Civil Liberties

Who Knows More About McKinney: An Eyewitness, or Sean Hannity?

Police responsibly.



Sean Hannity thinks he has a better grasp of the McKinney situation than a girl who witnessed Officer Eric Casebolt's improper actions. He invited the girl and her father onto his show last night only to tell them that they were wrong. Casebolt's brandishing of his gun was justified because of the apparently threatening manner in which two teenage boys approached him. "Seems as if they are provoking him," said Hannity:

"When I look at this video, when we slow down this video, the police officer did not pull out the gun on this girl in the bikini here. It was two young men," Hannity said. "It seems as if they are provoking him."

One of Hannity's guests, the father of one of the party attendees, protested Hannity's comment and noted that the officer still pulled out his weapon.

"If you're asking for someone's career to be over, it's important that we see the facts here," Hannity said, pointing out that the two teenagers were in the cop's face and were "mocking him."

"What difference does it make if it was pointed at a girl or boy?" the father of one of the partygoers asked Hannity. "He pointed a gun at an unarmed teenager."

"I value all life, but I also value the lives of police officers, and when two people behind him are provoking him, he doesn't know what's happening there. He doesn't know if those guys have a weapon," Hannity responded.

"It seems as if they are provoking him," Hannity claims. But mere provocation is not justification for an officer to draw his weapon, and the "seems" qualifier is especially weak.

I suppose no police officer can ever be 100 percent certain that other people aren't carrying guns and intent on causing harm. But we expect law enforcement officers—who are paid to keep us safe, and trained to exercise good judgment—to be less, um, panicky, than the average person. When I watch the video, I see an officer being far too rough with a bikini-clad girl. He grabs her hair and drags her to the ground; her head comes pretty close to the concrete. It looks just as likely to me—more likely, in fact—that the boys are merely rushing to the aid of the girl. To expect that they are about to pull a gun on a police officer—in broad daylight, with other officers around—is to expect that they are committing suicide.

Casebolt has resigned; my sense is that some conservatives would like to treat him as a martyr who lost his job because of public sensitivity toward racial issues, i.e. #BlackLivesMatter. But that's a bad take on the situation. Conservatives should not shy away from demanding that public employees be held accountable, especially when video evidence overwhelming supports a verdict of reckless behavior.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo