A recent case in this week’s news involving the conviction and sentencing of a police officer responsible for slaying an innocent man struck me in such a manner that I felt compelled to share it with whoever might find the story to be of interest. Former New Orleans police officer Joshua Colclough took the stand on Friday, August 16, and plead guilty to the murder of 20-year-old Wendell Allen during a botched marijuana raid that took place in March of 2012. Acting on what was described by Claude Kelly (Colclough’s defense attorney) as a “split-second decision,” Colclough fired his weapon at the scantily-clad and unarmed Allen in a move of carelessly excessive haste. Colclough was subsequently sentenced to four years in prison, but not before he engaged in a tearful and emotional meeting with the family of the man whose life he had taken during a momentary lapse of judgement.
The meeting, which was recorded by local news agency WVUE-TV, was the sort of exchange that no words could ever appropriately describe. Allen’s family, despite expressing their justifiable anger at the year-and-a-half-long delay before which Colclough’s gesture of repentance was made, nevertheless offered their stance of forgiveness to Colclough less than a day before his appearance in court. In a powerful statement, Natasha Allen (mother of the young man who fell victim to Colclough’s trigger-happy tendencies) remarked to the former officer, “What I’m doing for you [offering forgiveness], Mr. Colclough, is what my son would have done for you.” When Ms. Allen tearfully implored of him as to why he had waited so long to make his apology, Colclough replied, “I wanted to tell you for a very long time how sorry I am. I am so very sorry.”
Despite these heartfelt moments of sorrowful connection between the two involved parties, the fact remains that a young man will be forevermore absent from this life, snatched away in the blink of an eye by a man acting on behalf of the shiny little badge of police authority (a pitiful excuse for the justification of murder in any context). To add insult to injury, the raid was apparently marijuana-related, and as such involved the use of violence against peaceful individuals who were guilty of nothing more than the possession of a plant which has become peculiarly unpopular to the government and its agents. As is so often the case, the only party that brought physical harm to any individual involved was indeed the state itself. Prior to police arrival, no one had been harmed in any way; once agents of the state became involved, peaceful individuals were made to be the victims of the violent aggression and faulty judgement of its dangerously flighty enforcers. And all in the name of protecting society from a plant that has been proven to be not only harmless, but even beneficial to human health and industry. Wendell Allen unfortunately became the scenario’s sole victim that day, and fell victim not only to Officer Colclough, but to the monstrosity of human abuses known today as the war on drugs.
It’s a terrible shame that someone had to die in order for an instance like this to take place, but such an occurrence might make one wonder how many other law enforcement officers out there disguise their shame as a murderer with the illusion of bravado and such trite, collectivist conceits like “civic duty” in order to divert the blame. Generally, they try to justify their violent atrocities with claims that their victims were uncooperative or acted erratically, seemingly posing a threat at the time of the altercation. The genuine rarity of a humanly raw and honest expression of sorrow such as this is an inspiring (though tragic) display of the inevitably gruesome outcomes of a state-monopolized police force and its willingness to use violence against non-violent “criminals.” I hope word spreads about this story and reaches the countless men and women still in uniform out there. Hopefully it will spark some inner dialogue among them about the violent nature of their occupations, and about the needless casualties that are inevitably the everyday outcome of a system that subsists exclusively on violence.