How long does it take you to react when a bee lands on your nose? How about when a car suddenly pulls out in front of you? How long does it take you to hit the brake? Well, each of those scenarios are good examples of how much time a police officer has to assess and react to a threat to his life.
People are quick to judge the actions of police officers. Too quick. Just like the case of the South Carolina serial killer, Patrick Burris, an officer-involved shooting in Los Angeles has stirred quite a bit of controversy. However, the officers who shot Burris have a much stronger defense – the bad guy shot first. Personally, I think it’s a shame to have to use the word “defense” when referring to a justified shooting involving a police officer.
The L.A. case is a bit more convoluted than the justified shooting of Burris. In L.A., officers stopped four teenage boys who were suspected gang members. Officers then asked the kids to raise their hands and lift their T-shirts (this exposes any weapons carried in the waistband). During the stop, one of the boys, Avery Cody, ran. The police are adamant that the teenager brandished a gun and displayed it in a manner that clearly threatened the deputy’s life during the foot pursuit. The deputy fired at the boy, killing him. The weapon, a .38 caliber revolver, was found near the boy’s body. Police say the youth was struck in the left side of his upper torso.
This is where the story begins to get weird. Witnesses (remember, this is Compton, a gang-heavy area) say that Cody was unarmed, never brandished a weapon of any kind, and was shot in the back by the deputy. The other boys say they were merely crossing the street when officers stopped them for no reason. According to their statements, that’s when Cody ran and was gunned down by the officer.
Who’s right? Do police officer’s really gun down citizens?
Of course not. The witness accounts of this story are ridiculous. Investigators found Cody’s gun. The fatal wound was not in the back. And how credible are the statements of known gang members, especially statements regarding one of their own.
It’s unfortunate that a law enforcement officer has to go through the aftermath that’s associated with a shooting, especially a fatal shooting. It’s difficult enough to deal with the investigation and the condemnation from a good portion of the general public, but always second-guessing your own actions is a nightmare. What could I have done differently? Could I have done something that would have saved the kid’s life? What if I…?
You see, that’s what haunts those of us who have been in this situation. It’s easy for some people to be a Monday morning quarterback, spouting off what they would have done, or what the officer could or couldn’t do. Believe it or not, police officers do not want to hurt people.
You see, folks, no one could possibly tell those of us who have killed someone in the line of duty how or what to feel, how to think, or what questions we should ask, unless they’ve walked in our shoes.
And I’d trade those shoes with anyone, anytime.
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Author Terry Odell is giving away a copy of this fine book. Please visit Terry’s website for details.