The facts are still emerging, but no matter how we slice it, the video of the L.A. police shooting a homeless man looks awful.
That doesn’t mean we should be certain that it wasn’t justified, especially if the officers can prove that the guy went for and almost had one of the officer’s gun, as they are claiming. That would make what we see on the video at least make a little more sense.
Even under that scenario, though, it is disturbing and begs the question: If a handful of officers - who have a suspect on his back on the ground - can’t subdue him short of filling his body up with bullets, is there ever a situation in which shooting a suspect isn’t OK?
Usually, many people claim the officers had no other choice. Oftentimes, that’s simply not true. Police officers throughout the country, and in Horry County and Myrtle Beach, find ways to deal with extremely difficult situations without resorting to lethal force.
In recent months, the Myrtle Beach Police Department faced similar circumstances twice - and each time the officers and the suspect walked away with their lives.
In another case, Myrtle Beach police came upon a man they believed to be an armed and dangerous fugitive. I’ll use a slightly edited (for clarity) email from Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall describing what happened.
Question: Why was it possible for Myrtle Beach police to handle such situations without loss of life, while the L.A. police, in the video that is getting so much attention, wasn’t? I suspect there are examples of the L.A. police diffusing situations as well, given that deadly police-citizen interactions are not the norm in Los Angeles or Myrtle Beach.
It is imperative that we scrutinize every deadly interaction and not shy away from noting when they could have - and should have - been handled with more care because that’s the only way we can make sure these events remain few and far between.
It’s also important to remember the complexity of each of these situations and to not declare something untoward before all the facts are in.