Steve Sebelius: Mass shooting reminds us to be thankful for cops
Carlos Ortiz got the call every parent fears.
His son, Kevin, had been wounded in America’s latest mass shooting, in San Bernardino, Calif. Still conscious, but in pain, Kevin Ortiz managed to get a few words out before the line went dead.
“I’ve been shot three times, Dad. I’m in pain,” he said, according to an account in the Los Angeles Times. “Don’t worry. There’s a policeman with me.”
It’s a safe bet that Carlos Ortiz still worried. But that worry was tempered by the fact that his son wasn’t alone.
There were no protests of the police in San Bernardino County on Dec. 2, as law enforcement officers from city, county and federal agencies responded to the shootings at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center. There were no objections to the militarization of police as armored SWAT vehicles pursued the black Ford Excursion the shooters used to escape the scene. For once, the sound of sirens and bright flashing red and blue lights were greeted with relief and not resentment.
Amid the horror and violence on display — in the worst mass shooting since the insanity of Sandy Hook in 2012 — we were reminded of the everyday heroism of people who don’t have the luxury of running away from the sound of gunfire. We were reminded that despite the complaints and controversy that sometimes surround those who enforce our laws, our society couldn’t exist without them.
News of the shooting hit home for me: I began my journalism career at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, headquartered in nearby Ontario, Calif. And I worked for a year at the San Bernardino Sun, covering the city of Rialto. (SWAT officers from that city responded to the Inland Center shooting.)
I thought of the officers I’d met while working in the Inland Empire, and the many others I’d met during the two years here in town when I covered the police beat at the Las Vegas (Nevada) Sun. The vast majority of the cops I met on the job were good people, trying to do a tough job the best way they could. I thought of the funerals and memorials held to remember that sometimes, they don’t come home from doing that job.
I’m realistic enough to understand my experience with police officers is vastly different from that of many others in our country. I grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif., a suburban bedroom community where we didn’t get into very much trouble. I’m smart enough to know that the voices of protest I hear from cities across the country have their roots in deep-seated problems and real wrongdoing.
I saw a Facebook video this week posted by former Metro police Lt. Randy Sutton, showing protesters in Minneapolis facing off with officers, calling them killers and murderers in the wake of a police shooting there. It’s not dissimilar from protests in other cities around the nation.
Contrast that, however, with the events of Dec. 2, where at least one police officer was reportedly hospitalized for injuries suffered while attempting to help the innocent victims of the shooting. Another officer was heard on a cellphone video telling frightened civilians, “Try to relax, everyone try to relax. I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damn sure.”
Those are the brave men and women who protect our cities at their best. Their efforts too often go unappreciated, and their heroism is too often blotted out by the evil acts of a few among their number.
Horrible days like Dec.2 are reminders to us that when we confront evildoers in desperate times, we need not worry as much because — in the words of Kevin Ortiz — there are police officers with us. And thank God for it.
Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist in Nevada. Follow him on Twitter @SteveSebelius or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.