‘You boys need a role model?’ Punisher logo spotted on phone of officer who responded to Uvalde shooting

Michael Williams

The Dallas Morning News

The leak of video on Tuesday from inside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde painted a devastating picture of law enforcement’s response to the massacre of students and teachers May 24 — showing police waiting in a hallway for more than an hour while the gunman was in a classroom.

The video, published by the Austin-American Statesman and KVUE-TV, also included an easy-to-miss detail when one of the first officers to respond glanced at his phone.

On the phone’s screen is a logo belonging to the Punisher, a character in the Marvel superhero universe known for using murder and violence as part of his quest for vigilante justice.

The appropriation of the Punisher logo by law enforcement has been controversial. In 2019 the man who created the character, Gerry Conway, said he was enraged to see police sporting the logo of an antihero known for his extrajudicial methods.

Conway amplified his criticism after police officers across the country were pictured wearing the logo during 2020 protests over George Floyd’s murder, and after the patch with the logo was seen on a man dressed in military-style gear and carrying zip ties during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“The Punisher is representative of the failure of law and order to address the concerns of people who feel abandoned by the legal system,” Conway told Forbes. “It always struck me as stupid and ironic that members of the police are embracing what is fundamentally an outlaw symbol.”

The Punisher first appeared in a 1974 edition of The Amazing Spider Man. His real name is Frank Castle — a Marine veteran whose path to vengeance begins after his family is murdered.

“Frank made the decision to pursue not only the criminals who had a hand in the slaying of his family, but also those who try to escape from the law and righteousness,” the Punisher’s official Marvel biography says. “Vengeful of the deaths of his loved ones, Castle set his sights on ensuring that every criminal be punished for their wrong-doings as a vigilante called the Punisher.”

The vigilante is also featured in the Netflix and Disney+ series Marvel’s The Punisher. Jon Bernthal, who plays the titular character, also has criticized the logo’s misuse.

Marvel has implicitly acknowledged the controversy: In a 2019 comic, Castle is stopped by two New York City officers who idolize him and ask for a selfie.

Castle responds by tearing the Punisher logo off their car: “I’ll only say this once,” he said. “We’re not the same. You took an oath to uphold the law. You help people. I gave that up a long time ago. You don’t do what I do. Nobody does. You boys need a role model? His name is Captain America and he’d be happy to have you.”

Marvel revised the logo recently, giving it a more demonic look.

The officer with the logo on his phone was one of the first authorities to enter Robb Elementary School on May 24, just minutes after the 18-year-old gunman walked into the school.

After three officers run down a hallway toward the classroom where the shooter is, he and other officers take cover around a corner at the end of the hall. While holding a handgun in his right hand, he takes his phone out with his left hand and quickly looks at it, showing the logo, before putting it back in his pocket.

It’s not clear what the officer was looking at, and he has not been identified.

The gunman was killed by police 77 minutes after the first officers arrived. Nineteen students and two teachers died in the shooting.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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