February 27, 2012

"Bad guy should have listened a little better"

Another 911 disaster story via Balko.

Mentally ill man calls 911 yelling incoherent nonsense. Police arrive on the scene, find him in his attic room holding an axe, Tase him and shoot him, wounding him in the leg, and proceed to seal off the area for over an hour, during which time the "bad guy" bleeds to death.

Granted, a crazy guy with an ax would be pretty alarming, but it doesn't appear as if he was wielding the axe in any way that would be truly dangerous to armed police officers. The Taser should have been sufficient.

The cop involved seems unusually slow-witted and was definitely ill-trained. He was certainly incapable of dealing appropriately with a mentally ill person, and given his history it's not surprising it ended badly.

There's no reason to assume that whoever shows up to your house will be any better, even if you have a legitimate reason to make an emergency call. To be sure, 911 calls don't often result in police shooting the caller dead, but it does happen, and as this "bad guy" could tell you if he hadn't been shot to death by professional rescuers, it only takes once.

Posted by Dr. Frank at February 27, 2012 06:06 PM | TrackBack

I can even understand shooting him, if the taser didn't make him stop (and sometimes they don't).

It's the "letting him bleed out for an hour while they 'seal off the area'" that crosses the line.

Posted by: Sigivald at February 27, 2012 06:18 PM

Indeed, Sigivald, that's how I see it, too.

And not that it makes much difference practically speaking, but I am offended by that message: "no sweat here ... bad guy should have listened a little better." Who is he, Clint Eastwood? That's quite a callous thing to say with regard to a tragedy in which a mentally ill man was shot and left to bleed to death. And it does seem to be a fairly common attitude among law enforcement officers. Just read the cop message boards sometime, if you can stomach it.

Point being, I really wouldn't willingly invite such a person into my home, even if I needed help.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 27, 2012 06:46 PM

So what's your message with these '911 calls gone wrong' posts?

Are we supposed to infer some sort of systemic flaw in all states' 911 police response activity because of anecdotes that comprise less than .01% of the responses every year nationwide?

Are the posts supposed to make us shake our head in typical 'holier-than-thou' liberal disdain at the inherent fallibility of human beings when they don police uniforms (which is ironically the same inherent fallibility present in everything human beings do)?

Just wondering.

Posted by: Just Wondering at February 29, 2012 08:42 PM

The systemic flaw is this: police and prosecutors rarely face punishment, or even much inconvenience, for malfeasance, even in quite serious cases. I find these cases disturbing, particularly because, in nearly every instance, those responsible remain on the job. So I post about it.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at February 29, 2012 10:38 PM

Fair enough. On the one hand, there are obvious public policy reasons for police and prosecutors' seemingly 'above the law' treatment when acting in their official capacities. But I don't necessarily disagree that there are cases where a line was obviously crossed, and those cases should be addressed by those communities.

That story about the pizza deliveryman was total BS though. The kid was armed and planning on robbing the cop after ordering a pizza to an abandoned house. He got what was coming to him.

Posted by: Just Wondering at March 1, 2012 06:17 PM

If that is indeed the case with that pizza story -- it could well be, though there's room for doubt just based on what is in the linked articles -- then it's hard to feel much sympathy for that kid, you're right. However, the tactic involved seems fraught with the possibility of mishap. Dress up like a pizza boy with hidden gun in pizza box, ring bell and see what happens: what could go wrong?

Also, they always claim victims in police-shoots-citizen cases were armed and dangerous, and it's not always the case.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at March 2, 2012 01:36 AM