Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Raid Killing

Another unarmed person shot by police during a raid- the man in question was accused of knocking a guy over and stealing a couple of Playstations from him. Police raided the house and he was shot dead- even though he was unarmed.

What’s interesting about the piece is that in one paragraph they say this-

"If this boy would've come to the door, opened the door, we probably wouldn't be talking," the sheriff said Sunday.

While in the very next we get this-

Roommate Mike Rhoton said Strickland was unarmed, but may have been holding a video game controller when he went to the door as it was bashed in by officers.

So he was on the way to open the door when police smashed it in and burst into the house- complete with a “special police unit who went to help university officers serve warrants.” And yet the Sheriff insists that it's his own fault for not answering the door. Was there really a need to smash into a house like this over a couple of stolen Playstations? Was the suspect a flight risk who may have used the ill-gotten gains to run to another country? Or could the police have grabbed the college student at any time they wanted to- in fact, brought him in for questioning over his part in an alleged crime. Or do the police now have the right to assume everyone is guilty first and to use any tactics, no matter how dangerous, to arrest that person?

Yeah, the guy was an alleged criminal who shouldn't have committed the crime in the first place, but we really have to start questioning the tactics of the police- if even a minor robbery results in a house raid by a special police unit resulting in a shooting then something is amiss. Sure, these cops might have been fearful of the suspect having a gun- but they could easily have avoided putting themselves in that situation in the first place.

They also shot his dog. No word on whether or not this one was tied up at the time.

UPDATE- A commenter at War on Guns points to an article which outlines the dead man's criminal past- a couple of cases of using his fists and the police record of a stolen firearm (belonging to his room-mate). In other words, the police seem to have opted for a "dynamic entry" based on the fact that the student in question liked to use his fists- and because they may have suspected that there might have been weapon somewhere in the house- oh, and let's not forget the heinous crime of being too noisy, though it's not clear whether or not the dead man was involved; it was his housemate who got busted for that.

So, if you happen to be a gun-owner- or someone in your building is- and the police know that, they may decide to use dynamic entry tactics to arrest you for even a minor crime. And from the evidence available at the moment, you'd better not tarry on the way to answer the door either. Seems that if you don't get there straight away, with nothing in your hands that could be construed as being a gun by tense cops rushing into an unknown environment, there could be consequences. And, at least according to this Sheriff, it'll be
your fault.

UPDATE 2 - It now appears that the dead man might have been shot through the door by police. And get this- police saw some photos of a friend of him on the internet posing with a gun- and that apparently was the reason they opted for such confrontational tactics. No word yet on how they found those photos or linked the friend to the man they killed. Do you know someone who is a gun owner? Even though you may not own a gun, like guns or even support the 2nd Amendment, it now seems that any association with firearms is now enough for the police to assume that you might be armed.

And we all know what the cops appear to think of gun owners- they're potential cop killers and drastic steps must be taken to prevent
that happening.


Anonymous said...

I believe you are being a bit disingenuous. The report stated that he used a sap, not his fists, and broke the guy's jaw. He could have just as easily killed the guy if he had hit him in the wrong place. So,to recap, this dead kid has a history of using drugs, committing acts violence with weapons.

Now, I don't think a dynamic entry was the way to go, he could have just been picked up off the street with a lot less trouble, but if you are going to confront him in his home, you don't want him grabbing a weapon while your standing out on the porch knocking at the door.

The moral of the story is "Don't rob people, even if the guy you rob doesn't shoot you, you may still end up on a slab."


Jay.Mac said...

"if you are going to confront him in his home, you don't want him grabbing a weapon while your standing out on the porch knocking at the door."

And therein lies the problem with the police tactic- assuming that a petty thief is going to suddenly alter his MO and begin shooting cops over a couple of stolen Playstations really permits the police to use dynamic entry for just about any crime they can think of. I mean, that guy who didn't pay his parking tickets, or whatever, he could have shot a cop at the door too; perhaps we need to issue a blanket dynamic entry permit for cops any time they need to approach anyone's house. I mean, there's no telling who might have a gun and who might be prepared to use it.

Did they really, really think that they couldn't just stand and wait for him to answer the door? Where was he going to go- he's the college attending son of a prominent lawyer. Was he going to flee the country and deprive them of an arrest? Was he going to suddenly change from using a sap to guns in order to murder police officers inquiring about his alleged involvement in a crime? Stop me if I'm wrong, but aren't American citizens supposed to be considered innocent until proven guilty?

The way the police acted here he was not only guilty of this crime but also a potential cop killer too. Their "dynamic entry" tactics are what caused the guy's death; had they chosen a less confrontational route to follow they would not have placed themselves in a situation where they had to shoot someone because they thought he had something in his hand. Suppose he didn't answer the door because he was on the phone, suppose he was on his way, phone still in hand when the cops came bursting in- now imagine that he's not a petty thief but a regular citizen accused of any number of non-gun crimes; are the police still justified in bursting into his home just because he didn't answer the door? Is it okay that they shot an unarmed person because they were scared of getting hurt and thus took extreme steps to protect themselves; steps that weren't even necessary?

I have no sympathy for criminals but this is a matter of the general attitude of US police to the citizenry they are supposed to serve and protect; it's an "us or them" mindset. Campus cops could easily have handled this situation, even if it did involve a sap, or stick or whatever; instead they took along a "special police unit" and barged into his home when the door wasn't answered fast enough for them. Sure, he was a thief; but he could just as easily have been any citizen accused of any crime. The fact of the matter is that the police take it for granted that they can use violent tactics like this when they think it's appropriate- and the bar for appropriate seems to be lowered as each day passes.

Imagine you get into a brawl with someone - not your fault of course- and he goes to the cops clutching his bruised face; "I could have been killed," says he. The cops go to arrest you and when you don't make it to the door in time they burst into your home unannounced and gun you down because you have a phone, a book or a butter knife in your hand.

"Heck," says the lead cop. "If only he'd just answered the door a bit faster, my SWAT team wouldn't have had to gun him down like that."

A few days pass and it's being discussed on the blogs. "But he was violent," they say. "He attacked that poor man without any provocation [of course we only have the "victim's" word for that- you've been killed in a hail of police bullets]- of course the police were justified in a dynamic entry. Don't you know he used to read gun blogs! Why, those poor police officers could have been gunned down like dogs if they'd stood around on his front step just waiting. The moral of the story, don't start fights or you could end up on a slab."

The scary thing is, right now it doesn't seem so far fetched.

David Codrea said...

The War on Guns: Strickland Shot Through Door