Death of innocents in US shootings alarming - GulfToday

Death of innocents in US shootings alarming

Stacy Spell, a captain with the Los Angeles Police Department, speaks at the Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood, California, where a 14-year-old girl was killed. AP

Stacy Spell, a captain with the Los Angeles Police Department, speaks at the Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood, California, where a 14-year-old girl was killed. AP

It is very sad and shocking, to say the least, that a 14-year-old girl died during a police crackdown on a man who reportedly attacked a woman in a store in Los Angeles on Thursday. She was an unintended target, but it was the manner in which she was killed that is raising alarm bells – and a whole lot of concern, about safety of the people.

She died when police fired on the suspect. The bullet went through the drywall behind the suspect and struck the girl as she was in a clothing store dressing room.

The problem is that gun control laws are not very stringent in the US, though there have been repeated appeals for that.

It is not uncommon to find, every now and then, some armed trigger-happy man with a skewed mentality firing at all and sundry with gay abandon. The attack could take place in a store, school or even a church.

The girl was with her mother in the dressing room. That the mother escaped death is nothing short of a providential escape. The girl was identified as Valentina Orellana-Peralta. The suspect’s name has not yet been released.

At least 36 people, 17 of them fatally, were shot by the LAPD in 2021. Those figures mark a dramatic spiral in cases where officers shot or killed people in either of the last two years - 27 people were shot and 7 of them killed by LA police in all of 2020.

In 2019, officers shot 26 people, killing 12.

In the last week, LA officers have killed four people, including two men in separate incidents on Saturday, a newspaper reported.

On Thursday, witnesses in North Hollywood told KCBS-TV that the man began acting erratically, threatening to throw items from the upper floor, and he attacked a woman with a bicycle lock shortly before noon as the store was crowded with holiday shoppers.

The suspect was shot and died at the store but one of the bullets killed the girl in the changing room.

“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement late Thursday night. “I am profoundly sorry for the loss of this young girl’s life and I know there are no words that can relieve the unimaginable pain for the family.”

Investigators were trying to determine whether the assault was random or targeted. Police found a heavy metal cable lock near the suspect. Firearms kill almost 1,300 American youngsters each year, and boys and black children are most often the victims, a US study finds. During the 13-year study, more than half of the gun-related deaths were homicides, while 38 per cent were suicides and 6 per cent were fatalities from accidental gun injuries, researchers report in Pediatrics.

Each year, guns seriously wound about 5,800 additional kids under 18.

“Firearm injuries are a leading cause of death among US children aged 1 to 17 years and contribute substantially each year to premature death, illness and disability of children,” said lead study author Katherine Fowler of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

“About 19 children a day die or are medically treated in an emergency department for a gunshot wound in the US,” Fowler said by email.

Clearly, life seems to hang by a thread. Deaths from firearms incidents appear to have become a normal occurrence in the US. The implication is that if one were to venture out of the house in the morning, there was no guarantee he would return in the evening, were a shootout to take place.

Life is precious, but the anti-gun control lobby is just not bothered about it. Until there is sufficient weightage given to the sanctity of life, the shootings will continue.

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