Can it be that it was all so simple?
The answer — at least, in the case of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, who fought back and lured the domestic terrorists storming the Capitol last week toward backup without resorting to lethal force — appears to be a resounding yes.
Over the weekend, Goodman’s name and video footage of him in that terrifying moment, facing off against dozens of angry, right-wing extremists who probably don’t like people who have the same color skin as Goodman, a Black man, went viral for all the right reasons. He has emerged as a hero because his expert sense of policing and training prompted him to decide on the fly to lead the throng of MAGA flag-flying mostly white men away from the Senate floor. Instead, Goodman dangled a proverbial carrot — himself — in front of the rabid mob, convincing them to follow him directly toward more police officers. While Goodman reached toward his gun and gestured as if he might pull it, he never did.
That in itself is the personification of pure heroism; a display of the kind of law enforcement de-escalating a situation that was sorely needed as the brutal thugs who stormed the Capitol killed one of Goodman’s colleagues.
Goodman’s heroics deserve even more recognition for the way he managed to use self-restraint, regardless of how outnumbered he was. In fact, it’s that same kind of unfavorable ratio that has compelled white police officers to shoot first and ask questions later when the suspects have been Black. It is truly amazing that Goodman did not show the same fear for his life — although the threat was there — that white police officers have expressed when shooting unarmed Black suspects in the back.
In case you missed the video, Goodman, who was only wielding a baton despite being armed with a service weapon, at times pushed the angry mob back before retreating up some stairs. At least one person who appeared to be leading the mob was wearing a shirt emblazoned by QAnon, a group of conspiracy theorists who have repeated Donald Trump‘s baseless claims of election fraud. Watch below.
Goodman did all that while some of his white colleagues opened the gates to facilitate the mob storming the Capitol, stopped and posed for selfies with the domestic terrorists, helped one of them get away and more behavior that runs counter to what is expected from the police.
For what it’s worth, BuzzFeed News reported that the U.S. Capitol Police chief and upper management left their officers unprepared despite having been notified of the intended coup attempt. That, in turn, left Goodman and his fellow Black Capitol police officers “especially vulnerable to a mob that had been whipped up by President Donald Trump, a man who has a record of inspiring racist vigilantes to action,” as reporter Emmanuel Felton accurately wrote.
That makes Goodman’s actions — and inactions — even more significant since, if history is any indication, he could have easily emptied his gun’s clip while shooting at the domestic terrorists who illegally broke into the U.S. Capitol, hallowed federal property. After all, Goodman simply could have said he feared for his life, something that would not have been an exaggeration in the least. It’s also the common defense that white police officers routinely and successfully rely upon when they kill Black people suspected of far less than breaching a government building in which Congress was meeting to tally Electoral College votes and certify the next American president.
This is America.