Jason Pero died on Nov 8, 2017 when an Ashland County deputy’s bullets hit his heart and right shoulder. He was 14 years old.
Jason lived in the tight knit community of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. He was learning the traditional ways of his people. He was a drummer. He was in eighth grade. Home sick from school, police reports say he was walking with a knife near his home and that he was the one who had made the 911 call describing himself. The deputy tells us that Jason lunged at him with the knife and that the boy refused to drop the weapon on command.
There were eight minutes from the time of the 911 call until the fatal shooting. Eight minutes. Eight minutes of thoughts running wild. Eight minutes and the training to shoot a suspect at center-mass was executed.
Eight minutes and now an eternity to understand why… The why that we may never know…
But there are some things we can know. No child should be cut down in the street.
We can send people to the moon, we can transplant human organs, but we cannot find a way to stop an assailant with a knife, or perhaps someone who is frightened or mentally distraught, by any other means than a lethal shot to center-mass?
I believe the time has come to end this dogmatic practice by our police forces or to at least begin a healthy dialogue on the possibility of ending it. The life of a 14 year-old boy is over and the life of the 24 year-old deputy will be forever changed. A community is reliving the trauma of centuries of occupation and people are once again blindly defending the actions of authority.
The time to remember our humanity is now. There are solutions that can be enacted but we must have the will to allow them to emerge. We are better than this. Our children deserve more than this.
The storyline will always be second to this fact: Jason Pero is dead. It’s time we care. Let us begin a conversation about the misuse of power, acknowledging that it is detrimental to the abuser as well as to the victim, and above all, let us find a way to quell the fears that too many of us harbor towards one another. Let us rekindle kindness. It’s time.
This piece aired on WDRT’s “Consider This”, Thursday, December 14.
The photo is of forget-me-nots.