The Columbus Division of Police (CDP) thinks this bodycam video of Officer Peter Casuccio lecturing two black boys about the dangers of carrying a BB gun is a fine example of protecting and serving, and a lot of people seem to agree. "This is getting kids killed all over the country," Casuccio tells the boys, an 11-year-old and a 13-year-old, whose faces are obscured by big green circles. "I could have killed you."
It is true that the boys, whom Casuccio detained last Saturday, might have ended up dead, as 12-year-old Tamir Rice did in Cleveland four years ago and as 13-year-old Tyre King did in Columbus two years later, because they were playing with something that a nervous cop mistook for a real gun. But that sad fact says more about the hastiness of police officers than the recklessness of these two boys, who do not appear to have done anything illegal or especially foolhardy.
Casuccio was responding to a 911 call from a woman who said she saw "two little kids," one of whom "brandished a gun." When he located the boys, he forced them to kneel on the ground while he picked up the BB gun. In the edited bodycam video, which the CDP released to "show the good police work that our officers do every day," the boys are back on their feet, leaning against a traffic railing.
"They call in and they say there's two young male blacks," he tells them. "They look really young, and they just flashed a gun….You had to show somebody, because how the hell did they know you had it?"
"I didn't show nobody," the younger boy replies. "I was just holding it."
"OK, you can't do that in today's world," Casuccio says. "That thing looks real, bro." He emphasizes the danger they put themselves in by being seen with a BB gun: "You should be sorry, and you should be scared….Do you think I want to shoot an 11-year-old? Do you think I want to shoot a 13-year-old?…I pride myself on being a pretty bad hombre, because I got to be. Don't make me."
Depending on your perspective, this incident is either a heartwarming story about a compassionate cop setting wayward youths on the right path or an alarming story about how easily black kids can be killed for doing something that does not violate the law or anyone's rights.
"I'm not from the area, but felt moved to comment when I read this story," said one visitor to the CDP's Facebook page. "Officer Casuccio handled this situation perfectly! I have the greatest respect for this man. Hopefully, these two youngsters have learned a very valuable lesson that may someday save their lives."
Others saw the episode differently. "Why is your department trying to pat themselves on the back for NOT shooting some Black kids who had a BB Gun?" wrote another Facebook visitor. "Open Carry is LEGAL in Ohio. White people, INCLUDING WHITE CHILDREN, walk around openly brandishing REAL GUNS all the time. Do you threaten them with murder?"
As that critic noted, Ohio residents are generally allowed to openly carry actual firearms in public without a permit. The state has no minimum age for possession of firearms and no laws regulating who may own or carry BB guns. "Why is Officer Peter Casuccio a hero for lecturing those kids for doing nothing illegal?" another Facebook critic wondered. "What gave him that authority?"