A Good Father

I didn’t say anything about this story when I first heard about it, mainly because I didn’t know what to say. I was too horrified by the whole thing to say anything.

A toddler has been shot and killed in the US during a three-hour gun battle after her father used her as a human shield against police gunfire.

The 19-month-old girl’s mother, Lorena Lopez, said she had pleaded with officers to hold their fire.

The father, car wash owner Jose Raul Pena, 34, was also killed and one police officer was injured in the shoulder.

Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton insisted his officers were well within department policy when they shot Pena.

He said: "You aren’t going to stand there with somebody shooting at you. The person responsible for any loss of life… was the individual who held his child out as a shield and continued to shoot."

It didnt’ get any better when it was confirmed that the child was killed by a police bullet.

"We’ve got some trigger-happy policemen that don’t belong on that force," Joeanne Gibson, 47, said at a growing makeshift memorial for the young victim, Suzie Pena. "I don’t think they intended to shoot the baby, yet it could’ve been done another way."

The child was killed by a SWAT team bullet on July 10 in the arms of her father, Jose Pena, 34, as he fired dozens of rounds at officers, wounding one of them. The father, who police said was drunk and high, also was killed in the shootout outside his used-car business.

The final straw was this evening, when the hubby and I were talking about the story. He’d heard a report about it on NPR during his drive home, in which the mother went on about what a "good father" Pena was.

It should be obvious, and go without speaking, but as a father myself I have to say it: no way was Pena a "good father." Using your child as a human shield to keep yourself from being shot is the antithesis of being a "good father" especially if you’re engaged in a shoot-out with police at the time. As a father, it would never occur to me to use my child to block a bullet. I’d use myself as a shield first, to keep my child from being shot.

I have to agree with the LA chief of the police on this one, and I’d normally be among the first to point out the past excesses of the LAPD and others.

An angry Police Chief William J. Bratton lashed out Tuesday against slain shootout suspect Jose Raul Peña, calling him a "coldblooded killer" who was squarely responsible for his own death and that of his 19-month-old daughter.

Bratton, while acknowledging the likelihood that police bullets cut down Peña and the toddler, defended his officers against charges from the child’s family and community activists that police haste cost Susie Lopez her life.

Bratton said Peña engaged in an hours-long standoff with police in Watts on Sunday, threatened his entire family and took shots at his 17-year-old stepdaughter.

"This is not a good father. He is no hero…. All of this tragedy falls on Mr. Peña," Bratton said after a news conference.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that not only does a good father not use his kid as a human shield — while he’s shooting at police, mind you —  but also a good father doesn’t take shots at his kid. To put it plainly, this guy is as responsible for his kid’s death as if he’d put the bullet in her himself.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you shoot at the police they’re going to shoot back. Nor does it take a Mensa membership to figure out that if you grab your kid and put her between you and the police, while you’re shooting at them, that she’s probably going to get shot. You make that choice, you’ve basically killed your kid

Or as KipEsquire put it:

It’s very simple really: If you’re being shot at, then you shoot back. Whoever’s bullet struck and killed that innocent child, it was her father who killed her, not the police.


About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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5 Responses to A Good Father

  1. Nio says:

    I heard the NPR report also. What is said, and the paper didn’t, was the mother repeatedly asked police to get a psychologist to help disfuse the situtation due to Pena’s PTSD which resulted from the El Salvadorian civil war which he fought in.

  2. James says:

    No argument but that it’s the father’s fault that the child is dead, but do not the police have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect innocent civilians who get caught up in these sorts of confrontations? I’m not that thrilled with the idea that, should I ever be used as a human shield, the police can shoot through me and blame it on my assailant. Even if negotiation doesn’t work, don’t SWAT teams have snipers?

  3. Tim Who? says:

    I agree. The police didn’t kill the child the father did.

  4. Terrance says:

    I hadn’t heard about the father’s PTSD or war experience. However, I’m still hard pressed to expect the police to do something besides shoot when they are being shot at.

  5. Enat says:

    Nope, I don’t agree. Just because the father was apparently a lunatic who didn’t care if his child was killed doesn’t excuse the police from shooting the child. Basically what they have said with their actions is, “Getting our man is more important than a child’s life.” Nope, I don’t agree with that at all. If they don’t want to be shot at, perhaps they should move out of the way until they can find some other way to handle the situation.

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