By now, most of you have heard about the recent tragedy in New York City in which a man was fatally shot by members of the NYCPD.
While neither the public or the NYCPD have all of the facts about the incident yet, the howling rush to judgement has begun.
I'll wait awhile before discussing why the shooting was or wasn't justified until the facts are in, but I would like to talk a few minutes to talk about what we are hearing in the news regarding this particular incident.
We are being bombarded with television images of grieving loved ones and a parade of "community leaders" (not to mention that media whore, Al Sharpton) saying that the number of shots fired was excessive. Even New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has said it seems excessive (thanks for politicizing the case, Mike, you ass!).
From what I can gather, the officers involved in the shooting fired approximately 50 rounds. The two suspects that survived the shooting were hit a total of 14 times. The first was hit 11 times and the other, three times.
While 50 shots seems like an awful lot, please understand that although that number may seem excessive, the number itself doesn't determine whether or not excessive force was used.
In terms of the Use of Deadly Force, and use of Excessive Force, by police officers, there are two pieces of Supreme Court case law that determine when the use of deadly force is justified and how much force is justified in any given circumstance. The relevant case for this situation is Graham v. Connor (1989).
In this case, the Supreme Court held that the use of force by an officer upon a “seized, free citizen” will be based on the standards of what is “objectively reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The court stated that “based on a totality of circumstances the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of the reasonable officer on the scene, rather than the 20/20 vision of hindsight and the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowances for the facts that police officers are often forced to make split second decisions in circumstances which are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.”
Since the facts of the case are not in yet, we cannot determine what is or isn't excessive. What we are hearing now are the cries of grief, sadness, anger, and other emotions that, while justified or not, don't make any difference about whether or not these officers were justified in shooting or whether or not the number of shots was excessive.
Please note that the fact that these men turned out not to be armed doesn't enter in to the reasonableness of the use of force at all.
This puts me in mind of the Amadou Diallo case from about 10 years ago. Diallo was an African immigrant that was killed by four NYCPD officers, who had fired 42 shots at the man that they believed was reaching for a gun. Diallo was hit 19 times. The officers were indicted under similar circumstances of community outrage. They were tried and acquitted, based mostly on case law from Graham v. Connor.
Diallo's death, much like this one, was a terrible tragedy, and one that could have benn avoided, but it doesn't mean that the cops were guilty of a crime.
My gut tells me these officers acted appropriately... time will tell as facts are revealed.