Most of us do not have the temperament to be a police officer. It takes an enormous amount of bravery to wear the badge and uniform and to be ready at all times for some sh*t to go down at a moment’s notice. As stressful jobs go, it’s somewhere between … actually, I can’t think of anything more stressful.
But sometimes, when a rubber band is taut for too long, it snaps. Likewise, the stress of a situation can make an officer snap, and like with the rubber band, you do not want to be in the immediate area when it happens. Case in point: Robbie Tolan, a 23-year-old minor leaguer and son of longtime OF/1B Bobby Tolan. Robbie was with a cousin, coming back to his parents’ house after running to Jack In The Box late at night. But a policeman thought Robbie’s car was stolen (it wasn’t), and when the confusion of the situation set in, Robbie ended up with a bullet in his liver. (By that, of course, I mean he was shot by police; it’s not like they forced him to drink it or anything.)
Unsurprisingly, the incident has sparked outrage throughout the family and community. Tolan’s lawyer, David Berg, cut straight to what the Tolans believe is the heart of the matter:
“There’s no doubt in my mind that if these had been white kids this does not happen.”
Now, shooting a black person doesn’t automatically make someone a racist (though if you’re shooting anybody, you have much, much larger issues than whether or not you hate a race of people). But Berg might be onto something in terms of racial profiling. The incident went down in Bellaire, TX, which is an affluent - and mostly white - suburb of Houston. Seeing two young black men exiting an SUV might spark some suspicion, for better or worse, in a cop’s mind. And whether or not they were racially profiled, according to the Tolans (yes, biased perspective, but it’s not exactly like reporters were there taking notes when it happened), the rest of the incident doesn’t seem to have gone much better:
As they walked up the driveway to their home, [Tolan’s cousin] Anthony Cooper said an unidentified man emerged from the darkness with a flashlight and a gun pointed at them.
“We did not know it was a police officer,” said Cooper. “He said, ‘Stop. Stop.’ And we were like, ‘Why? Who are you?’”
The officers ordered both men to lie down on the ground. Tolan’s parents heard the commotion and came outside. Police will only say an “altercation” took place. Tolan’s family say it involved his mother.
“The cop pushed her against the wall,” said Tolan’s uncle, Mike Morris.
Relatives say Tolan started to lean up from the ground to ask the officer what he was doing to his mother. That’s when the family says Tolan was shot in the chest, the bullet piercing his lung and then lodging in his liver.
Well, that’s probably not how the department drew that play up. And yes, Tolan and Cooper were both unarmed, and we’re assuming Tolan’s mother was, too - otherwise Officer Triggerfinger probably would have done a lot more than push her against a wall. Triggerfinger (What? We always call unidentified people that. Shut up.) is a white, 10-year veteran of the force, and is obviously on administrative leave while charges are considered.
Community activist Quannel X (hey, remember him?) called the shooting “the worst case and worst kind of racial profiling“, but - and this is a shocker - the Bellaire PD disagrees. Byron Holloway, the department’s Assistant Chief, said, “any allegation of racial profiling, I don’t think that’s going to float.” Well, that settles that!
Young Tolan’s baseball career is, if not over, in serious jeopardy. While he’s expected to fully recover from the shooting, it’s going to take a long time, and losing that kind of time during the prime of one’s athletic ability is devastating to a career. But thankfully we’re still talking about the future for Robbie. Had that bullet’s path been a few inches different (or if the policeman’s trigger finger had been a little bit itchier), we’d be talking about him in the past tense. Speedy recoveries, Robbie, and let justice be served.