You certainly have seen the story by now. It has been national news since the incident occurred over the July 15 weekend in Minnesota. Briefly, the victim was a good Samaritan that had called the police when she suspected that another person might have been under sexual assault. In plain terms, she was an innocent person, calling for police assistance, to aide another person that might need police assistance! It doesn’t get much uglier than that.
Since I hope you have been keeping up with my blogs over the months, you are aware that I am a retired Law Enforcement officer myself. I retired from LAPD as a Detective Supervisor. I have written several blogs in support of our society and way of life, to include attempts to get better and more realistic understanding of the difficult job of police work in these challenging times. I don’t try and defend police, if defense is not warranted. I do try and work with the facts at hand and the less than perfect realities of how things work in the field.
This blog requires that I do that, but may not be well received by all my law enforcement brothers and sisters. I have to call it as I see it, at least given what we think we know today.
This shooting should never have happened! There, I said it. And at the same time, I can see how it did. Let me explain. That is not to excuse or justify what did happen. If it had been me doing the shooting, I would feel like…shit! And I would expect the worse from both my agency, and second by the combination of the justice system and the general public.
I was not there and do not know all the facts. A point that we all must respect and consider. What points I do know are very troubling and seem to point in a bad direction for that officer and police agency. And what happened, an innocent person being killed, is ultimately and extremely bad for the victim and her family. For that matter, for our society. Public confidence in our law enforcement is eroded when these “accidents” happen.
Let me relate a personal experience of my own from “way back in the day.”
Many years ago, more than I want to admit, while a junior uniformed police officer, I was a part of a search for a suspected armed robber, in the Wilshire Division area of Los Angeles. It was early evening. The location was a series of two story residential complexes that were thought to be vacant and waiting for destruction. As we searched the area, going from structure to structure, I was working with a team of officers, acting as cover for them. I was armed with the city issued Ithaca pump shotgun. I was carrying at “low ready,” which is to say, prepped to bring the weapon to bear upon an active threat. As I walked along at ground level, passing a stair case leading up to what was an apartment outside back door, something suddenly happened. Before I could look up to see and clear the area, there was a sudden loud sound of what I moments later learned was the units screen door, slamming shut.
The sound was perceived to be like a gun being fired. The sound got the drop on me. If it had been the suspect, I likely would not be writing this blog today. A lesson learned the hard way. It was not the suspect. It was an older woman, read, someone’s grandmother, who, simply put, should not have been where she was. She inadvertently, I presumed, let the door slam behind her as she exited. However, when I heard the loud “bang” I quickly wheeled around and upward with my shotgun, moved my trigger finger from the frame of the gun to the trigger, locked my sights onto the target and was about to fire. Had it been a suspect, and his shot missed me, my shot would certainly have not missed. I maintained status as a Distinguished Expert Marksmen throughout my career with the department and even more so when I went off to war for the U.S. Government. I offer that as clarification, not to brag.
That innocent grandmother would be dead. And I would be the subject of some hateful and unforgiving characterizations of my intentions, my skills, my integrity, my training and my overzealous role as a danger to the community that I was sworn to protect. It was to some extent, by the grace of God, that my training was good enough to keep my finger at bay until I identified my threat before going into, and completing the firing motion. It was a lack of awareness that I did not see or anticipate that someone was out of my sight, above me, with the screen door open. Again, for me, a lesson well learned. A tragedy avoided.
I do not know all the facts concerning this officer killing this woman. But it certainly is hard to see beyond a failure in many regards to good agency training, personal dedication to developing and maintaining personal skills and awareness and tactics by both officers involved. I won’t judge that.
I have to again say, this was a failure of epic proportions. Knowing what we know today about this victim makes the story more tragic each day. To date, the officer stands in administrative, and, perhaps criminal limbo. The police agencies Chief of Police is reported to have quit her job. The City Mayor is under fire and there are calls for her to also resign. The Minnesota community is outraged, and for good reason. This story adds to an already troubling dialogue going on concerning police and community interaction and a perception of how police serve our communities.
There are issues being thrown around about the ethnicity of the officer…I will not go there without facts to support speculation. And there are issues about the race of the victim and juxtaposed to the ongoing conversation about police versus race in America. Again, without further “facts” I will not go there.
Good, professional analysis will be taken by all the official bodies surrounding this tragedy. If there is criminality established that will be acted upon. If it is deemed to not be criminal, it will still be viewed administratively and could have harsh consequences. And then there is again the theater of public opinion and consequence.
I pray for the victim and her family. I pray for truth and facts to be born out of the analysis. I pray for justice. If the officer bore no ill intent, I pray for an honest and appropriate resolution. If the intent is shown to be ill or negligent, let justice take a rightful course. And then, no matter what, there will be civil action, without question.
UPDATE 25 JULY 2017
There is a report out today, published by the LawOfficer website that says there was a “slapping” of the rear of the vehicle by a “female” (not specified further), that preceded the shooting by the officer. Waiting for the facts to follow to analyze if and how that might impact the final outcome (shooting).