Cult of Compliance: Was Andy Lopez killed for wearing headphones?

Imagine you are walking down the street listening to music. Police see something about you that they don’t like. They are behind you though and call on you to stop. You can’t hear them. What happens next?

I’ve written cases in which Deaf people experience just this – the police feel disrespected and they react. Here’s one recent example. Trust me, there are others.

I re-posted yesterday’s blog to DailyKOS, as I often do for police violence cases. In the comments, I heard that at least some witnesses reported Lopez, the 13-year-old boy shot by police last week, was wearing headphones. I cannot confirm this directly, but here’s one link

**Additional details to this tragedy.. Andy Lopez was shot in an open field where local kids go to play and do target practice with BB guns. He also had headphones on.. He was shot as he was turning around and then shot several more times as he on the ground. Police handcuffed before giving him CPR..more details to come..****.

I am working hard, in my writing, to push the abled to care about the rights of the disabled. In my  CNN piece on Ethan Saylor, I talked about the concept of being only temporarily-able bodied, a core Disability 101 concept. Unlike other kinds of identities – race, gender, sexuality – we are all nearly guaranteed a trip into disability, and perhaps back out again (pregnancy, a broken leg, a serious but curable illness). Disability waits for all of us as we age. So I concluded that essay by writing:

Disability rights are universal human rights, not abstract principles. But if it takes a personal reason to care about rights for the disabled, remember this: You might need them someday.

I was thinking about age, illness, and accident.

But now I’m thinking about headphones and ear buds, devices designed to block out the sounds of the world, rendering us unable to respond to police commands.

There’s more to the Lopez case. Witnesses are coming forward to argue that the deputies’ story is untrue:

Rojas and Marquez say they heard the deputies yell in english “drop the gun.”
“Abrieron la puerta de cada lado y sacaron la pistola y tas, tas,” Rojas said.
She says almost immediately, both deputies then opened their doors and shots were fired.
Rojas and Marquez say deputies only yelled once before opening fire.
“Imediatamente le dispararon, no le dieron oportunidad de nada,” Marquez said.
She says they fired immediately and didn’t give him a chance to do anything.

A spokesperson says:

But the description of events these women give is different than what investigators have described.
“Both deputies exited their vehicles, but maintained cover behind their opened doors. One of the deputies shouted at the subject to put the gun down,” Santa Rosa Police Department spokesperson Paul Henry said.

Of course I’m suspicious that once the deputies found out they had killed a boy with a plastic rifle they changed their story, but either way, the boy clearly had very little time to react. Maybe he was wearing headphones. Listening to music. Lost in a daydream. And then shot, cuffed, and dead.

How fast could you react? Sure, you might not get shot, but you might get tased, beaten, or pepper sprayed.

This is the cult of compliance. Police speak. You comply immediately or you are punished. And then you are blamed for not complying.

Leave a Reply