Here We Go, Again

We used to have a saying at the narcotics task force, “Six to sixty, blind, cripple or crazy they can still kill you.” This was not paranoia but an admission that there are a wide range of people out there that are engaged and committed to criminal activity.  It was a reminder to act on the information at hand rather than preconceived notions.

We ran across a grandmother sitting in a wheelchair with a nasal catheter supplying oxygen, surrounded by grandchildren.  She was sitting on a pistol and a bag containing two ounces of heroin, packaged for sale when we hit her door. She also had a criminal history going back thirty five years with a couple of stints in TDC.  Had things gone differently we might have had a shoot out and the wheelchair, oxygen and grandkids would not have been the motivating factors.  But “Dog Bites Man” lacks pizzaz as does “Dope Dealer Dies in Police Shootout”.

The Associated Press is reporting that Delaware police shot an armed man in a wheelchair.  Police in Delaware fatally shoot man in wheelchair

Published September 24, 2015Associated Press

WILMINGTON, Del. –  Delaware police say officers fatally shot an armed man in wheelchair after responding to a call that he had a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Wilmington police said in a news release that they encountered the man Wednesday afternoon “armed with a handgun.”

Authorities say a shooting occurred and the man died at the scene. The news release did not elaborate, and police would not release any additional information when contacted by telephone. The races of those involved weren’t immediately known.

According to a city spokeswoman, police Chief Bobby L. Cummings went to the scene and met with neighbors and relatives.

Wilmington spokeswoman Alexandra Coppadge also says police told her the man had shot himself Wednesday before they arrived.

He reportedly was armed with a handgun and may have already shot himself.  The least informative word in the headline is wheelchair. The body of the story points out that he was armed.  He had fired the weapon.  He may have been suicidal.  There is no indication that he tried to escape, run over an officer or wield the wheelchair as a deadly weapon.

People seem to forget that when everybody else is running from the sound of gunfire the police are running to it.  The police have tactics and equipment to deal with a variety of confrontations but that is only half the equation.  The bad guy also has options.  He can choose to be confined by police tactics or he can ignore the police tactics and force the issue.  In a tactical situation, once the police no longer control the situation, nobody is safe.

There is video of the shooting available and it does nothing to clarify the situation.  It bothers me that this guy was in his neighborhood among friends, neighbors and relatives.  He did something that caused the police to be called, giving these bystanders a heads up to get their smart phones out and ready.  Yet there are no reports that any of the people who knew him took the time or made the effort to say,”Do you want to rethink the path you’re going down”.  Maybe that conversation took place but it wasn’t camera ready.

Imagine the disappointment of the camera man when he discovered that his smart phone doesn’t do slo-mo or pull in for the close up when the shooting starts.  The police bullets don’t tear off chunks, there is no red mist and the combined shots didn’t lift deceased out of his wheelchair and deposit him in the street ten feet away. All that stuff happens when Quentin Tarantino shoots a movie.  Shades of the coliseum, the bystanders could’ve prevented the incident but then what would they do for entertainment for the rest of the afternoon?

Could the police have done things differently?  I would have taken a different approach, but either way the outcome would have been dictated by the guy in the wheelchair.  Were they negligent or criminally liable for taking the course that they did?  From a Texas perspective they were not.

I don’t know about Delaware law, but in Texas a peace officer is authorized to use deadly force to prevent a suicide. This is not an oxymoron.