Sunday, September 23, 2012

Okay, look...

There have been times when a police officer has shot somebody who was armed with a knife or an airsoft gun or whatever, and I've come across as some sort of big ol' cop apologist by saying things like "How could he have known it was an airsoft gun?" or "How many times is the officer supposed to let himself get stabbed before he can put away the pepper spray and use lethal force?"

Part of it is from a certain reluctance to engage in Monday-morning quarterbacking, but a lot of it is simple self-preservation: I'd hate to have to shoot some hypothetical future knife-wielding mugger, only to have the other team's lawyer come strolling into the courtroom with a ream of printed out blog posts featuring me whining "Why didn't the cop just wrestle the knife out of his hand?"

With all that taken into consideration, and acknowledging that it is not yet Monday morning: "Blue 42! Hut, hut, hut!"

Seriously, officer? A double amputee? In a wheelchair?

I understand it was a pretty stressful situation, and that the guy had a reputation for occasionally losing his fecal matter and rolling about the place like a combination of a rabid Ghengis Khan and R2D2, but thus far the group home staff have kept him successfully tethered to Mother Earth with a toolset notably devoid of Glock 22s. Even if you really and truly thought that the pen he was waving about was an... I don't know, an X-acto knife, I guess... was going to guns the onliest and bestest solution at your disposal?

How could you have thought that would look good?

45 comments:

Weer'd Beard said...

You have great points, and given the HUGE number of Police forces that have been caught fabricating bogus stories to protect fellow officers who showed some REALLY bad judgement, or were directly engaging in criminal behavior, I suspect your opinion is the right one.

That being said, if I was to play a bit of the Devil's Advocate, and we assume the cop wasn't lying...cornering a cop and making threats is a REALLY stupid idea.

Still there was nothing in this story that couldn't have been solved with a taser and/or a collapsible baton.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I REALLY hate these reports. Tam, I spent the last ten years as a federal police officer at a Veterans Affairs hospital. Dealt with just about every kind'a of person having a physical impairment and psych issue you can come up with. A 5 tour Green Beret on Canadian Crutches can stuff those crutches where my sun don't shine even at 65. Wheelchairs? Teaching fellow cops how just to search a wheelchair bound suspect is tough. One trick I drove home time after time.. stick the baton through the spokes...SCOTUS said a long time ago... a bad guy can say whatever he wants, do whatever he wants, as long as he wants...so long as I got the last action he can have all the last words he wants even in the Psych ward... but then, this kind of police crap is why after a total of 31 years behind a shield I gave trying to be a Peacekeeper.

Joel said...

"It was close quarters in the area of the house," Silva said. "The officer was forced into an area where he had no way to get out."

Really? He was forced there? By the guy in the wheelchair. With the pen. Gosh.

I've never been threatened by a terrifying, pen-wielding man in a wheelchair, so I don't know. But I do know that you don't ever let a horse back you up against a fence, because when you do that you surrender all the initiative to the horse. It now has a wide range of possible action, and all you have is aggression. I assume there's a parallel in there for human/human interactions.

Don't academies teach cops how to avoid situations they have to shoot their way out of?

Yes, I'm a professional at Monday-morning quarterbacking.

Bear said...

Cops shooting pen-wielding "perps" is actually so common that Ken Holder wrote about such lethal implements (and the People's Republik of Kalifornia's attempt to ban them) back in '96, and Nathan Barton of the LRT produced a few batches of "Deadly Assault Pens" that got distributed across the country (I think I still have a few laying around here).

Joel: "Don't academies teach cops how to avoid situations they have to shoot their way out of?"

Mine did. But that was nearly twenty years ago. I guess the gov types realized that, what with sovereign immunity and the "reasonable cowardly cop" defense, that it wasn't cost effective to continue such training when you can just blow away paraplegics and puppies at will (heck, they don't even have to bother planting throw-down guns anymore).

Bear said...

Holder's column is still on the 'Net:
http://www.webleyweb.com/klh/assaultp.html

Alien said...

I'm sure there are pertinent details not included in the media report, and not being there I'm inclined to not pass immediate judgment on this particular event, other than to wonder how difficult it would be to overturn a wheelchair.

Viewed as part of a larger whole, however, I'm becoming increasingly intolerant of police use of deadly force, and that includes the traditional dog shoot. I don't doubt there are any number of instances in which deadly force by police is well justified, and I certainly don't advocate disarming police. That said, the "everyone goes home at end of shift" mentality, among other things (including the seemingly increasing "it's us against the world" mindset), has brought us to the point where it may be reasonable to consider alternative approaches.

One thing that comes to mind is a single shooting incident, however righteous, becomes a career-ender; the officer gets to keep his pension, receives a moderately generous severance package and is given hiring preference in other governmental work not involving the potential for applying lethal force, but is forever done with police work. The argument will be made such a policy would cause police to not shoot when they should, thereby endangering themselves and the public, and the economic loss of training an officer only to lose that training and expertise. (An alternative might be to strip them of LEO certification and retain them in unarmed positions). It would at the very least apply a level of seriousness to pressing the trigger we seem to be lacking today.

It must be remembered that the police are our employees, whom we have hired to provide a valuable, and somewhat risky, service with the authority we have delegated to them; when interaction with an employee carries a serious risk of fatality it's time to rethink the employer-employee contract.

Roy in Nipomo said...

To the question, "how difficult it would be to overturn a wheelchair?" I'd guess (missing an arm) he was in a powered wheelchair. The 3-4 power chairs I've contact with were 300-400 lbs (empty) and had six wheels. For some reason, they design them to be difficult to overturn.

Bear said...

Roy: And when I worked at a company that made drive controllers for powered chairs, the testing chairs we had were four-wheelers of conventional big-rear-and-small-front-wheels designing weighing less than 200 pounds (don't know exact weight, but you could man-handle them into a van). And they still required... ah, one hand to operate. Which begs the question:

When this guy was menacing the cops with his deadly assault pen, was he wielding it in his teeth or the toes of his one remaining foot as he manipulated his chair?

(BTW, found one of Nathan's DAPs. Pic here: http://www.bussjaeger.org/deadlyassaultpens.html)

Bubblehead Les. said...

THOT, Pedium and I were returning from the Wounded Warrior Shoot in VA when we found this story. After much Politically Incorrect Ribald Humor, and some Quarter Backing, we did come up with one Solid Consensus:

We can safely say that there is an Barney Fife out there DUMBER than Former Canton, Ohio Police Officer Harliss.


Tam said...

Bear,

"And when I worked at a company that made drive controllers for powered chairs, the testing chairs we had were four-wheelers of conventional big-rear-and-small-front-wheels designing weighing less than 200 pounds (don't know exact weight, but you could man-handle them into a van). And they still required... ah, one hand to operate."

Yup. I spent the summer in a powered wheelchair (broken ankle, leg, and arm) and my ex- could grunt it into and out of the back of a pickup truck to haul me to physical therapy sessions.

Al T. said...

Dang. I was thinking "missing two legs" but still has two arms. Several amputees I know have superb strength in the limbs remaining. But one arm and one leg? Really?

Roberta X said...

Alien: what's this "we" stuff, green man? I never agreed to delegate nothin' to no police.

That said, guy pins you in a corner and he is flailing away with a fat and nasty ballpoint, you maybe hope you'll have the presence of mind to taze him or whack him with a stick; I wonder if someone in blue maybe did not have his head in the game, thinkin', "Amputee in a wheelchair, piece of cake...Mmmm,cake, donut...Hey, what's he doing...Ohshit, he's gonna kill me dead!" Blammo.

Kristophr said...

I'm going to reserve comment since I know nothing about the incident.

I'm about as libertarian as they come on such matters, but if some nutter was stabbing me at close range with bic pen, I would be tempted to smoke him myself after he shoved that damned thing into my chest somewhere.

( anon 10:04 : Electric wheelchairs have very small wheels these days, and most departments are using tazers or mace instead of hickory. Muscle-powered compliance resulted in too many lawsuits, I guess. )

Britt said...

I'm about as libertarian as they come on such matters, but if some nutter was stabbing me at close range with bic pen, I would be tempted to smoke him myself after he shoved that damned thing into my chest somewhere.

_____________

Except he wasn't stabbed. He claims the wheelchair bound double amputee came within "inches to a foot" of him. How do you let someone in a wheelchair get that close to you?

There is no possible way for this to be a good shoot. If you cannot subdue a pen wielding cripple in a wheelchair with out a handgun, you are not fit to be a police officer.

What do you do when an able bodied drunk outside takes a swing at you? Do you call the National Guard? Maybe the Air Force can get you a fucking JDAM to deal with it.

This guy is dead because the cop has the courage of a squirrel without the brains.

Lewis said...

Well, in the cold light of morning it turns out to have been a Bic, but any reasonable cop could have concluded it was a Sharpie instead.

And they're permanent!

Derfel Cadarn said...

If your first response to this sitution is to shoot the offending person you need to find new employment,immediately after your prison senrence is up. The police can NEVER fire the first shot NEVER,NEVER,NEVER this is why you were "trained" to supposedly be a professional. This includes the shooting of all dogs that do not have a grip on a major artery.

Tam said...

Derfel Cadarn,

"The police can NEVER fire the first shot NEVER,NEVER,NEVER"

I could not possibly disagree with this statement more strongly than I do.

In most states, you may shoot if you reasonably fear imminent death or serious injury to you or another innocent, even if you're wearing scratchy blue polyester with your name on the pocket.

Matthew said...

It was the guy in the wheelchair, at close quarters, with the pen.

Clue 2012, Clueless Cop Edition.

Anonymous said...

Look, too many people are over-thinking this.

The explanation for this is simple:

It was oh-dark-thirty. Literally. The po-po were overdue for their nightly stop at the donut shop. Shooting the guy was the shortest path between the cop and the donut.

Never get between a cop and his donut run. You, your grandmother or your dog (or maybe all three if you're delaying a SWAT team) will be dead if you do.

Al T. said...

"The police can NEVER fire the first shot NEVER,NEVER,NEVER"

Not sure where your getting this wacky bit of misinformation. Possibly reside in a country that does not arm it's police? Anyway, as Mas Ayoob pointed out many years ago, if you see the bad guys gun, you are tenths of a second from seeing what comes out of the gun. There is zero requirement to take a bullet before delivering same. In most organizations, it's high frowned upon as bagpipe players are hard to schedule.

Old NFO said...

WTF is right... Response did NOT equal threat.

Weer'd Beard said...

Good points being made, I must withdraw my devil's advocacy. You need to make a LOT of bad choices to actually GET "cornered" in the first place....

Drang said...

Group home, caretaker stayed on porch, po-po may have walked into corner without realizing it, then been confronted by... the one-armed, one legged man in the power chair...
sigh
"Blue 42", are you crazy? This clearly calls for a "Rodney 91"!

Al T. said...

Re-reading the story, the cop who shot was not the cornered cop, it was the cornered cop's concerned cop colleague.

Joseph said...

Wait a moment... The policeman was being threatened with something mightier than a sword...

Kristophr said...

So a second cop mis-identified what cop #1 was being stabbed with. Still not going to go full-medieval on the cop.


This ain't a cop shooting a submissive dog or a homeowner who drops his weapon and asks "What are you doing here?".



Kristophr said...

Seriously, folks ... what if it had been a knife?

Cop #1 would have been dead, and cop #2 would have just sat there and watched it happen.

Yes, this is tragic. But if you pull out anything that looks like a deadly weapon, and start using it on a cop, other cops are probably going to shoot you.


This just seems strange to me ... usually I am the one being a hard-ass on the police ...

Yrro said...

Sounds like one of those things where shooting *may* have a been a reasonable option at the time and situation it occurred... but dear lord you screwed the pooch getting into that situation.

KM said...

One thing that comes to mind is a single shooting incident, however righteous, becomes a career-ender

So a cop shooting a psycho killer cutting his spree short should send said cop to answer phones for parks and rec??
Shirley you're kidding.

You have obviously never worked a high risk job on the streets. There are savage animals out there that are full blown batshit crazy.
And good luck filling those high risk warrant spots after the first demotion.

Bear said...

Kristophr said... " Seriously, folks ... what if it had been a knife?"

What if it had been a plasma rifle in the 40 watt range? If he'd taken off from orbit and nuked 'em to be sure?

It wasn't a knife. It was a pen. Being "wielded" by a one-armed, one-legged guy already using his one arm to operate his wheelchair (since the report says the cops claim the guy was using the chair to herd them). Probably uttering nasty threats like, "What's your badge number? Say that again so I can write it down."

I do not automatically cops (or anyone else in a shooting) were in the wrong. I'll wait for more facts before drawing a final conclusion. BUT...

Those facts better explain how this guy credibly threatened the cop with a writing implement when his one hand was already doing something else. As I asked before: Was he holding that "weapon" with his teeth or the toes of his one foot? (And if you think the questions and comments here are nasty, I'd be willing to bet what these guys are hearing from fellow officers makes all this sound very, very tame.)

Mycroft said...

As Al T said, it wasn't the cop in the corner, but his partner shot the "perp" that was stabbing his partner in the chest. If the pen came within inches of the cop's chest, it would have been pretty difficult for the partner to tell that there hadn't been contact.

Craig Miller said...

How could the wheelchair guy get so close to the cop? I picture the steamroller scene in Austin Powers. Maybe the po-po was out of vacation time and needed a couple paid weeks to hit a last minute cruise or trip to Vegas.

Anonymous said...

Ability, Opportunity, and Jeapordy seem to be present here. I would be tenative to judge a man faced with all three in the commision of thier duties to shoot in said circumstances, especialially a man who has been forced to make the call on a previous incident,when cornered and lacking options. I would say give this man a pass from the arm chair quarterbacking entirely (even if he has a police department and union behind him) untill either evidence seem exculpitory or damning...

That is my 2 cents for what it is worth in today's market.

ASM826 said...

Based on the slant and accuracy of most of the news reporting I see, I would not be so quick to jump on this. We don't have the facts, we have a news story based on a reporter and some interviewees. The threat may have been sudden, a quick movement, something in guy's hand, and a response by a partner that ended the threat.

Yes, it's a hairball the way it's reported, but honestly, how many other news stories do you accept at face value?

Lewis said...

ASM826:

I take everything reported by Fox as if it were the Holy Gospel. That's why I'm so glad we're still liberating Iraq, where we stopped the Next Hitler and his WMDs, and were greeted with roses and chocolates.

Matt G said...

A: I'm at a loss for words. I can't even come up with a science fiction scenario that would justify this.

B: Derfel Cadarn is doing a bit, right? No one is genuinely taking his statement above seriously... right?

C: I can think of two ways that the mechanics of this went wrong:
1: (Unlikely) The Houston cop really did spend the entire academy saying "So if he does this, can I shoot him then?"
2: The Houston cop, put into a situation that he had never envisioned himself in, panicked, and fell straight back on the mediocre, one-size-fits-all training of "If the perp is coming at you with a knife, you drop him, because knives KILL! Didn't you see that Teuller video?"

---

I remember the whole Teuller Drill training in academy, back when the concept was still pretty new. They scared the hell out of a lot of us. But in reality, you can't keep a 21 foot reactionary gap between yourself and the citizens that you serve when you're a cop. So when you find yourself within 21 feet of a knife, and you've been taught that this will equal instant death, your brain short circuits.

Training by maxim is stupid, narrow-minded shortcut-taking, and we do it to much. "Don't do x, or y will happen, and then you'll DIE!"

Just because you're behind a curve that someone else set up for you doesn't mean that you have to shoot your way out. That curve was imaginary in the first place.

Matt G said...

"too much." I hate uneditable typos.

Anonymous said...

Check into the background of this Houston cop. He has a tendency to shoot people and overreact with excessive force. He should not have a badge.
(some guy near Houston)

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter, Citizen Tam. Whatever conclusions you reach with your puny powers of reason are irrelevant. All you need to know is this: "The officer followed proper procedure". This is the imprimatur of impunity in precincts all over this great land of ours.

Now, move along, Citizen -- there is nothing for a "civilian" (spit) to see here.

Anonymous said...

Well now you've gone and jinxed yourself. This time next month you'll be in court for shooting a rabid pen salesman on crutches.

The final piece of the puzzle dropped into place when the article ended by talking about the other times this cop shot people.
Cops need a "not-shooting-people" class, not Uber-Tactical Handgun courses one through seven...

Geodkyt said...

Couple of facts --

Metal pen. All my metal pens look an awful lot like spikes or blades when I'm waving them around. Especially my steel ones. Because they are bright, shiny, metal in a basic blade profile. We aren't talking about a clear plastic Bic here.

I can ram any metal pen I own deep enough into meat to cause severe or even lkethal wounds -- and they aren't special pens; I just like steel barreled pens because they don't break in my pocket (normally wear jeans to work, so my "walking around" pen sits in my front pocket, next to my knife.

Also, I've seen police warning messages about "Tactical pens" that are designed and advertised to double as stilletos.

Point in favor of "clean shoot".

Article indicates the shooter WAS the cop backed into the corner. He feared for himself an d his partner, but it was Cletus in the Corner with the smoking Flat Black People Popper.

Point in favor of "WTF?" HOW did he get you there in the first place?!? Tapdancing away, Taser, or Tabasco Eye Wash wasn't an option a tad earlier in the confrontation, why?!?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was an accidental discharge? I mean that's apparently what happened here:

http://overheadbin.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/09/24/14062641-flight-attendants-gun-goes-off-at-airport-security-in-philadelphia?lite

"A police officer was called over to check out the gun. That's when it accidentally discharged, the spokesperson said."

'Cause guns are people too, and it probably got skeert when it saw the badge coming and shit itself. Heh.

So yeah, if I'm that Houston cop, I'm saying "AD" all the way...

Six said...

MattG has put his finger on it. I term it Hysterical Incompetence and it is the result of poor hiring, negligent retention and misguided training, especially officer safety training.

Geodkyt said...

Six, I would say "Complacency", leading to a situation where he shifted to "Hysterical Incompetence" when he realized he had backed himself into a Biblically pear-shaped event.

markm said...

The real problem is the cops' story is unbelievable - that a one-armed man chased one of them with a wheelchair *while* waving the pen. They don't even have enough respect for the public to bother with making up a believable lie.