Lou Dobbs expressed outrage!


Denis Drew said…
Around about 1968 in New York State: A police officer may not draw his gun....

....even upon entering the scene of a reported armed robbery, even if the suspect has drawn his gun -- unless -- the suspect points his gun at the officer. Which newly revised deadly force rule quickly got an officer killed in Queens, New York; leading a quick legislative reversal. The even crueler rule it succeeded had authorized police officers to fire a shot in the air to warn -- any -- fleeing suspect, and then shoot to kill.

A similarly draconian deadly force rule seems to have fallen de facto upon law enforcement across the land in the form of the conviction and draconian sentencing of two U.S. border patrol guards in El Paso federal court for shooting a fleeing drug smuggler whom the officers believed -- but were not sure -- had a gun in his hand.

The El Paso, Texas U.S. Attorney's Office's took the combination of federal civil rights law and a Supreme Court finding that "it is a violation of someone's Fourth Amendment rights to shoot [someone] in the back while fleeing if you don't know who they are and/or if you don't know they have a weapon" as a formula for prosecuting the (honest enough to admit they were not sure about the gun) border patrol officers.

The officers believed they acted in fear for their lives as they were chasing a suspect who had just left one of them floored and bloody in the act of breaking free (not your typical illegal job seeker) and kept looking over his shoulder while running with an object in hand, at one point turning towards them and pointing the "shiny object" they took for a gun (attempting to scare them?)....

....according to the convicted officers at least. The prosecution-immunized drug smuggler -- 800 pounds of marijuana were subsequently found in his van -- told a different tale under oath. He escaped at the time, making it impossible to absolutely prove or disprove possession of a gun.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously declared that "we cannot expect calm deliberation in the face of an upraised knife." To which we may add the modern day knowledge that adrenalin can diminish you judgment every bit as much as alcohol. Back in the late 70s when I was driving for a car service in the Bronx I had more than one almost accident with police cars -- that were not chasing a suspect -- but rather whose drivers had ALREADY made an arrest and were so pumped that they blew through red lights at intersections forgetting lights and sirens.

If the El Paso decision holds up there should theoretically be no defense for police officers who fire when they think a suspect is even reaching for a gun -- if they were not sure. If the El Paso case holds the FBI should theoretically be prepared to investigate every police shooting in every state that fits the newly coined mis-understanding of civil rights law.

Denis Drew

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