There’s a story coming out of Cincinnati right now about 11-year-old girl that stole candy from a Kroger and how a police officer tased her when she ran.
I’m so glad Kroger got their candy back, but at what expense? She will likely never trust another cop for the rest of her life because of the excessive use of force the officer chose to use in the moment.
This story has caused some polarizing debate from well-meaning people with an extreme divide in ethical preferences.
I live in Kansas City, but when I was 13 my family and I lived in Cincinnati. My dad was a pastor and had been through a few rough situations in some churches and had come out of the ministry for a time. We were back in Cincinnati because we didn’t know where else to go. We lived there before and it had some feeling of home but we were in pretty rough shape at that point.
My mom and dad did the best they absolutely could and sacrificed for our family, of which I will always be grateful. It doesn’t change that we were all in a very unhealthy place at that point in life. Add to that fact that I was at a very awkward stage in life as a 13-year-old. This season of life is difficult without the added difficulties of moving from one state to the next. At that time I was in my 12th dwelling.
A friend of mine and I were hanging out at his house one afternoon and he asked me to steal some cigars for him while we were in a Kroger by his house. I looked up to this guy, and I don’t hold the life of deceit I would turn to as a result of this against him, but he held the keys to something that my heart needed badly:
I got caught. All I remember is a big muscular hand on my arm in a commanding voice that said “Come with me.” I ditched the cigars on my way up to the managers office. When I got into the office they grilled me about it and I denied it but they had clearly seen what I’d done. They told me to leave and not to come back or they would call the cops. I walked down the steps by myself, boldly grabbed the cigars from where I’d thrown them down, and left through the front door.
I was so proud of myself that I was able to actually put them in the hands of the friend that asked me for the favor. Something happened in my brain and my heart simultaneously at that moment. I felt loved and needed by someone. I’m not trying to excuse any sin away with all the context and backstory but it has taken me years to figure out why I resorted to the life of a common thief for a couple years at that age.
This wasn’t my parents fault. They are obedient servants of the Lord and were doing whatever they could to help me feel loved but I’m convinced that I needed more than just my parents love and support at this time.
Teenagers, even in the best of circumstances, still have a free will and a baked in proclivity to exult themselves against Christ. It’s simply human nature.
Because of that rush I got when I first stole those cigars at Kroger I did it again when he didn’t ask me to steal for him, all because I wanted to repeat that feeling of acceptance I got from him. I had found my most high button, and every time I pressed it, it would take away the pain of the loneliness I felt temporarily. I got really good at stealing. I looked like a nice kid and figured out how to go into stores and take things with never looking suspicious. The first time I stole was the only time I ever got caught.
This went on until the fall of 1991 when I was a freshman in high school. I was in chapel one morning at Landmark Christian School and both my mom and dad were teachers there that time. In my first hour class I was bragging to a classmate about some recently ill gotten goods that I’d been hiding in my locker. He did me a favor by ratting me out to a teacher.
This was the beginning of my healing.
Mom and dad came and got me out of chapel and told me to go take them to my locker. I had stored up many different things that I’d taken because I didn’t want to keep them at my house. My locker at school was some place my parents were sure never to check, or so I thought.
When they cleaned out my locker they were absolutely stunned with everything that I had hidden from them. This life of deceit would go on for about another year making myself and my family miserable as a result.
About a year after this incident, I was at West Chester Baptist Church one Sunday late afternoon while my dad and mom led choir practice. I knew something needed to change in my life and I was tired of resorting to stealing to make me feel like someone worthy of love and respect.
I was so embarrassed of what I did next that I wouldn’t tell anybody about it until I was 40, but now I’m not embarrassed in the least because it is a critical part of my story of coming to saving faith in Jesus. I went behind the church and I SCREAMED out to God for Him to change me. I don’t think the neighbors heard me but I know for a fact that their dogs did.
A couple weeks later I would walk the aisle at church after an evangelist spoke on a Sunday night to profess my faith in Jesus as my Savior, but I know beyond all doubt now that God saved me that day that I screamed out to Him.
Psalm 51:17 says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
I can honestly say that I became somebody different at that point but only I and Jesus knew it. It took a couple years to prove myself to those that had come to know me as nothing more than a common thief. I no longer stole from that point forward. I accepted God’s love in my life and he set me a blaze for him but it would be a while to come away from the identity I’d created for myself in the eyes of those that knew me most.
About a year later I was in the gymnasium with my mom while she held practice for the high school girls volleyball team. I was sitting on the bleachers when I saw the head coach of the football team approach my mom and say “Can Timmy play football?” Mom knew that I needed to do something aside from just sitting on the bleachers waiting to go home and agreed as long as he could assure her that I wouldn’t get hurt. He gave her his best and that was that. Two-a-days would start the following week and I suited up with the team.
A couple months in we were well into the season and I was playing as a defensive back because that’s where they put slower kids that can’t catch. DJ was a kid in my class and was one of our running backs. I was going to try and tackle him midfield but I put my head down right before he hit me. The next thing I remember I had a few teammates standing over me because I’d blacked out when he hit me.
It was like getting tased on the back of my neck.
I learned a very important lesson in form tackling that day. I didn’t wanna look like a wuss so I got up and got back in line like I was ready for the next play. My coach called out, “Are you OK Timmy?” I waved my hand like I was, and the whistle was blown for the next play.
That day after practice we were kneeling down under the trees listening to Coach talk about the game that coming Friday. In closing out practice that day he said something to me that I’ll never forget and would change the way I saw myself. In the presence of all my friends and teammates, Coach Fryer said, “Holman, you earned your stripes today.”
A few upperclassman kneeling next to me punched me on the pads in affirmation. I would never be the same.
When I heard about that 11-year-old kid getting tased for stealing a bag of candy I thought of myself. I understand that the law is there to protect us but often times the people that exercise the law in those contexts don’t have either…
- enough time to make a good decision concerning someone’s safety and the law being broken, or…
- the best interest in mind for those offending the law.
It’s easy to make snap judgments about those that break the law and those to enforce the law. Cops aren’t there to be counselors but it wouldn’t help for them to use the heart as opposed to always resorting to the black-and-white nature of wrong and right.
This girl didn’t need to get tased. I believe it was an excessive use of force but I’m also hoping that this is something that God can use in her life to get her attention. More than anything, she needs a hug from someone that will love her unconditionally and can help her right where she’s at.