Radical Reading–Against Preemptive Killing

HT headline today: Prosecutor’s office rules police shooting justified.

Article details of note:

  • Though the prosecutor’s office has ruled, the police are investigating themselves. Lt. William Parker is charged with this.
  • The man, Richard North, was previously a police stooge who “relayed” a confession offered by a cellmate and was rewarded by release and dropped charges.  The wheels of justice?  This is a Law & Order event.
  • The case in question, “the Bridgewater case” is reported here.  And the paper offers a nice “round-up” of related news on the case.
  • Most troubling: the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) does not get an “order” to shoot.  Lane, the reporter, seemingly offers a chronology of gun-waving: North wouldn’t disarm; North held the gun to his own head and his wife’s; North waved it at police.  Then Bang. Parker explained there was no “order” to shoot. He said CIRT officers have special training for hostage situations and that they follow certain protocols given the facts.

Radical Response:

Do we call a man gunned down by police a “victim” of a shooting–though “justified” by another arm of the legal system?

The details of the prior involvement by North with police and another case cloud this shooting somewhat.  What are your thoughts?  It’s hard to know that “dark world” that is reality for so many of our poor citizens.  It’s kept “news” to be consumed over coffee to the upstanding, non-poor.  A quick Google search will show that link between poverty and crime in the US is a “contested” issue.  Contested by the Wall Street Journal and the FBI at least–no agenda to see there folks.   The Errant thinks it’s worth a closer look under separate cover.

Here, though, is the issue I called troubling above, preemptive killing outside a command chain.  Command chains make sense as someone agrees to be responsible not only for the outcome and consequences, but for the decision too–the moral and ethical choice–and also tacitly agrees to have the decision investigated and interrogated in a way that may render the decision in error.  Without the command chain, who would be responsible if there was agreement that it was a “bad shoot”?  Who would the prosecutor prosecute?

Further, a man was shot for “fear” of his “likely” actions.  So, with this case we might agree that the police “knew” the man’s history enough to consider him a viable threat with the gun and so could be concerned for the woman he held as well as themselves and any bystanders.  (Were there any “independent” eyes on the scene?)  You and I don’t know that to be true but it makes for a reasonable assumption based on all the information offered by the police. Would the other CIRT members say they felt the shot was warranted?  There MUST be a “command” in the sense that going in the officer in charge says something to direct conduct.  In other words, they’d have to agree all other options had been used and ineffective and then convey that the CIRT could “follow their training”.  Perhaps this training needs to be reviewed as well.

Were there shouted threats by North that he intended to murder his wife, shoot police, kill himself?  This is not mentioned

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What about that preemption?  Should we allow anonymous police to shoot innocent people?  Yes, I used the word innocent.  The situation yesterday presents an extreme case and it’s with cases like these that we tend to use our prejudicial minds.  Only bad men hold people at gunpoint. But what is “bad”?  Evil?  It’s certainly possible North was mentally unstable.  It’s possible he was intoxicated in some manner.  Will there be a toxicology report?

The facts tell us that North shot his car up (no pics at present) in a parking lot–how many shots?; he “corralled” his wife and walked her from that parking lot south on Rogers and ended up at the Rockport intersection; he tried to gain reasonable shelter in the convenience mart there; he waved his weapon at police; he was shot dead.

What should our questions be?  In what part of the body was North shot?  How was the woman positioned next to him?  Where was the police sniper?  Can a sniper shoot the gun from his hand rather than make a “kill shot”?

Do you give up the right not to be killed when you openly threaten others with a weapon?  Are threats of violence with a weapon a justification for execution, pre-trial?

Aren’t these the kinds of situations that we should really investigate in every detail to know exactly what went wrong with this man and his life; and further, and equally as important, should we be sanguine about the power of authorities to be judge, jury and executioner all in the blink of an eye, or as Lt. William Parker put it, “There’s no time for consultation. Sometimes you have to take a shot.”

Do you?

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  1. dpopp August 4, 2011 at 11:49 am

    yes, as with norway, we should question the police, question the culture, question the realations and understand how we got to this point. Hopefully the Herald Times has those resources in times of declinging journalism revenues. Wouldn’t it be great if Bloomington’s own Michael Koryta became Indiana’s own Henning Mankel using this as a seed for a piece exploring the possible reasons for such an incident.

  2. Douglas Storm August 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Do people read fiction about the impoverished “underclass”–there is Denis Johnson’s “Angels” that definitely fits this bill, and maybe some Richard Ford short stories (these are decidedly “literary” works though)?


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