Texas is well-known for its small towns, wide open spaces and love of guns. Also well-known is that a good news headline usually focuses on the sizzle of a story, instead of the steak. In Hearne, Texas a 93-year-old woman was gunned down by a police officer in the line of duty. The fact that she was a nonagenarian brings instant sympathy to the woman, and conjures up an image of a frail senior citizen in need of care.
Further investigation reveals that Pearlie Golden, who had failed her driver’s license renewal exam that morning, armed herself with a .38 caliber pistol when her nephew, Roy Jones, refused to relinquish the car keys to her. Jones called the police, and the responding officer was advised of a woman with a gun.
Police violence and unwarranted force continues to be a rising national concern in this country, and the lack of any real backlash for its continued occurrence undermines the core ideals of the U.S.A’s beloved constitution. With that said, no matter what age a person is, a firearm is a great equalizer. Guns don’t get frail or old with age. A 5-year-old with a gun can be just as deadly as a 50-year-old with that same gun.
Contrary to the old paradigm of the police’s role in our society, their presence in modern times often constitutes a volatile introduction into a scenario. Retiree Burch Reynolds is a staunch believer of calling the police as a last resort: “If you call the police, they’re going to want their pound of flesh. Unless someone is going to die, don’t call them. Try to resolve this yourself because it will cost you; usually money and maybe even your freedom.” Mr. Reynolds shares with many people a growing fear of having police interject in a situation. “Nowadays they tase you if you ask too many questions. I have a heart condition you know? A Taser could kill me, just like that!”
The friendly officer that waves at the locals and stops for coffee at the town café is a Hollywood invention that, even in a small town in Texas, no longer applies. In modern times, unless warranted by the gravity of the occasion, an armed police officer should not be called. Metal illness onset with age or undiagnosed diseases can really be a mitigating factor when examining all the facts of a shooting. The situation seems to have been going badly when Golden armed herself, and reports indicate that she fired first.
Police officer Stephen Stem was fired with a unanimous vote after a council meeting to decide his fate. This is Stem’s second fatal shooting in less than two years, and even if the shooting turns out to be justified after Texas Rangers finish their investigation, the community has lost confidence. The raging debate over the ownership and use of firearms continues unabated by this tragedy. A vigil with candles was made in honor of the deceased Hearne, Texas resident Pearlie Golden, and as expected, people are outraged at the killing. Many decry Stem’s action based on her age, but a firearm does not take such things into factor, and unlike the people pulling the trigger, a bullet is blind.
Opinion by J. Benjamin
The Windsor Star