“…To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
-That’s from the Book of Micah, chapter 6, verse 8.
And the man in the picture here is Mr. Daniel Shaver. Daniel was an ordinary, working class citizen of the United States of America. He was married, with two daughters, and lived in Granbury, Texas. He was 26 years old at the time of his death about four and a half years ago. Daniel was employed as a pest control specialist. In January of 2016, he traveled to Mesa, Arizona on a business trip. One night, while relaxing in his hotel room, he was ordered into the hallway by the local police. He had been spotted earlier that evening with a rifle, and the authorities had been called to investigate. The rifle in question — which he did not have on him when he exited his hotel room — upon later inspection, turned out to be a pellet gun that he was authorized to use in cases where he had to remove birds from the inside of homes and businesses as part of his job. Arizona has open carry laws in place, so this shouldn’t have been an issue anyway, as no one was being threatened and no crimes had been committed – but I digress.
I won’t tell you everything that happened as the events unfolded that night in the La Quinta Inn. There’s video footage of how Daniel Shaver met his demise, quite clearly, at the hands of police Sergeant Charles Langley (now retired and living abroad) and officer Philip Brailsford (whereabouts unknown). I will post the video below. For context – Langley is the man yelling in the video, and Brailsford is the man pointing his AR-15 at Daniel Shaver. I encourage you to watch this video in its entirety, even if your first instinct is to not watch it. I know it’s disturbing. But it’s reality. Look at it. Think about it. Consider what it means in the context of what’s playing out in our society today.
Now… after you’ve watched it, consider that there were no convictions for what happened to Mr. Daniel Shaver. Consider also that he complied with every command he was given, and showed zero signs of resistance. He died crawling on the floor, while sobbing for the police to not shoot him while they barked contradictory commands at him like an animal. These police officers murdered this man. And they got away with it. There are foreign combatants and terrorists against our military service men and women who have been treated with more humanity and mercy than Daniel Shaver. Even Saddam Hussein was granted something called due process before his execution.
The officer who shot Daniel Shaver five times in a split second was granted a retirement pension of $30,000 a year at the age of 29, due to the “mental trauma” he experienced from the murder he committed, and the trial that followed – whereby he was fully acquitted of all charges. This was a white police officer murdering a white citizen, and despite there being video that leaves ZERO room for doubt or ambiguity, the officer faced no repercussions at all.
Is there a racial problem in our country? Yes. There is. This kind of murder happens MORE OFTEN to black citizens. Their anger is justified. Watch this very rare footage of it happening to a white person, and then think about how there are hundreds of videos of it happening to black people. There is a racial problem in our country. But there is also an authority problem.
The racial problem can be fixed by individual people who choose compassion, understanding, empathy, mercy, and love – instead of tribalism, arrogance, pride, anger, and hatred. No government or political system is capable of legislating away the evil that happens in someone’s heart and mind. When that evil becomes external action, laws can be applied against it, but it still won’t change a person’s heart. The authority problem, on the other hand, can be fixed much easier by something that most of us learned about in high school; it’s called “checks and balances.” Police officers all across this country wear a badge and take an oath called “The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor.” Here’s what it says:
“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.”
This means something. Police officers are given a sacred trust, solidified by a communal pact, that carries with it a responsibility of immense power and authority over the lives of other human beings. This demands oversight and accountability according to the laws of our nation. When officers violate this sacred trust, and they are not held accountable, the rule of law begins to break down. This creates more chaos, and allows more opportunities for corruption to occur, and power to go unchecked. If you’re looking at all the chaos in the streets of bigger cities and wondering why – that’s why. The United States of America was founded by people who were rebelling against unbridled power. Remember? We celebrate that rebellion every July 4th. It’s an old sentiment – a part of our heritage – that runs through the blood of almost every American. And now, there is unbridled power in our country, (it’s been there all along, but now everyone has a camera on them at all times so we can all see it), and this unchecked power needs to be challenged and contained. And the people who are most capable of containing it through law and order, (not just police departments, but courts and politicians as well) have not done their jobs sufficiently enough. Thus we have chaos and uprising. Is the answer to disband police departments and assume that all cops are corrupt, etc…? No. Of course not. That’s obviously ridiculous. But there is a problem with power that is not being properly checked, and it needs to be FIXED.
In addition… while I’m on the subject…
If we aren’t sure why people are saying, or chanting, or writing, “Black Lives Matter,” then we need to educate ourselves before we say something about it, or automatically take a different posture of “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” Philosophically speaking, as simple phrases (without all the politics and spin that’s been attached to them) these statements are all true, and when MOST PEOPLE say them, they are expressing the simple truth of these statements, which doesn’t automatically mean they are trying to indoctrinate the populace with a political manifesto. The act of saying one phrase does not negate the validity of the other. Nevertheless, these are still all just words… phrases that don’t even mean the same things to different people. We don’t have to say any of them. But we do have to think about why the phrases themselves matter so much to people. There’s a cry for justice that’s happening. And there is nothing wrong with that at all.
Now, lastly, because I’m a Pastor, and this is what I do… to the Christians reading this — my fellow brothers and sisters:
We follow a King who was unjustly arrested, tortured, convicted of high treason, and publicly slain by the authorities. Thankfully, it didn’t take. But he could have chosen any number of ways to accomplish his mission of salvation. He chose this way for a reason. Moreover, an unknown number of our fellow Christians throughout history, and in other parts of the world today have suffered similar fates as our Lord and Savior. How can we turn away from this kind of thing happening in our country? It’s our duty, as the followers of an oppressed King, to value the lives of those who are oppressed – whoever they are.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” -1st John 3:16-18
If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this subject – here’s the sermon I preached this past Sunday:
Adam J. Coffman · June 7 2020 – The Good Samaritan