A reader reviewing some of the facts around the recent death of a Napa resident shot and killed by a Sheriff's deputy concludes that a video of the shooting makes it abundantly clear that "the man was no threat to the deputy. . ." (“A justified shooting?” May 14)
The video, however, is not the only evidence in the matter. The subject had just stolen shotgun shells from Walmart by breaking open a display case with a hammer, which he then threw at a store employee.
After that, followed by a police vehicle attempting to stop him, he attempted to escape until cornered by a locked gate, which he tried to ram his truck through. He then exited his truck holding the shotgun and, instead of dropping the gun and surrendering to the deputy, he moved toward a position with his truck between himself and the deputy.
Was the deputy unreasonable in believing the suspect was attempting to take cover behind his truck from which he could fire his shotgun at the deputy? Did the deputy have an obligation to wait until shots were fired at him in order to see if the suspect intended to use his shotgun to avoid being taken in custody?
There were only two people involved. The suspect had just committed a violent store robbery of ammunition for his lethal weapon. He then refused to stop when lawfully pursued by the deputy responding to the robbery.
When unable to flee further from the law enforcement officer, the suspect did not surrender. Instead, he took his own lethal weapon out of his truck and attempted to move to a position from which he could shoot at the deputy.
No reasonable district attorney would conclude that the deputy was obligated to allow the suspect to shoot at him first, before using lethal force to end the suspect's flight from the law. Would-be cop killers don't get a free first shot when all objective evidence shows his intention was to shoot it out rather than submit to an obviously lawful and necessary arrest.
Law enforcement jobs are dangerous and often fraught with instant life-or-death decisions. Society is better off, and indebted to the officer, when the outcome is that he gets to go home to his family that night, after a confrontation that no officer ever wants to face, but is willing to do so for the benefit of us all.
The reader who wrote that "the man was no threat to the deputy" also submits that "in this case, there is no difference at all" between the suspect and the deputy.
Fortunately, few would agree. The deputy took an oath to uphold the law and protect the community. The suspect broke several laws and was an armed and dangerous person. Society supports the law enforcers, not the law breakers. Fortunately.
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