When calling 911 goes wrong

According the kgw.com, a man who called 911 about a shooting suspect ended up getting shot by responding officers in Vancouver, Washington last week. The incident started when John Kendall, 59, shot his neighbor, Abigail Mounce, in the face on October 31. Officers spotted the man who’d called 911, not knowing he was still in the area.

A SWAT team arriving at the scene spotted a man who matched Kendall’s description. They were unaware that the citizen who called 911 was still there.

 

“Law enforcement personnel watched as the citizen (believed to be Kendall) exited his vehicle and circled behind his trunk,” police explained. “Fearing that he armed himself, law enforcement fired multiple shots at the individual in order to stop the perceived threat before the citizen could enter the woods.”
via Police mistakenly shoot 911 caller during manhunt.

Now I could be wrong but, I suspect there are a lot of cops who will find this acceptable/justifiable given the circumstances. You’ve traced the suspect’s phone to the area. The person in view allegedly looks like your suspect. And he looks like he’s potentially arming himself.

The man was shot in the leg. He took cover behind a gravel pile and fired a shot back, then he called 911 again, this time to report that he had been shot.

via Police mistakenly shoot 911 caller during manhunt.

There’s so much fail here but, I’m glad the citizen survived. He’s lucky. Very lucky. Chances are high, the leg wound is a result of an excited officer shooting at an unknown distance, resulting in the shot going low.  I say that because shooting him in the leg intentionally is surely a violation of policy and demonstrably, did nothing to eliminate the threat of him shooting at anyone. This is why we do not shoot to wound.

Fortunately, things didn’t go any further than the initial exchange of gunfire. The officers involved have been relieved of duty pending an investigation. By the time officers caught up with Kendall, the real suspect, he’d already turned himself off with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I might argue this error is big enough that they might not get to be cops any more but, I don’t believe this was criminal behavior on their part.

All that said, there’s something to be learned here. Starting with, DON’T BE THERE. If you have just called 911 to say you saw a guy involved in a shooting, don’t be in the area when the police show up if you can help it! I’ve said before that if I am ever involved in a shooting, even if I am just a witness, my preferred action is to move to a safe location other than the shooting, and then call 911. Police responding to a shooting in progress can be a little excited. That’s normal and that’s OK but, it presents some hazards if you happen to resemble the suspect. It presents hazards even if you don’t resemble the suspect. So again, just don’t be there.

-GM

Darren Wilson’s story begins to surface in NYTimes Report

“…Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.”

via Police Officer in Ferguson Is Said to Recount a Struggle – NYTimes.com.

It’s been two months since Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. That shooting lit the fuse on a long standing powder keg of rage for issues that have existed since before either Darren Wilson or Michael Brown were even born. Fanning the flames of racism and fear were conflicting reports from witnesses claiming Brown was unarmed and shot for no reason. The media of course, was no help, reporting erroneous data and initially portraying Brown as an innocent “teen” who’d been gunned down in cold blood for no reason other than being another black male in the wrong place at the wrong time. Well now it looks like we’re finally getting some part of Darren Wilson’s side of things and learning facts that support police statements that have been made along the way.

Sadly, some won’t be happy unless Wilson stands trial regardless of what facts come out. What’s sad however, is when people like the Brown family attorney, Benjamin L. Crump, ignores the way he knows the law works when it works fairly and makes public demands for something else. According to Crump, “What the police say is not to be taken as gospel…” Crump instead demands that Wilson be indicted by the grand jury and his case sent to trial no matter what. Crump continued, “He can say what he wants to say in front of a jury. They can listen to all the evidence and the people can have it transparent so they know that the system works for everybody.” According to Crump, “…Right now, they have this secret proceeding where nobody knows what’s happening and nobody knows what’s going on. No matter what happened in the car, Michael Brown ran away from him.”

So time will tell how this all shakes out. But, as we’ve said for some time, this increasingly looks like a justified shooting. A body camera or dash camera would go a long way in proving facts one way or the other as we’ve seen time and time again but, neither Wilson nor his patrol unit were so equipped. As we’re seeing here, when you rely on witnesses, you have to filter through the individual biases and personal agendas of everyone involved while trying to match that to the evidence available at the scene that may or may not be conclusive. Unfortunately, we already know this shooting has changed everything regardless of how it turns out.

-GM

Man Fires Warning Shot At A Violent Thug, Gets 20 Years In Prison – Downtrend

A Florida father of two was given a mandatory 20-year prison sentence for firing a warning shot at some jackhole who threatened his family.

via Man Fires Warning Shot At A Violent Thug, Gets 20 Years In Prison – Downtrend.

 

You mean to tell me that Marissa Alexander‘s sentence wasn’t a case of racist Republicans but, poorly written Florida law?!?! Schneikeys! Now, don’t get me wrong. I still maintain that the facts of Alexander’s case to me suggest that she is in fact, guilty of the reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless endangerment of juveniles not directly involved in her conflict with her estranged husband at the time. In fact, I do believe that aggravated assault was a reasonable charge and she was duly convicted.

A full four years before anyone had ever heard of Marissa Alexander, George Zimmerman, or Trayvon Martin, 59-year-old Lee Wollard was convicted of aggravated assault, shooting a firearm inside a building, and child endangerment. If that all sounds familiar, it is because a similar list of charges were applied to the Marissa Alexander case with the addition of the fact she colluded with her husband to lie to the court about the facts of the case after her arrest. But much like Alexander, Wollard was convicted received a minimum sentence of 20 years because a firearm was used in the commission of the original offense.

Having said all this, I’m not a fan of minimum sentencing. It can be argued the standard has been applied unfairly in the past. I wouldn’t argue that here but, it may be that the punishment does not necessarily fit the crime. As a basic policy though, if you can’t articulate an imminent threat of bodily harm, the discharge of a firearm to scare, intimidate, or otherwise discourage someone from doing you harm is not a good idea.

-GM

Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus cleared in shooting of Andy Lopez

So, the California criminal case of Sonoma County Deputy Erick Gelhaus’ shooting Andy Lopez has been resolved, as the DA has declined charges against Gelhaus.

“Prosecutors said Monday they will not file criminal charges against a Northern California sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun he mistook for an assault rifle. The parents of Andy Lopez decried the decision, saying “it is impossible” to accept and they felt as though their son “had been killed again.”

Erick Gelhaus shot Lopez on Oct. 22 as the teen walked in a Santa Rosa neighborhood with the pellet gun. The deputy told investigators he believed the gun was real and opened fire out of fear for his life.

 

Gelhaus fired eight times, striking the eighth-grader seven times with his department-issued 9 mm handgun. The district attorney said Gelhaus had 18 rounds in his gun and stopped shooting when he felt the threat had ended. Lopez was declared dead at the scene.” – via http://www.policeone.com/officer-shootings/articles/7355600-No-charges-for-deputy-who-killed-teen-carrying-replica/

The FBI is still looking into possible Civil Rights violations, and the family will sue. So this is far from over. But let’s look at why Deputy Gelhaus was not charged, even though there was tremendous political pressure.

Graham V Connor (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=490&invol=386) states that police use of force must be reasonable given the circumstances available to the officer at the time the trigger is pulled. The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. Pp. 490 U. S. 396-397.

Monday morning quarterbacking may show different circumstance, but THE OFFICER IS JUDGED ONLY ON THE FACTS AVAILABLE TO THE OFFICER AT THE TIME. When the trigger was pulled, Deputy Gelhaus had an “armed individual refusing multiple lawful orders to comply”. That is what Gelhaus saw, and that is what Gelhaus had a split second to react to. The facts uncovered during the subsequent months long investigation are real vent to the case, but not to the issue of the reasonableness of the use of force.

So was this tragic? Yes. Do police want to kill people? No. Was the suspect in control of the amount of force used? Yes. Did the suspects actions (whether or not he intended) cause the officer to feel threatened? Yes.

The family wants answers. I would too. I would want answers to questions like “why did my son purposefully remove the mandated orange tip on the replica rifle and the replica pistol he was carrying?” “Why was my 13 year old son high on marijuana, and in possession of marijuana at the time of his death?” “Why was my son not in school at 3:12pm when the school let out at 3:30?”

Perhaps the parents don’t want to ask those types of questions. 13 year olds are just kids. They make poor decisions sometimes. It is up to the parents to teach right from wrong. This is tragic for all parties involved.

-Jason