If Eric Casebolt is your hero, we need to talk

CaseboltNow that Eric Casebolt has resigned from the McKinney police department his bizarre actions will gradually fade from the headlines. We can all be thankful that police chief Greg Conley got out in front of the story (and not a moment too soon) by admitting that his officer was “out of control” when he climbed out of his police car and remained out of control throughout the entire episode.

The back-and-forth about what brought police officers to the scene will continue, but I’m not really interested. Suffice it to say that some of the African American kids at the pool party were from the neighborhood and had pool passes while others did not. White parents, seeing all the Black children as equally alien, made racist comments like “go back to your section 8 neighborhood” or “go back to the plantation”.  Some Black kids grew incensed and an altercation ensued.

But, whether or not you agree with this summary, none of that really matters. If the McKinney police department had handled this incident professionally we wouldn’t know that things got a bit out of hand on the rich side of McKinney, Texas last Friday. If the officers had calmly taken statements from all parties at the scene, and calmly encouraged the combatants to calm down, this would have gone into the books as just another minor incident unworthy of media attention.

And, for the most part, that is exactly what was happening before Eric Casebolt arrived on the scene. The chief had it right–the man was out of control. Moreover, as the senior officer, it was difficult for his fellow officers to shut him down. Pushing, shoving, cursing like a drunken sailor, waving his gun in the direction of horrified young people, and finally sexually assaulting a young girl less than half his size, Casebolt’s performance was a jaw-dropper.

I am troubled by the conservative white folks who used social media to honor and valorize Casebolt, suggesting his actions were justified, professional and necessary.

How could any sane person view the viral video and draw that conclusion?

Eric Casebolt is a troubled man, but we can only guess at the source of his trouble.

After ten years of military service, was he the victim of a delayed PTSD reaction?

Was Casebolt driven by the kind of insane racial animus that leads otherwise sensible people to curse whenever our president appears on television without being able to articulate what inspires their hate?

Was the ex-officer high on drugs?

I have no idea.  But his behavior cries out for some kind of explanation.

And that’s why the momentary adulation the man received is so troubling. I fear that even if Casebolt had actually gunned down two or three of the young black men he threatened with his firearm, thousands of white people in North Texas would have backed him to the hilt. The simple fact that young black children (and, yes, they are legally children) refused to satisfy the man’s appetite for submission, in the eyes of far too many people, would have justified any action designed to break their will.

And that’s just flat scary.

The Casebolt saga reminds me of the Gadarene demoniac in the Bible. Asked for his name, the broken man replied “legion”, suggesting that more than one kind of demon was oppressing him.

But the word “legion” would have had a second meaning in first century Palestine that no one could miss. Was the man saying that his madness channeled the crazed cruelty of the Roman Empire? Had the man served as a Roman soldier and seen things no one should see? Or had he been so brutalized by the forces of empire that his mind coped by splintering into a thousand pieces?

The Bible suggests these questions but provides no answer save the healing touch of the Master.

But the same questions must be asked with reference to Mr. Casebolt. This is NOT a story about one bad apple spoiling the reputation of an otherwise pristine community. Whatever infected this rogue McKinney police officer is rampant within our society.  His name is legion.

The madness must be named before it can be healed. Once again, the touch of the Master is needed. I leave you with the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero:

No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: ‘You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.’

5 thoughts on “If Eric Casebolt is your hero, we need to talk

  1. Did officer Casebolt sexually assault the young girl? I have not seen that claim in print before, but the thought crossed my mind as I saw the video over and over. And I expressed the thought that there was a sexual element in this. The comparison to the Gadarene demoniac is interesting and apt.

  2. I have reconsidered. Of course there’s absolutely nothing sexual about it, when a 200 lb. man has a scantily clad teenage girl pinned to the ground, and he is on top of her.

  3. Regardless of how people view the exact specifics of this circumstance I do think that the larger point is very valid. We have troubling videos like this popping up almost weekly. There is a bigger cultural question to address here. I think Archbishop Romero’s quote is very applicable. We have to start seeing our community as inclusive and stop seeing “us and them”.

  4. Since Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland and other trouble spots, police are now afraid to do their jobs because of fear of losing their jobs, being arrested or prosecuted and having their lives turned upside down. Arrests are down significantly and crime, including murder, is up as much as 50% over the same period a year ago in some cities, such as Baltimore. Crime is rising fast in neighborhoods that need the police most.

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