Police in Brownsville, Texas fatally shot 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez in the hallways of his school this week. The boy was brandishing a pellet gun, which police believed to be a handgun, the Chicago Sun Times reported. The police fired three shots at the boy, including one that entered the back of his head, suggesting that the boy was facing away from the police and not an imminent threat, according to the WSWS.
The boy’s parents are accusing the police of using excessive force and demanding they be punished. While many of the details of the case have yet to be released, it does seem excessive to have shot the boy three times, particularly in the back of the head, when a single bullet to the leg would have likely brought the boy down and ended the standoff. Also, the school was apparently locked down, which meant the threat to other students was minimal, giving police more time to try to talk to the boy and negotiate a surrender.
This tragic event will no doubt add to the general national hysteria around school safety and school shootings. It should be noted, however, that student homicides are rare at school, accounting for less than 2% of all youth homicides, according to USA Today, with kids 50 times more likely to die violently outside of school (often at the hands of their parents or other relatives). According the U.S. Department of Education, there were 15 school homicides in 2008-2009, the most recent year for which data is available, compared with 34 in 1992-93. Sadly, this week’s school homicide was at the hands of the police.