Was Robert Dear Arrested Alive Because He's White, Unlike Syed Farook?

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the reportedly married couple suspected of murdering fourteen people and injuring seventeen others during a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California yesterday, were killed by police.

Robert Dear, the gunman in the assault on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on November 27, was taken into custody alive.

Dear is white. Farook and Malik are not; both were of Pakistani descent.

These simple facts are likely to restart a conversation that flared up in the immediate aftermath of the Planned Parenthood shooting — the supposition that if Dear had been something other than Caucasian, he would have wound up in a body bag rather than in jail.

BizpacReview is among the news organizations to raise this subject, highlighting a tweet from Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson in which he shared an image of Dear being led away by police: 

Shortly thereafter, filmmaker Michael Moore chimed in on the subject and made a similar point.

The Washington Post also jumped into the issue with a piece headlined "Did ‘whiteness’ save the life of the alleged Planned Parenthood shooter?"

Here's an excerpt from the Post's article:
After Dylan Roof allegedly executed nine worshipers in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., in June, police arrested the 19-year-old without incident, bought him a hamburger and later described the white supremacist as “quiet” and “calm.”

His peaceful apprehension echoed the arrests white mass murderers like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Aurora, Colo., theater shooter James Holmes, both of whom ended up alive and in handcuffs after carrying out mass slaughters.

Months before Roof’s arrest, meanwhile, widely circulated videos captured 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 22-year-old John Crawford III being shot and killed by police within seconds of authorities arriving on scene.

Among organizations offended by this debate was the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police.

On November 28, the group shared on its Facebook page a post aimed at those who think "the only reason the shooter in yesterday's tragedy is alive is because he is white."

The statement included jabs at "race baiting delusional ignorant fools with an agenda of hate that use any tragic event to peddle their corrupted opinion," as well as a slam at "hate filled divisive rhetoric."

The post was subsequently deleted, but here's a screen capture:

After Farook (and, later, Malik) were identified in the San Bernardino attack, questions about race again flared up on social media, with an piece again focusing on activist McKesson.

Prior to the naming of Farook and Malik, McKesson retweeted this message, featuring a link to a Gawker report:

Afterward, plenty of Twitter commentators took McKesson and others to task for assuming, incorrectly as it turned out, that the San Bernardino killers would be revealed as white.

Thus far, the racial debates about Farook and Malik have mostly centered on the question of whether the attacks qualified as religious fanaticism/terrorism — terms that have also been used in relation to Dear.

This tweet from moments ago underscores the point.

Don't be surprised, however, if the discussion about possible motives in the San Bernardino tragedy raise the point that Farook and Malik are no longer able to reveal why they committed their terrible acts, while Dear is — followed by speculation about why that might be the case.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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