When no one steps up to deal with violence and insanity

When no one steps up to deal with violence and insanity

We’re all still wondering why police in Uvalde, Texas didn’t storm the classroom and kill the gunman given that active-shooter training indicates that’s what should happen. Also this week there’s a video circulating on Twitter which has me wondering almost the same thing. Why did no one act?

A viral video on social media shows a woman being assaulted on a New York City subway train as bystanders keep a safe distance away from the scene.

The video shows an individual acting out on the subway. As other passengers move away, the individual pulls one passenger down onto a seat by her hair.

The passenger can be seen mouthing, “Somebody help me,” as the individual continues holding on to her hair while they are seated. None of the other passengers assist her as the individual holds on to her hair and, eventually, lifts her from the seat.

Here’s the clip [some NSFW langauge]

On the scale of New York City disturbances, this one was so minor that it seems no one reported it. So far as anyone knows, there’s no police report. No local news outlet covered it. Fox News wrote about the video because it was trending online but even they don’t seem to know when or where it was shot. The guy filming is clearly visible in the middle of the clip but you can’t hear what he’s saying and I don’t think he’s been identified. Neither has the the crazy man who is the focus of the video. He’s still out there I guess.

Except for the video itself, this entire incident was considered beneath notice. And yet, this is obviously dangerous. This man is clearly on drugs and is out of his mind. He’s behaving violently and erratically. He grabs one woman by the hair and he verbally threatens people and tries to smash the window with his feet. He’s a real danger to everyone.

And no one does anything. No one tells him to let go of the poor woman who is clearly terrified. No one wants to become the focus of his attention, which is understandable. And yet I found myself wishing one of the large men on the train would step up and face the danger rather than letting a small woman face it alone.

The video appeared the day after the Uvalde shooting and before we knew that police had waited outside the room where the shooter had locked himself inside. But I can’t help think there’s a similar calculation going on in both cases. As one DPS spokesman said, police didn’t want to get shot. Better to “contain” the gunman in a room with his innocent victims until the proper team and the proper equipment had arrived. And if that took 75 minutes, well, better safe than sorry. That was the thinking at the time. And we’re hearing today that other cops on the scene were unhappy about it but none of them did anything until the BORTAC agents finally got sick of waiting and went in and killed Ramos.

The scene on the train isn’t the same but the mood is similar. You have a deranged and violent person in a small area with a bunch of potential victims and everyone decides not to engage. He didn’t have a rifle but he may have had a knife. Even if he didn’t, in his deranged state he might be able to seriously hurt someone with just his hands and feet. Why risk it? Better to just wait and see what happens. And I guess in this particular case it worked. No one was seriously hurt. But it could easily have gone differently. At what point would the men on the train have decided they’d seen enough and pin him to the floor? Maybe if he threw a punch?

I guess what I take away from this is that the fear of focusing the danger on yourself is always there whether you’re an armed police officer or just a person on a train. Of course I say this not knowing for certain if I could do any better. Dealing with other people’s violent insanity at the risk of your own safety is a lot to ask of anyone. But this week it’s impossible not to conclude we’d be better off if more people were willing to step up.

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Duane Patterson 2:01 PM on June 05, 2023