On Monday, 12-year-old Ciara Meyer stayed home from school because she was sick. But later that day, when a Pennsylvania constable approached her home to “enforce an eviction order,” she was shot and killed on the spot.
Meyer was in her family’s apartment when Constable Clarke Steele came to their door. Steele said that Ciara’s father, Donald Meyer, first opened and shut the door. Moments later, holding a rifle, he opened the door again. Meyer allegedly pointed the weapon at Steele, so the officer fired his own weapon. The bullet flew through Meyer’s arm, hitting his daughter. She died on the scene, and her father was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening wounds.
The entire incident happened “within seconds.”
According to the Commonwealth Constables Association, Steele suspended himself after the shooting. Steele belongs to the association, which acts independently of the state’s larger law enforcement agencies, as an elected officer. Members of the association typically volunteer their services at local events in the region, and act on behalf of lower courts in the area.
The Meyers’ landlord filed a complaint about the family’s delinquent rent to a district court in November. Judge Daniel McGuire issued an order of possession at the end of December, and Steele was enforcing the eviction notice on behalf of the court.
State police have launched an investigation, to determine whether or not Steele should be charged. Meyer has already been charged with reckless endangerment, simple assault, aggravated assault, and making terroristic threats.
Ciara’s death comes weeks after the officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio walked away, scot-free. Rice was also shot within seconds for holding a toy gun, and the two officers at the scene let him bleed for four minutes before administering aid. The officers also handcuffed his 14-year-old sister, who watched her brother die on the ground.
Ciara’s death illustrates how police are often ill-equipped to handle children who may be present during an arrest. Cops generally receive little training about how to shield and support kids at the scene. In this case, Ciara was accidentally killed, but other kids are severely traumatized when they see officers draw their weapons and handcuff loved ones.
A 2011 Bureau of Justice Statistics report found that six percent of arrest-related deaths are accidental. According to a database compiled by the Guardian, police have shot and killed 20 people this year.