Police in New York City shot and killed a man who lunged at them with a large kitchen knife. In fact, several bystanders caught the deadly encounter on cell phone video. The scenario unfolded when officers approached 51-year-old Darrius Kennedy after spotting him smoking marijuana at 44th St5reet and 7th Ave. As the officers attempted to restrain him, Kennedy began to struggle, breaking free of the officers’ grasp. He then produced a large Ikea knife and started backing away, waving the knife at them. He also took a few swipes at pedestrians, possibly cutting one, during his backwards walk down the middle of the street.
Several police officers, with weapons drawn, joined in on the slow-motion walking pursuit of Kennedy. They repeatedly yelled for him to drop the knife, and they used pepperspray at least six times, hoping he’d be forced to put down the deadly weapon. Unfortunately, neither tactic worked. So, two patrol cars attempted to block Kennedy’s path, but he managed to get by the first car. However, when the officers in the second car got out, well, that’s when Kennedy made his move, lunging at the officers, aiming the knife in their direction. The two NYPD officers then discharged their weapons. One officer fired 9 times. The other fired 3 rounds.
Immediately after the shots were fired, bystanders began yelling that the shooting was unjustified. One man even went so far as to say the suspect had been shot in the back, even though he was not in a position to see the event. Comments on many websites, Twitter, and Facebook demand that the officers involved be charged with murder. A cousin of Kennedy’s said she didn’t understand why the officers didn’t fire a warning shot, or simply shoot him in the leg or arm. His aunt stated that she believed there were other, better ways to handle the situation with her nephew. She also said they didn’t have to shoot him so many times.
Here are five of the hundreds upon hundreds of anti-police comments posted online regarding this incident:
– Pigs want trigger time. They shoot to kill.
– should have shot him in the leg or arm arent they trained to shoot at specific targets murderers
– The victim was holding a knife with a 6 inch blade. That’s seems like a huge target. With all the police surrounding him, not one of them could shoot it out of his hand? Not even fire off a few warning shots into the air? These questions need to be answered.
– Police could have did things. The kind of provoked his reaction buy cornering him. Even though they could not tell if he was EDP or not they should have saw some of the signs and not backed him into a corner or make him feel any more threatened then he already did. That was excessive force! As soon as the pepper spray did not work they should have known something else was wrong with him.
– You’re just like the rest of the 10 cowdly cops who shot the man because that’s all their train to do. NYPD is a bunch of butchers as usual. Just shoot the suspect Ray Kelly has your back.
Police officers are forced to make many split second decisions during the course of their careers, and one of those decisions is when to use force. If they choose to use force they’re then faced with deciding which level of force should be employed. Should a Taser be used when a combative suspect is holding a knife? Should the officer go for her firearm if the suspect is swinging a baseball bat at her head? Is an officer ever justified to shoot an unarmed suspect? Are there situations when officers must retreat? All of these decisions are made within one-half to three-quarters of a second. That’s about how long it takes the average human to react to a given situation.
Let’s first examine the scenario pictured above. Here, an officer stands facing a knife-wielding suspect who clearly presents a danger. The bad guy is holding an edged weapon (a knife) in the classic “ice pick” position. Years ago officers were taught that a suspect could be shot, and justifiably so, if he were wielding a knife in a threatening manner while positioned within a distance of twenty-one feet from the officer (the 21 foot rule). The reasoning was that the suspect was without a doubt an immediate, deadly threat. Officers were taught that they’d not likely survive this scenario without using deadly force. In fact, it’s doubtful that an officer could draw his weapon and squeeze off a round, without aiming, if a suspect began his charge from a distance of twenty-one feet or less. Suppose the officer did properly assess the threat and did manage to draw his weapon and fire. How long would it take to think about and perform those two basic tasks?
The fastest officer tested was able to draw his weapon from a security holster in a little under 1.5 seconds. The slowest was a about 2.25 seconds. Sounds pretty fast, huh? Maybe not.
The average suspect can cover the distance (21 feet as seen above) to the officer in as little as 1.5 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than the slowest officer is able to defend himself.
Today, officers must rethink the twenty-one foot rule a bit. Sure, the thug is potentially a deadly threat, but not an actual deadly threat until he makes some sort of hostile movement toward the officer. Of course, the officer should have his firearm in a ready position as soon as he perceives the threat. And this is a situation where the officer should always choose his firearm over a non-lethal weapon, such as a Taser or pepperspray. Remember the the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight?” Now there’s a new addition to that rule. It’s, “Never bring a Taser to a knife fight.”
The key to knowing when it’s time to shoot is simple. If the officer feels that his life, or the life of an innocent person, is at risk, then the shoot is justified. However, the officer must be prepared to articulate his reasons for pulling the trigger. Was the suspect making stabbing motions while advancing? Was he charging at, or lunging toward the officer?
There are reasons that may not justify the shoot, such as the suspect being so intoxicated that he couldn’t possibly have followed through with the threat. In short, the threat must be real, or at least perceived as being real in the eyes of the officer. However, if the threat is real and incoming, then there’s no doubt…deadly force is justified.
And, the officer must be able to recognize when a threat is over. If the suspect drops his weapon the justification for deadly force ends immediately.
When a suspect points a firearm at an officer, deadly force is immediately justified.
In situations like the one pictured above, it’s not uncommon for officers to hesitate briefly before using force to stop the threat. Why? Interestingly, officers often perceive women and children as being less of a threat than a male suspect. That’s why FATS and other simulated firearms training uses both women and children in the shoot/don’t shoot scenarios. The woman in the picture above is very much a deadly threat, therefore, the officer is justified in using deadly force.
Again, based on what we see in the above video (and others) of the recent NYPD, the use of deadly force was justified.
By the way, police officers are trained to shoot center mass. They are NOT trained to shoot arms or legs, because those are generally hard-to-hit moving targets, and a miss could result in stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders. Not to mention a miss would provide the suspect even more time to complete his attack on the officer. And, police officers NEVER fire warning shots. After all, what goes up must come down, and where it lands nobody knows (bullets fired into the air could easily strike innocent people, including young children and babies). Also, firing a warning shot would leave the officer with one less round in her weapon.