Legitimate questions


Monroe Isadore dwelt on this Earth for 107 years, in fact nearly 108. Surely, this was a man who had the wisdom of experience.

That makes it even more of a shame that Mr. Isadore is no longer among us. Perhaps he would have some wisdom to impart as we struggle to understand the circumstances that led to his death.

Mr. Isadore died last weekend after swapping gunfire with Pine Bluff police officers. His death has fueled a bubbling cauldron of emotions in this city: sadness, anger, distrust, perhaps even a measure of fear.

The Pine Bluff Police Department has been criticized in some circles for its handling of the situation. The usual suspects have fanned the flames, passing judgment before all the facts have been made public, pointing fingers and tossing around words like “murder” — much the same way some of them casually toss around words like “journalism,” but that’s a column for another day.

It’s difficult to understand the motives of these people. Perhaps they really believe the words they are saying. Or perhaps their words are merely intended to stir outrage and widen the gulf of racism and race-centric thought and behavior that exists in Pine Bluff.

Mr. Isadore was a black man. By all accounts, he was also a beautiful human being — a man who tended his garden, professed his love for Jesus and engaged in small acts of kindness such as delivering pecans to The Commercial newsroom.

Something went terribly, tragically wrong on Sept. 7. We may never know what prompted him to pick up a handgun, point it at people who loved and cared for him, and then fire it at the officers whose sworn duty is to serve and protect all the citizens of Pine Bluff.

As much as some of the criticism leveled at the Pine Bluff Police Department can be — and should be — dismissed as more of the same, tired old race-baiting from those who would seek to divide this community rather than unite it, there is also room in the discussion for legitimate questions.

Could the police have handled the situation differently? Did police force the issue by agitating a frightened, confused old man rather than waiting him out? Had they simply attempted to contain the situation and exercised more patience, might there have been a peaceful resolution?

These are not unreasonable questions, and there may very well be reasonable answers. We simply don’t have enough information to form an opinion at this point that is based more on fact than emotion.

If, and it’s a Herculean if, there is fault to be found in the way the entire situation was handled, it lies not with the officer who fired the fatal shot.

There seems to be no question that Isadore fired at the officers who entered the bedroom where he was holed up. Under those circumstances, the officer who pulled the trigger and ended the standoff was protecting his own life and those of his brothers in arms. As unfortunate and distasteful as it is, and as incredibly difficult as it must have been, it was the only course of action at that point.

If there were mistakes made, it was in the strategy employed by police in attempting to defuse the situation. At the same time, it is possible that police simply had no other choice. We should, as individuals and as a community, reserve judgment until more of the facts come into focus.

That said, I believe a few things already are crystal-clear: Mr. Isadore wasn’t killed because he was a black man. He wasn’t murdered. He died because he used a deadly weapon in an attempt to inflict harm on other human beings.

Mr. Isadore’s death was an immense tragedy. Perhaps it could have been avoided.