. The reason: Such weapons can cause serious injury or death.

In racially charged cases, they can do even more damage.

In this case, however, neither officer reported feeling such a threat.

In short, just as there’s no reason to believe Kyvan James was put-upon because he’s black, there’s no evidence the officer was fired because he’s white.

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