by Scott Creighton
“Uh, when those deputies go into that water, up to their knees and it’s all sludge and weeds.. uh… they don’t need to die over it” Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
When I moved my mother into my apartment on April 2 of this year, I was talking to a neighbor (who helped us with his van) about a local story regarding 3 teenagers who were killed when the stolen car they were driving crashed into a retention pond in the middle of the night after fleeing from police. All three of those children drowned.
My neighbor, a good Christian man who attends church services several times a week, said it served them right. They got what they deserved for stealing a car.
I asked him if he knew that two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One on is right, one on his left. He didn’t seem to understand the point I was making.
We don’t commit thieves to the electric chair in this country. We should when they are thieves of the Goldman Sachs caliber, but we don’t. Instead, apparently some of our politicians attend various functions of theirs and get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars of some of that stolen money for giving them a little speech. That’s how it works here.
My neighbor was adamant… they should have been at home in bed instead of out stealing cars and none of this would have happened.
Kids. That’s the Christian proclamation on the big story of the month down here in Florida land. They stole a car and got what they deserved.
Of course, they were all girls. Teenage girls. Black, teenage girls to be more specific. Did I mention that part?
As the story unfolded in the press, it turns out that the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office claims they did everything possible to rescue those girls from the sinking stolen vehicle.
Well, they did everything possible short of getting their shirts wet. After all, “they don’t need to die over it”, right sheriff?
According to Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, some of his officers stripped off their utility belts and some of their uniforms and went in after the children in the dark murky water that night. He said they made a heroic effort to save them and pointed to the officer’s official statements as proof of that claim.
Then a video surfaced which appeared to show no one actually going into the water as officers noted they could hear screaming coming from the car. Later, the screaming stopped and another officer said they were dead.
This has ignited a firestorm on Facebook and Twitter. People are angry that professional public servants did nothing to assist those teenage children as they drowned not 30 feet from them in the pond that early morning.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave a press conference the other day on the 22nd in which he scolded the “irresponsible rhetoric” of social media and some press outlets for promoting the story that the officers did nothing and that his office lied about their initial response. He was visibly angry.
And in that anger his statements make it very clear. There is no photographic or video evidence of any of the Pinellas County officers getting into that water in order to save the lives of those Pinellas County residents.
What he does make clear if you listen to his statement (video below) are four things:
- some officers stripped off their equipment and started into the water but as they waded in, it was too muddy and the water too dark for them to feel they could safely continue
- the sheriff actually says the dive team member who was there said it the conditions were too bad to go any deeper
- the sheriff is angry that we don’t all take whatever the police say in their reports as the gospel truth
- he clearly believes the black teenage children got what they deserved for stealing a car
Essentially what happened was, they got their shoes wet or they went in up to their knees perhaps, before turning around and giving up.
That’s kind of a legalese if you ask me. Yes, they stripped off their equipment and went in… but not really.
Remember, these are public servants there to serve and protect (or have we given up on that fairy tale by now?) and these are screaming children, drowning in a car. And a decision was made en masse that it was too risky to attempt a rescue.
Frankly I don’t think that grounds to sue the PCSO or the attending officers.
I would like to think one or more of them would have jumped in up to his neck, trying valiantly to save those kids, regardless of how they got there and the personal risks to the officer. But then again, the world has changed since I grew up and officers are told everyday that priority one is going home at the end of their shift.
I would like to think I would have done something in that situation but honestly, I don’t know if I would have. No one does. So no one should judge them for their efforts or lack thereof.
But what we can do is judge the Pinellas County sheriff for providing deliberately misleading information to the press at the outset of this story.
You see, he clearly knew the legalese trick he was attempting to pull off by saying his officers ‘went into the water after the girls”… sorry, going knee-deep and a decision to turn around for your own safety doesn’t constitute the heroic sounding story he tried to pass off at first.
As you can tell from the video below, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has a lot of pent up hostility toward social media and the press that just isn’t buying what he’s selling and he’s incensed that the people don’t just take his word for it and move on.
Goddamn those people on social media sharing information and thinking for themselves! How can I run a county like this!
I also think you can judge him for trying to obfuscate by turning the story into what he says is an epidemic of young people stealing cars in his county. He spent the last few minutes reciting stats and specific cases about various young people who stole cars recently and stole more in their past.
He says that’s the real problem people should be talking about.
How do we keep those darn (black?) kids from stealing our shit?!?
Actually, um, no. That’s not quite the problem here.
Say what you will about cops standing there listening to three young people drown to death in Pinellas County that night, the real problem is a sheriff who thinks everyone better damn well believe whatever bullshit he tells them.
You know… maybe if the sheriff had told his deputies not to get into high speed chases with children in stolen cars, that car would be back home by now and so would those three children.
Maybe part of the problem is the high number of high speed chases taking place one county from me over something as stupid and replaceable as a car.
You know, they do have insurance on those things, don’t they?
Oh wait. Right. If they reclaim the car, the insurance company doesn’t have to pay and after all, who do the cops work for anyway? that’s right…
There are all kinds of socioeconomic issues that could be brought up right now regarding young people not having jobs and stealing cars because they realistically don’t expect to have a future in our lovely free-market world.
And I’m sure the Good Sheriff and his buddies might be want to cast blame toward various societal trends even, if that helps (damn rap music)
But in the end we do have a problem. We have a police force that is perhaps too cautious when it comes to putting themselves on the line for their fellow citizens and we have a number of young people who are desperate enough, or bored enough, to take extremely risky chances with their lives and those of others around them. And this is not a good combination.
As far as the scourge of “irresponsible rhetoric” coming from social media… well, that only really threatens people with something to hide most of the time. And you can usually tell those people by how mad they get at social media in press conferences.
Here’s an idea sheriff… no more high speed chases over something as petty as a stolen car. How’s that?
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