Friday, January 21, 2011

“Our Worst Nightmare”

The law enforcement community in Miami is in shock this morning after two Miami-Dade police officers were killed in the line of duty.

Hunting a violent career criminal wanted for murder, Miami-Dade police detectives knocked on the door of a Liberty City duplex Thursday morning. The man’s mother let them in.

But Johnny Simms, a tattooed thug fresh off his most recent prison stint, refused to face justice, jumping out from another room with his pistol blazing at point-blank range.

Police bullets felled the fugitive — but not before he shot and killed veteran detectives Roger Castillo, 41, and Amanda Haworth, 44.

The career criminal’s bloody last stand rocked South Florida’s law enforcement community, which has counted six other officers killed in the line of duty in the past five years.

”I know I’m supposed to say we’re all children of God and that things happen,” said an angry and tearful Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus. ”But that guy is evil. He murdered two of my people today.”

The shooting was the first double police murder in South Florida since Miami-Dade detectives Richard Boles and David Strzalkowski were gunned down at a trailer park in 1988, and the first time a female officer was shot to death on the job in Miami-Dade.

It’s been a very difficult time for police in Miami; there have been a number of officer-involved shootings that have put the community, especially in the inner city, on edge. And this tragedy only makes it worse. As James Burnett asks in a column in the Miami Herald, there was plenty of outrage when the police shot suspects, but where is the outrage when the cops are killed?

So if shootings perceived to be unfair are what gets clergy and activists riled up in Miami these days, where were the clergy, the activists, and the all-purpose fist-shakers Thursday when two cops were gunned down? That’s about as unfair as shootings get.

I found one. Not two, not three, not a gaggle, not a handful. One preacher-activist among a dozen called and visited between the crime scene and the hospital, who was willing to say on the record that the shooting of Castillo and Haworth was heinous and preventable.

”The problem with some of my peers,” said the Rev. Jerome Starling, a pastor at Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Liberty City, ”is that they are not willing to call a spade a spade.

”Law enforcement is tasked with protecting us. They do that with the occasional exception,” Starling said. ”And yet we demonstrate no respect for them. We berate them. And we express sympathy and concern when some people are killed. But we can’t be bothered to to be bothered when police officers are killed. And that’s a shame.”

Amen. And I hold the officers, their families, and the rest of our community in the Light.