IN APRIL, a 27-year-old man was charged with several offences after a rifle was removed from a marked OPP cruiser and fired in front of Kenora’s Lake of the Woods hospital.

How someone other than a police officer could end up in possession of an officer’s weapon is rightly the subject of a probe by the OPP’s professional standards bureau.

What was indeed fortunate is that despite the hair-raising nature of the incident, nobody was injured — including, significantly, the man who allegedly fired the rifle. This was very likely the result of a police officer who exercised restraint under dangerous circumstances.

It’s worth considering what could have happened if what transpired in Kenora had occurred somewhere in the United States.

On Tuesday, about 300 outraged protesters clogged part of downtown Minneapolis over the June 23 police shooting of a 31-year-old man in that city.

According to Associated Press reports, Thurman Blevins was fatally shot in the back as he fled from two officers down an alleyway. Before he was killed, Blevins had reportedly shouted, to no avail: “Don’t shoot me.”

Minneapolis police later released a body-cam video that appeared to show that Blevins had a gun, but there appeared to be no compelling evidence that the officers were in immediate danger, or had been shot at themselves. Lots of people in the U.S. carry guns; this is unfortunate, but hardly a shocking discovery.

Police were there in the first place to respond to a 911 call that someone had been firing a gun into the air. They reportedly believed Blevins was armed, and told him to put up his hands or he would be shot. We know that phrase from the movies: “Stop or I’ll shoot!” Implicit in that phrase is that mere suspicion justifies killing someone.

The officers’ belief that Blevins, who was black, was armed is apparently enough for them to be exempt from criminal charges, according to state authorities.

There is very little rapport between police and American’s black population; this latest shooting will only add to that profound distrust.

Is that why Blevins chose to flee, telling police to “leave me alone”? If he feared for his life, it was understandable: an officer shot him even though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that Blevins had harmed anyone prior to officers arriving at the scene, or posed an immediate threat to anyone on the street.

We don’t know much about Blevins — whether or not he was involved in criminal activity, or was having a bad day or a good one prior to his exchange with police. A family member said “he was not an evil man walking the earth.”

All we know is that Blevins — who was in the prime of life — was shot in the back while fleeing police and pleading for his life, an all-too common occurrence south of the border.

The young man who allegedly fired an OPP officer’s rifle in Kenora is alive. Even if he’s found guilty of the offences he faces, he will still have the chance to turn his life around and “walk the earth.”

Blevins didn’t get that chance.

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