If You Give a Cop a Cookie

Margie Carranza delivered newspapers in Torrance, California.

Each morning, she drove her bright blue four-door Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck from house to house at a slow roll. Each morning, Margie’s mother, Emma, came along for the ride.

Every few houses, Margie paused to lob a gray wad of paper out the window. Emma sat in the backseat, rubber-banding each.

On February 7, 2013, at dawn, as ever, Margie and Emma rolled through Torrance. All morning, the newspapers landed on doormats with a rushed plop, like a tired woman and her couch at the end of the day.

Also on February 7, 2013, eight officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were placed on patrol in Torrance. They had been told to look for a light-gray Nissan Titan pick-up truck. They had been told to look for a black man. They had been told that the man was armed and dangerous.

Then, they saw Margie. The officers later testified that each newspaper landed like gunfire. Later, they testified that, at dawn, bright blue looked gray. All eight officers opened fire.

The Los Angeles Police Department fired on Margie and Emma 107 times. They fired 17 rounds from four Remington 12-gauge shotguns, 79 rounds from six .40 caliber Glock semi-automatic handguns, and 11 rounds from one Beretta 9 millimeter semiautomatic handgun.

All four tires on Margie’s truck exploded. Emma took two bullets, one in her lower back, and one in her scapula. Later, at a press conference, a representative from the L.A.P.D. apologized, and described the shooting as a tragic accident.

Since the 1990s, the United States military has employed a policy of gifting their surplus equipment to local police departments. The transfers allow defense budgets to stay large despite excess purchases, with the bonus that equipment for the war on drugs now included real tools of war.

More than $5 billion in surplus military equipment has been adopted by local police precincts in the past two decades, including hundreds of silencers and armored cars, night vision goggles and grenade launchers, hundreds of thousands of magazines of ammunition, and tens of thousands of machine guns during the Obama administration alone.

When Michael Brown, a recent high school graduate in Ferguson, Missouri, was shot by police in 2015, the protests that followed were met by local police piloting armored vehicles and donning military riot gear. Afterwards, President Barack Obama limited the transfer of military surplus to exclude vehicles with attached weapons, battering rams, riot shields, as well as some explosives and large-caliber ammunition.

In August, President Donald Trump decided to remove those limits.

So far in 2017, police officers have shot and killed 695 people in the United States.

In California, where eight police officers went to war with Margie’s truck, a person has been killed by a cop, on average, once every three days for a decade. During that time, police officers in California shot and killed black people at five times the rate of white people. A full 43% of those killed by California police officers were Latino, like Emma and Margie. Despite being only 6% of the population in California, 20% of those killed were black, like the officers in Torrance thought Emma and Margie were when they pulled the trigger.

There is no such thing as an accident. There are no acts of god in a traffic stop. There are no unpredictable weather patterns in cops and robbers. Things happen the way they are designed to happen.

If you give a cop a gun, he will shoot it. If you give a cop a weapon of war, he will go to war with everything.

Maggie and Emma were paid $4.2 million by the City of Los Angeles, plus one new truck.

“We got out of this thing pretty cheaply, all things considered,” City Attorney Carmen Trutanich told the Los Angeles Times.

All eight officers remain on patrol in Los Angeles, with a new battering ram, a fresh box of concussion grenades, some desert fatigues, a few tanks, a couple thousand rounds of surplus ammunition, and instructions to serve and protect the community.


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Accident is written by Jessie Singer. These accidents were sourced from CNN, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Sacramento Bee, and The Washington Post. Icons are by Anbileru Adaleru, Sergey Demushkin, Dan Hetteix, and Nathan Stang for the Noun Project.

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