In the tragic shooting death by police of Jose Mejia Poot, two of the most crucial questions have remained unasked.
We have had detailed reports of how Poot was yanked from a bus. We have followed his trail of misery through actions of police and a psychiatric hospital. We have read detailed police accounts of how the shooting occurred. Yet, this story has two huge holes which no one seems willing to plug.
The first and biggest hole is how this tragedy ever got started. Supposedly Poot was short 20 cents on his bus fare, leading the bus driver to summon police. As an unfortunate result, friends and relatives of Poot have shouted that a Mexican’s life is worth only 20 cents.
Anyone who knows anything about Tri-Met knows that a bus driver does not summon police because a man is short 20 cents on his fare. People get on buses short of fare I would guess not less than 400 times every day. Tri-Met drivers do all they can do to keep their runs on schedule. They are not going to pull over and take a delay for police assistance simply because somebody can’t pungle up into the fare box.
However, if the would-be passenger escalates his behavior in such a manner that it threatens the safety of the driver or others on the bus, then the driver is obligated to seek police help. Obviously, something like this happened, yet neither The Oregonian nor any official sources have revealed details about this escalation.
I can believe Tri-Met told the driver to keep his or her mouth shut since the whole case might lead to lawsuits. I reject this as an argument. Whether the driver was told to shut up or not, you can bet all this driver’s co-workers got detailed accounts of exactly what happened.
You can’t tell me that The Oregonian, newly basking in its two Pulitzer prizes, doesn’t have the ability to dig out the sequence of events aboard that bus which set into motion this entire tragedy.
The other great unanswered question is: Where were Poot’s family and friends while he was enduring all these agonies prior to his death? While he was still being bounced from here to there in search of relief, he seemed to have no family connections at all. Yet, as soon as he died, family and friends emerged in profusion.
We learned in detail that he was epileptic. How come none of Poot’s family were regularly checking on him to see how he was faring with his epilepsy?
Family also asserted he had no history of mental illness. How do they know that? How do they explain the crying spell, the crayons in the mouth, the belligerent behavior?
Simple: no one of his family was in touch. He could have become mentally ill rather quickly.
All these friends and relatives now waving signs and demanding justice need to examine their own behavior. How caring were they of a family member who had epilepsy and should have been the beneficiary of all kinds of family concern?
The cry that the police and social service agencies need more bilingual training is not an answer. Nor can we expect our social service agencies to act as baby sitters for every such intercultural problem.
When it comes to the language problem, maybe it’s time for the Latino community to do some self-organization. Maybe it needs a 24-hour crisis line where Spanish-speaking people can be consulted any hour of the day or night on the problems of a fellow Latino. If some such person had been put on the line to Poot and he could have talked it out, the outcome may have been totally different. What good is it going to do anyone to rehash the anger and frustration over the Poot shooting?
What good will it do in the overall picture to blame the police or the hospital where the shooting occurred?
People really concerned about what happened to Jose Poot would better spend their time looking for realistic solutions to potential future episodes.