America is a strange place. Whenever I think I’ve gotten a grip on it, bam – all of my convictions get knocked loose by a new story in the press. (er, I should probably say “media” – how old school…). Don’t get me wrong, I find America fascinating, and terrific in many aspects. And that is precisely why I have so much trouble understanding some of its paradoxes.
The latest shocker for me is this story about a shooting in New York City. The short version is “guy kills someone in a busy street, guy gets killed by cops”. Okay, I won’t go into the whole gun control debate, that’s something for another time.
There is one point in this story that I just can’t wrap my head around. That is that the police officers in this case are mentioned as being a model of restraint. Excuse me ?
Let me clarify the facts, from what I’ve found at least. The shooter was pointed out by a good citizen to two police officers patrolling nearby. These officers confronted the man, who proceeded to pull out a gun. The officers shot and killed him, and in the process injured innocent bystanders.
All of this seems like a perfectly normal response to me. Sure, it seems the guy probably never intended to fire his gun on the police, but they had no choice but to use deadly force when he pointed the gun at them. I agree with that.
What I have trouble with is the fact that the officers fired 16 rounds. And, get this, they were standing approximately 5 to 8 feet away from the man holding a gun. Video of the event has even been released which clearly shows this.
So please explain this to me : how does the term “restraint” apply to trained police officers firing 16 bullets towards a man standing no more than 8 feet away ? Granted, I have no experience whatsoever with guns. I can only imagine it must be quite difficult to fire a gun accurately, especially when under the most stressful of situations. But these people are supposed to be trained specifically to respond to such circumstances, are they not ? And if they need 16 attempts before they are sure of disabling a target standing 8 feet away, what does that say about their training ? What does it say about the decision to put guns in their hands ?
Granted, there is an awful lot that I don’t know about this case. Maybe these officers weren’t extra-highly trained in the use of handguns, since they were just patrolling, not some super-SWAT-trained incredibly efficient marksmen. But then, why give them guns ? Whatever happened to tazers, rubber bullets, or other non-lethal means of disabling someone ? Has that all been chucked out of the window ? What’s more, it seems that a similar incident occurred barely two weeks ago, with NYPD officers killing a knife-wielding man – by firing 12 times.
Again, there is much that I do not know about this, but what I do know keeps me puzzled. I just can’t put together “restraint”, or sound judgment, with the firing of 16 bullets in this scenario. 6 of which missed their target entirely. Wounding 9 innocent bystanders in the process. I agree that the officers’ first priority should be to protect themselves and the public. Firing sixteen bullets on a busy street just doesn’t seem to me to be the best way to accomplish that.
Thank god none of the bystanders suffered life-threatening injuries, but I still find this discomforting. And still, a majority of people want to see ordinary people wielding guns wherever they please ? I’ll simply refer to this post I discovered on Freshly Pressed, whose author is much better suited than myself to address this.
I know it’s hardly my place to judge, not being American. But I have such a hard time comprehending this type of story, and this frustrates me no end. So if anyone can explain to me how the NYPD officers in this case showed restraint, or did the right thing, or whatever… please do. Don’t hesitate to contradict me entirely, I do accept criticism. If only it’ll help me to understand.