Jumping the gun on a tragedy

  • Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 12:01 a.m.

The shooting death of a James Island man by sheriff’s deputies Saturday night has left far more questions than answers. So there’s been a lot of filling in the blanks with assumptions.

Derryl Drayton’s understandably distressed family and some of his neighbors believe that officers didn’t need to kill him — that deputies had other options.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon insists that his deputies were responding to a fast-moving situation involving a 51-year-old man who had threatened to kill his sister and himself, who was brandishing a kitchen knife, who was not stopped by tasing and who had struck deputies while resisting arrest.

Even so, it is reasonable to think that a substantially less drastic response would have better achieved the ends of law enforcement.

But it is totally unreasonable to state, as NAACP Charleston Branch President Dot Scott did Tuesday, that “some of these officers” consider it “a badge of honor to kill a n-----.”

Indeed, that remark is an insult to local law enforcement officials across department and jurisdictional lines.

Making such a damning assumption is guaranteed to garner attention, but it does more to inflame racial tensions than to identify problems.

As an organization dedicated to justice and reconciliation, the NAACP should repudiate Ms. Scott’s inflammatory comments.

Justice and the courts of law require facts, not assumptions.

The first step in that process is an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Cooler heads should await SLED’s findings before prejudging them, or dismissing them out of hand.

For its part, SLED should expedite its investigation of this troubling incident.

The NAACP is within its rights to call for a Justice Department investigation. But Ms. Scott was wrong to condemn the local law enforcement community.

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