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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"If I see the gun, I'm dead"

I got out of my arbitration hearing today just in time to hear the end of the first day of the city inquest into the James Jahar Perez killing. I look forward to reading and hearing news accounts of the proceeding, but Portland Communique provides quite a bit of coverage already.

So far, the most revealing exchange came between DA Schrunk and William Lewinski, the "police psychology" professor who was testifying as an expert. As b!X retells it:

How quickly could someone bring a gun from a console or a pocket area, with an officer standing close to that subject, even if they've decided to wait to see the gun? At a minimum, the officer, he [the expert] says, will have at least two, maybe three, bullets already coming at him.

"In simple terms," asks Schrunk, "if I see the gun, I'm dead?" Yes, says Lewinski.

The standard I have thought should be applied to police officers is that they must not shoot until they see the weapon. If this expert's opinion is accepted, and for all I know it is the standard that the police actually use, officers must shoot before they even see a gun. They need to guess whether there is a gun, and whether the suspect is getting ready to use it.

But what criteria are they to use? The partner of the officer who fired the shots at the unarmed Perez testified that he had a "sense" that "something bad" was about to happen. Is that going to be the standard?

The victim, they say, kept reaching into his pocket. How long should that have gone on before the officer killed him? And would a 50-year-old white guy driving a Jeep Cherokee in Raleigh Hills get a few extra seconds to stop doing that?

Comments (5)

What percentage of cops-murdered-on-duty are killed by folks who have assaulted the police in the past? What is the percentage for 50-year-old white guys from Raleigh Hills?

The cited expert in this case is echoing what many others have stated in the past. There have been television programs airing surveillance cameras showing this scenario in action, with the police being shot. If someone in a stopped car wants to shoot, the time from hand-in-pocket to officer-dead is too short for said officer to respond.

If nothing else, this seems like a prime example of the RIGHT time to use a tazer (at least, instead of a gun...).

Which, in fairness, is what Macomber apparently tried to do. Too bad Sery's a quicker draw, I guess.

Actually, we'll never know what Macomber "tried" to do. He did however, I believe, indicate that at one point he realized that he had both his hands on Perez, which meant he would be unable to reach for any weapon.

But then again, that's why he should have been acting as if he knew he had a partner with him, so such a situation could have had more coordination.

It's clear to me now that despite the intense focus on Sery because he fired the gun, Macomber's actions are the absolute and utter central key to the entire incident.

I think that "expert" opinion is BS. As you say, what the hell are we going to make the standard if you don't even have to have any evidence that the guy has a gun? Or has a weapon at all? Do we have capital punishment for furtive gestures now? Good God. Frankly, police officers do not have the right to kill anyone who could potentially shoot them. After all, you or I don't have that right, either. I can't shoot a guy on the street just because he reaches in his pocket in a way that gives me a "sense" that "something bad" is about to happen.

It's sad, and it's unfortunate, but there is no workable standard in which you can guarantee that a police officer in a given situation isn't going to get shot, any more than you can guarantee that you or I won't get shot. You've got to have more than the bad feeling, I think.

"I think that "expert" opinion is BS. As you say, what the hell are we going to make the standard if you don't even have to have any evidence that the guy has a gun?"

The same standard that applies to ordinary citizens, I suppose. If you or I have a (reasonable) belief that someone presents an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury, we'd be within our rights to use force--to shoot him, if we're armed--to prevent it. And even if it turns out that he wasn't armed, we've acted within the law. Of course, it all turns on what constitutes "reasonable" belief.

I'm torn on this shooting. My emotional response is to think the cops did something wrong, that they were too aggressive, too nervous, too...something. On the other hand, if I were carrying a weapon with CCW and was confronted with someone whom I had reason to believe was trying (however ineffectually) to draw a gun and shoot me, I'd be within my rights (legally--and morally, in my opinion) to shoot him first to prevent it.

Of course, as a "civilian", if it happened because of a confrontation I'd initiated, my ass is grass.

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