Protection or threat?

My daughter and I are from San Francisco, on vacation, traveling through the Southwest. Today we were driving from Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon in a Toyota Camry we’d rented from Fox Car Rental in Las Vegas. In Williams, Arizona, as I exited Interstate 40 to head north toward the Canyon rim, I was pulled over by an AHP officer who’d been tailing me for a couple of miles. I hadn’t been speeding, so I wondered if perhaps the car had a broken taillight or something. I rolled down my window and waited.

Suddenly, the officer rapped on the rear passenger side window with his pistol. My daughter, who was sitting inches from the barrel of his gun, jumped with fear as the officer yelled at me to roll down the front passenger window, his service weapon pointed directly at me. I knew something was terribly awry and I tried to remain calm, keeping my hands visible as I slowly fumbled for the window controls in an unfamiliar car. My daughter rolled down her window and I explained that we were in a rental car, that we had no weapons, and I was having trouble figuring out how to roll down the front passenger window from my driver’s side door. The officer didn’t listen, and kept yelling louder and more insistently, ordering me to comply with his request as he leered at me down the barrel of his pistol. My daughter panicked and tried to get out of her booster seat to reach forward to roll down the front window, and the officer screamed her at her not to move as he pointed his pistol at her…

Then, as I had my hands in the air, he yelled, at the top of his lungs, in a voice I will never forget, as my daughter looked on in terror, “Get your hands away from your waist or I’ll blow two holes through your back right now!” My hands were high in the air as he said this, and I was not in any way reaching for my waist. I was utterly terrified…

Why was I arrested? The car I was had rented had previously had its front license plate lost or stolen, so the car rental company reported this to the Nevada DMV. The Arizona highway patrol officer, who looked up my plate number while he was tailing me, misinterpreted this Nevada DMV report as meaning that I was driving a car with a stolen license plate, and somehow this prompted him to approach me at gunpoint and threaten to kill me in front of my little girl…

If you are a person who has ever looked skeptically at the claims of Black Lives Matter, or others who talk about police violence, I urge you to consider what happened to me and put yourselves in the shoes of others. I just survived a bizarre gunpoint situation in which I was as innocent as Philando Castile, who was not as lucky as I was…

Under comments:

Oneal Isaac: I’ve a B.R. policeman pull a gun on me when I approached him to ask for directions. I was on my way to yoga class. Once you are facing a gun, it changes how you see things.

I’m not sure anyone can understand this kind of terror unless you’ve experienced it. I’ve never had the barrel of a gun pointed at me, but I have been threatened with a gun by a police officer. And it does change how you see things.

At that moment, you realize that as far as society is concerned, the bully’s life is far more important than yours. That he could use that gun to end your life, make up some story about how he felt threatened, and everyone would believe him. Really, your life means nothing, especially to a gun.

Being threatened with a gun is like finally understanding that your life is meaningless and could end in an instant — a hair-trigger of an instant. That life isn’t precious, it’s precarious. That life is chaotic and violent, so aptly illustrated by the presence — and under the threat — of a gun. A gun says, “You don’t matter. The End.”

I guess to those who like guns, they represent protection and sport. I can understand that. But for me, guns will always represent violence. Violence and death.

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