Another controversial police shooting is in the news, this one particularly heart-breaking. A synopsis of events and some legal analysis is found here.
This incident came up in a private forum to which I belong. Some emotion was evident. A friend of mine whose wisdom I greatly respect wrote,
“Story in the local mullet wrapper this morning shed a little more light in my mind… seems the cop parked on the wrong floor of the parking garage (seems the apts have parking on the same floor) and went to what would have been her apt on the third floor… of course she was on the fourth… According to the report, her key worked in the door of the shootee’s apt on the fourth floor… she walked in to the dark apt and saw movement where there should be none… then shot…
“If that story is correct it is hard to see how the shooting could be called a black/white issue… though I have learned never to expect lib agitators to use reason or logic…
“Applying the ‘reasonable man’ test here I can see how she would have thought someone was in her home, given her key worked in the lock…
“Grand jury is going to decide… If they ‘no bill’ things may get interesting…
– – “Chuck”
“I’m with Chuck on this. Over the years, I’ve been involved in somewhat similar cases.
“It’s obviously a terrible tragedy that has extinguished one young life and ruined another. Before we rush to judgment, we have to apply the three-pronged test of the reasonable person doctrine: what would a reasonable and prudent person have done/in the exact same situation/knowing what the defendant knew at the time?
“The wrong door: in cookie-cutter architecture (office buildings/apartment buildings/hotels etc.), how many of us have ever gone to the wrong door? I know I have.
“Missing the distinctive red carpet and vases at the victim’s door: She might simply have wondered, ‘Who’s my secret admirer?’ She is, after all, a cute young female cop and probably gets hit on all the time. I’ve come home more than once and found something at my door that wasn’t there when I left, and that never led me to believe I was at the wrong house.
“What did she see that made her take the action she did? Reports given to us, the public, thus far indicate very dim light. Did the young man have a natural startle response that mimicked someone going for a gun? If you have a cop who lives alone — and probably has guns of her own in that apartment — might it not be reasonable for her to believe that an intruder in her apartment was now very likely armed with one of those guns, if he didn’t have one of his own before?
“Let’s always remember, the rules on deadly force boil down to ‘You don’t have to be right, you do have to be REASONABLE within the totality of the circumstances you are facing at the time.’
Those of us outside the investigation don’t yet know nearly enough to rush to judgment.”
Other issues: Being in uniform, she must have had a flashlight on her person, and very likely a tactical light on her pistol. Were these employed for PID (positive identification)? Was there even time for her to do that? And should she be considered negligent if she did not? What if she did use the light, and it showed her he had no weapon visible? These questions need to be answered too.
One comment: as noted above, I’m hearing people who should know better say that because she intentionally fired it’s automatically murder. This disregards the fact that virtually every justified homicide was an intentional act.
We need to know more before we judge. This may well turn out to be an “excusable homicide,” a conclusion which says in essence, “A terrible mistake was made, but under the circumstances, any reasonable and prudent person might have made the same terrible mistake.”