Friday, September 26, 2014

Justified Lethal Force

In the same week as the Darrien Hunt shooting, police in Louisiana shot a man with a weapon that was first described as a machete then as a Samurai sword.

Earlier today, Mark Vaughan shot and killed a black man (Alton Nolen) who had just beheaded one of his coworkers with a knife at the food processing plant where Nolen had recently been fired. Reports claim that Nolen had tried to convert his coworkers to Islam bringing up the possibility that event in Moore, Oklahoma was a lone wolf terrorist attack.

Mark Vaughan, CEO of Vaughan Foods and a reserve deputy sheriff, is quite clearly a hero for stepping in and stopping a murder spree.

Had Mark Vaughan shot Alton Nolen as he was attacking his first victim, Vaughan would still be a hero but social media would be abuzz with another white on black killing.

Do people actually have to die before we can separate just police actions from the unjust?

We want to live in a society where police protect us. Personally, I tend to side with the police in most matters.

This brings up the big question of how one can separate true actions of defense from police brutality.

Pineville, Louisiana Incident

Reports claim that on September 8, 2014 there was an officer involved shooting involving a man in underwear with a sharp samurai style sword. The reports claim that officers were responding to a man who threatened people with the sword and that the witnesses in the event clearly heard the officers asking the alleged assailant to drop the weapon. Apparently, the man was shot in the front.

The site The Town Talk has an interview with Joe Morris, head of the Criminal Justice Department at Northwestern State University, about the continuum of force. It has the bizarre statement: "You start where the other person forces you to start. If a suspect is within 21 feet of an officer, deadly force is justified."

This statement "If a suspect is within 21 feet of an officer, deadly force is justified" really seems off to me.

The idea that being within 21 feet of a police officer puts one in a "justified kill zone" is strange. Likewise, a person with a gun over twenty one feet with a gun is a big if not bigger danger than a person with a blade within 21 feet.

I do not think there is an objective measurement that can separate justified shootings from unjustified ones and that we have to look at the situation surrounding the event. For example, in the Louisiana shooting, reports from witnesses claim to have heard the officers tell the suspect to drop the weapon and that the suspect charge the police seem to justify defensive actions on the part of the officers.

On counterpoint, the relatives of the slain man say he was actually quite small ... under 125 lbs. In the Ferguson shooting, Mike Brown weighed over 300 lbs and was much more intimidating. IMHO, the relative size of the officer and suspect matter.

The police have a duty to protect the public. The public is correct in scrutinize any use of deadly force. The public is right to call out oddities in officer involved shootings. For example, the witnesses in the Darrien Hunt shooting claim to have heard people talking in normal voices and Mr. Hunt was shot in the back.

External facts such as race, size of the victim, and radical beliefs should play a role. Alton Nolen changed his name to Jah'Keem Yisrael. His facebook page shows images of beheadings which he believed were sanctified by the prophet. Alton Nolen's religious beliefs are involved in the Oklahoma shooting. The primary cause of the Louisiana shooting appears to be alcohol.

These two different blade related incident shows that blade wielding victims pose a great challenge for police. Personally, I think play acting with swords is foolish. That said, when one can't find circumstances outside the shooting, the public needs to scrutinize the shooting and the Darrien Hunt shooting still seems off to me.

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