Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Had another suicide-by-cop locally -- in Gresham -- last week. Ugly all the way around, but as always, not as simple as it first seemed.
I saw the initial report on the evening news. Couple of witnesses at the apartment complex -- Nah, the man was doing what the cops said, they shot him with bean-bags, and then capped him dead. No reason!
That sounds heinous. But I've heard a few of these stories, so I poked around ...
Most complete story here.
The gist is that Aaron Campbell, upset over the death of his gravely-ill brother that very day, went to his girlfriend's apartment, in what everybody seems to agree was a bleak, suicidal depression.
A friend of the girlfriend called the police. When they got there, Campbell's girlfriend was outside in the parking lot -- and Campbell was in her place with three small children.
What's the deal? The officer asked.
She allowed as how Campbell was talking about suicide -- and that she had seen him put a gun into his coat pocket.
Hmm. Suicidal man with a gun, in an apartment with three small children.
I'd have called for back-up.
Officers started talking, and Campell was (and you can put "allegedly" in where you want in this narrative, I'm not going to) distraught, and said he wasn't going to play, and "-- don't make me get my gun."
None of this sounds good.
But: The kids came out, and shortly thereafter, so did Campbell, who initially, all seem to agree, did was he was told, putting his hands behind his neck.
Here the story bifurcates:
Police say Campbell began refusing to comply, yelling, moving around, putting his hands down.
Civilian witnesses say he was doing what he was told, though he was mouthing off, including telling the officers to go ahead and shoot him.
One of the officers popped him with a couple of bean bag rounds, and when that didn't do the trick, hit him with four more.
Civilian witnesses say he put a hand to his waist where he was hit by a bean bag as he backed away and the cop shot him.
Police say he put a hand to his belt and started to move away. They had reason to believe he was armed, and when he didn't stop what he was doing, they potted him. One round from an AR-15.
And to make it nastier, he didn't have a gun. (There was one in the closet in the house, they found later.)
So, yes, the police shot an unarmed man. Then again, when the man's girlfriend allowed as how he was suicidal and had a gun, you might consider those extenuating circumstances.
Still, they didn't see a gun, only a quick move, and because they expected that he had a piece, they capped him.
Expectations can be a killer, and it this case, that's what they were.
Did he do it on purpose, knowing they'd shoot? No way to tell, only guy who could say is gone.
What is also cause for head-shaking is a letter in today's paper from a woman who wonders why the police didn't just, you know, shoot him in the leg (or maybe, like the old cowboy movies, shoot the gun out of his hand ... ?)
She had no clue that the idea of being able to hit a moving target that precisely while amped on adrenaline is foolish. Police are taught to shoot to stop -- center of mass -- and if it becomes necessary to crank off rounds, that is supposed to be because the target has become an imminent threat to life or limb, and if you shoot him in the leg or arm or anywhere that doesn't instantly stop him, he might kill you, the little old lady peeping out her living room window, or anybody else without sufficient cover to stop a bullet.
I hope somebody from the local cop shop writes in and explains this.
It's all a nasty can of worms, but I suspect when all is said and done, the grand jury won't indict anybody.