A tense situation involving an armed civilian could have ended tragically, but instead was resolved peacefully by police in Kalamazoo, Mich.
And the incident embodies the racist underbelly of American law enforcement.
Here's what happened: In May, as reported by MLive, 63-year-old Joseph Houseman took to the streets with his rifle. Numerous residents called the police saying, "He does appear to be intoxicated" and, "He's stumbling around a little bit and kind of bumping into some stuff."
When a police sergeant arrived, things got tense. Houseman refused pleas to put his rifle down and told the officer, "Why don't you fucking shoot me?" The officer responded, "I don't want to shoot you; I'm not here to do that."
And he didn't. Despite calling police "gang members" and talking about revolution, Houseman eventually relinquished the rifle, apologized, shook hands with an officer and left (after refusing a breathalyzer test). He was not charged with any crimes and later got his gun back. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety declined to press charges.
Things could have been different. What if Houseman was black? Open carry is legal in Michigan, and police noted that they were respecting Houseman's right to have his rifle outside (though, as one officer said, he had "certainly overextended them at this point.")
But what would have happened had a black man carrying a gun told the police, "I can threaten you if I want to ... I can threaten your family"? 22-year-old John Crawford, a black man in Beaverford, Ohio, was shot and killed by police for less: He refused to put down a BB gun he took off the shelf in Walmart.
More tragic shootings have occurred for even less than that. The Root has a breakdown of people killed by police whose suspected weapons ended up being wallets, cell phones or nothing at all. And there are those, like Michael Brown in Ferguson, whose stories vary wildly depending on whether police or bystanders are telling them.
This is not to say police reacted wrongly to Houseman's escapades — a nonviolent end to a tense situation involving guns is good for all. But officers should extend the same patience and benefit of the doubt to everyone they come across, regardless of what they look like.