Vargas: Heroism in New York lost amid a horrible week for police


The rioting in North Carolina. A police officer charged with manslaughter following a questionable shooting in Tulsa.

We should be celebrating police heroism this week after officers in New York saved who-knows-how many innocent people during a firefight with a suspected terrorist bomber.

Instead, the profession is once again under intense scrutiny after two high-profile officer-involved shootings sparked national attention – and professional football players continued their protests during the playing of the national anthem and at press conferences.

Eight days ago, Tulsa, Okla. officers responded to citizens reporting a vehicle parked in the middle of the street blocking traffic.

According to callers, the driver was behaving strangely.

The first responding officer contacted the driver and found him non-responsive to verbal commands. The driver walked around with a blank stare and refused to comply to officers repeated commands, according to police.

Follow-up officers arrived and still the driver wouldn’t comply with repeated commands.

In the video released by Tulsa police officials, we can see from both the helicopter and in-car video, the suspect walked away from officers with his hands up, but then dropped his arms and appeared to reach toward the door.

The driver drops to the ground after being shot by one of the officers.

Later statements from police officials said he was Tasered and shot almost simultaneously.

The man was unarmed.

The police chief has promised transparency, and releasing the videos of the encounter was the first step.

Attorneys lined up two-deep with press conferences, and on television news shows, “policing experts” provided analysis.

Headlines across news media sites declared, “Man with Hands Up” shot and killed by the police. The video clearly shows, however, at the time of the actual shooting his hands were down.

Attorneys disparaged the possibility of the driver being under the influence of drugs as being a distraction, despite reports of PCP being found in the vehicle.

Don’t get me wrong: this one looks bad, especially when you watch it with commentary from plaintiffs’ attorneys, outraged family member or activists.

I have more questions than answers.

The officer has been charged.

This is definitely one for a jury to decide.

On Saturday, several bombs were detonated in New York and New Jersey. Within minutes of the bombs going off, there was a massive law enforcement response. Not only was the response timely, it was coordinated and professional.

By Monday, the suspect was identified and located. Responding officers heroically engaged the suspect and, despite a gunfight and being wounded, officers were able to take the suspect into custody.

Who knows how many people were saved from further acts of terrorism?

Those police officers are heroes.

Law enforcement was congratulated for the response to the bombings. It was a model of cooperation and public engagement in apprehending the dangerous suspect.

But the adulation didn’t last long.

On Tuesday,  in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, police were serving an arrest warrant when they encountered a subject in a vehicle. He exited with a handgun.

The suspect was purportedly ordered numerous times to drop the gun, but didn’t comply. The result was an officer-involved shooting, and the subject was killed.

His family was outraged.

They said he was in the car reading a book and he was shot for absolutely no reason. The deceased man’s daughter also took to Facebook Live in an hour-long  emotional video from the scene.

Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney told reporters a gun was recovered at the scene, but no book. He later posted photo on Twitter of what appears to be the weapon.

“It’s time to change the narrative, because I can tell you from the facts that the story’s a little bit different as to how it’s been portrayed so far, especially through social media,” Chief Putney said.

However, it was the family’s narrative took root and spread through mainstream and social media.

Within hours, an enraged community responded.

Hundreds showed up to express their outrage. The protests turned violent. Businesses were looted, police vehicles were vandalized and images of the city in flames were broadcast worldwide

The investigation will provide a more complete explanation, but it will take time.

But the mob has no patience to wait for all the facts. The rioting has led to thousands of dollars in damage, officers injured and a citizen killed.

The death of anyone at the hands of the police should receive the highest levels of scrutiny.

In both of cases, that will continue occur, but not quickly enough for the masses.

In the meantime, I will continue to salute the heroism of the officers in New Y0rk.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at