When Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine initially decided that no criminal charges would be filed in the death of 22-year-old James Scurlock of Omaha, he was criticized for, among other things, not taking more time to make such a decision.
His death — coming as part of peaceful protests in Omaha and some that weren’t so peaceful — was one of the incidents that caused tension to heighten considerably in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis involving a police officer.
The longtime county attorney spent much of a weekend reviewing various video footage of the shooting and reviewing statements by those involved, including the bar owner who said he shot Mr. Scurlock because he feared for his life. That’s what spurred Mr. Kleine to not file charges and release the bar owner.
Almost immediately came the outcry. Why make such a hasty decision? Why not call for a grand jury to be convened? Why not see if more evidence is available?
Ultimately, Mr. Klein agreed that a grand jury would be convened. Charges still could be filed against the bar owner if the jury members decided they were warranted.
The pleas of many to take more time to make sure justice was served were heard. It was a good decision.
And yet we have read of several other incidents across the nation in which just the opposite has occurred.
A White police officer is immediately fired from his job after an incident involving a Black man. Disciplinary action is quickly taken against other law enforcement officers involved in race-related situations. A university president quickly steps in when a Black member of his school’s football team criticizes the school’s football coach for wearing a T-shirt adorned with the logo of a news outlet that has supported President Trump.
The point here is not who was right or wrong in any of these particular incidents. In many cases — like with the Omaha shooting — time will help shed light on the relevant aspects of each of them.
No, the point is that due process doesn’t get ignored simply because tensions are running high. The point is that a rush to judgment — regardless of the particulars of a situation rarely, if ever, is a wise course of action. The point is that reasonable, thoughtful responses are needed — more than ever — when bad things happen.
Let’s keep that in mind as the summer continues and this nation strives to work its way through racial tensions.