Timberlake: There is no comedy in tragedy


Miranda Cantrell/Iowa State Dail

A stolen truck crashed into a tree on Central Campus after a chase with Ames Police on Monday morning, Nov. 4. Witnesses reported hearing three gunshots.

Ian Timberlake

In the face of adversity and tragedy, humor is an excellent coping mechanism. It’s a quick way to brush off that which might otherwise cause concern, and in fact, does cause concern.

Social media was littered with humorous comments as soon as the news of the chase and shooting broke. Some statements — “Shots fired on Iowa State Campus today. Seriously? I mean I’m disappointed with how the football season’s going too but its going to be okay” and “Mystery machine is on site to solve this” — were among the more stainless comments. Some of the more unvirtuous comments included, “Shots on campus? I’ll bring the chaser,” “Is the tree okay?” and “GTA VI Iowa State University.”

The police chase and shooting on campus on Monday, Nov. 4, yielded a glimpse into the way our peers cope with hair-raising situations. Regardless of how you decide to cope, what happened on campus was no laughing matter.

The unloading of firearms with lethal intent in Ames isn’t precisely unusual, as every couple years an incident “goes down.” It is, however, far less common for it to occur on the university campus. And even rarer, by police.

Only the suspect who was running from the police was harmed and ultimately killed in the incident, a rather miraculous outcome considering the location of the chase and shooting was in the heart of Iowa State on a road nearly always flooded with students.

I have little sympathy for people who bring such chaos on themselves and others. People like Tyler Comstock, the suspect shot by the police, only brought hell on himself once he decided to run from police and endanger the lives of others. Geoff Huff, investigations commander for Ames Police, said: “This is really the option they had left.” But was it?

I would place a pretty large wager to say that the police messed up. Tyler Comstock, though reckless, destructive and deserving of prison for his actions, was stuck in a cluster of trees and squad cars and was fired upon in the middle of a sprawling, bustling campus. Was he a threat to the lives and safety of others while barrelling up Morrill Road? Yes. Was he a threat when he was stuck up against a tree? Probably not so much.

Joking about the actions of Tyler, the behavior of the police, the gunshots and the aftermath might be your coping mechanism for dealing with chaos, but it’s less than dignified and worse than crude.

The comments I quoted above weren’t the only gems:

“Shooting outside my class? Enjoy your adventure at Iowa State,” and “Nothing like starting homecoming week off with a bang.”

I’ll usually be the first to say that nobody should get their panties in a bunch when someone says something of ill taste; offense can only be taken, not given. In the same breath I’ll tell you that it just makes you look stale, boring and unseasoned.

A mother and father lost their son on Monday. A son who had past issues with mental stability but by some accounts wasn’t a trouble-causing kid. Though one point in the car chase posed a severe threat to bystanders, his death could’ve easily been avoided by the police as Comstock’s vehicle was trapped.

In my opinion, the officer who fired the shots should be reprimanded himself. After watching the dash cam video of the pursuit and shooting, I believe the police officer was a little quick to pull the trigger, given the state of the vehicle and its surroundings at the time.

There is absolutely no comedic value in the incident involving Tyler and the police. As stated before, Tyler brought hell on himself, but the police made a terrible lapse in judgment that ended in somber tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong, Tyler was moronic in his actions, and if he were alive today, I’d be perfectly indifferent with him getting slapped around a bit in prison. But homicide is black and white. There is no coming back, no chance for reflection, and certainly no comedy.