I was driving down W. Park Avenue in Ocean Township, as I often do to catch the Garden State Parkway, when a police car came up from behind me, passed me really quickly on the left with its lights on. I thought I was being pulled over until I saw it fly across Route 35 and, in an awkward maneuver, block off a street leading to the parking lot at the local 7-Eleven.

It was a little bit of a log jam anyway, so of course, as anyone would do, I looked to see what the emergency was. And there it was. Something I’ve only ever seen on the news or in the movies. Right in front of my eyes. Two cops standing outside of their car, kind of hiding behind their doors for cover. And at least one had his gun drawn. The other cop was not in my sight line, but it looked like he was also holding his weapon.

The guy they were aiming it looked like a kid, to me. He could’ve been 16 or 17, maybe a little older and had his arms outstretched in surrender, with a cell phone in one hand. As I slowly drove by, my heart started beating faster and all I kept thinking was “please! I don’t want to see a shooting!” So I looked away and drove on.

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I had been able to watch it long enough to have noticed something chilling, though. A crowd of people were standing around watching. Instead of running away, to get to safety, or to get out of the cops way so they could do their job in what was obviously a tense situation (or just to dodge a bullet away if it came to that) people stood around with their cell phone video cameras rolling.

One girl actually had the widest smile I have ever seen while she was rolling. She was positively glowing. I think she was really excited to be able to get this footage either posted on her Instagram to boost her followers or just to say that she was there. In the old days, you saw guns drawn and you ran to try to avoid being hurt. But today, you’ve got to get it all on video. Everything is content.

I have no idea what happened. I don’t know if the kid was innocent or guilty or why the weapons were drawn. I have enough faith in the police to believe that unless they had good reason to do so, they would not have drawn their weapons. What struck me the most about the situation was that the kid was black. And that this was going to be fuel for the raging fire we are enduring during this difficult time in our country. And with both Ocean Township police and this boy’s (man’s?) life hanging in the balance, not to mention the associated sensitivity that his race added to the mix, people were concerned with watching. And shooting video. Either to create “content.” Or to stir controversy.

Either one is a sad reflection of what we’ve become.


Editor's note: New Jersey 101.5 news team has since written this story about the incident, reflecting allegations made by onlookers at the scene that police didn't need their guns drawn, as well as the police chief's response that his officers handled a fraught situation.


The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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