Monday, July 25, 2005

I'm disgusted

After hearing that the guy shot in London last week was innocent, I was pretty bothered by it. The more I hear about the details, the more it bothers me. But what is disgusting to me is the reaction I've heard fom so many people that apparently think that while tragic, it was a perfectly acceptable action under the circumstances. Aside from the fact that everything this guy did "wrong" was minor and that witness accounts don't match up perfectly with the official version, even if the officail version is completely accurate, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, and I don't understand why people aren't more outraged over the shooting of an innocent man, regardless of the circumstances. But what disgusts me is the attitude I seem to be seeing that he got what was coming to him since he ran from police. I don't know why he was running, whether he was afraid and didn't know they were police, or he had done something else wrong and didn't want to get caught, but either way I have a problem with shooting people in the head before we have all the (or any) facts. People who don't have any problem with this man being shot seem to be advocating living in a police state, and while I'm sure they would argue that that's not what they're sayng, I can't see how their arguments make any sense otherwise. Either it's ok for police to shoot innocent people just in case they might be terrorists or it's not. I also am disgusted by the argument that this wouldn't have happened a month ago, but it's to be expected now. Well, if it wouldn't have happened a month ago, then it shouldn't happen now. We can't let all our decisions be mae based on a worst case scenario and motivated by fear. We have to use some common sense and compassion, otherwise we will quickly becoming a society not that worthy of protecting in the first place.

I hope we don't see any more terrorist attacks, because they are tragic. But I also hope that we don't see any more innocent people killed in the name of fighting terrorism, because in my mind, that it also tragic, and one does not excuse the other. The victim in this tragedy is just as dead as the victims in the other, but this time the blood is on the hands of the good guys, and the disgusting thing is that some people seem to think that's ok.

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32 comments:

Recidivist said...

I couldn't agree more; but it seems that we now live in a "Collateral damage" society where the hurting of innocents is OK and morally justifiable .... provided that innocent isn't anyone close to us.

It makes me feel sick.

Mistakes will always happen, but we don't learn from those mistakes by simply shrugging our shoulders and saying "he had it coming". We learn by demanding explanations and forcing the authorities who supposedly act in our name to look at their own actions again and again.

The worst defence I have seen is that we shouldn’t question the shooting because that will deter other e police officers from shooting in the same situation .. even if that is all it does, then questioning has done a good job.

John Howard said...

Mistakes will always happen, but we don't learn from those mistakes by simply shrugging our shoulders and saying "he had it coming".

Yes, exactly. We need to question these things when they happen, find out why they happened, and try to make sure they don't happen anymore. If there truly was nothing wrong with it, then answering questions about it, and offereing explanations shouldn't be too much to ask.

Yes, I don't want police shooting people on suspicion, if they had some good reason to believe he was a terrorist, then that's a different situation. But I think you better be really sure before you shoot someone in the head.

Christiana said...

I hope you're not including me in your description, because you put a completely inaccurate and unfair spin on what I said.

OF COURSE I'M UPSET! It was a terrible mistake and a tragedy! All I'm saying is that I think that the police were sincerely trying to stop someone they thought was a suicide bomber from blowing himself up and killing dozens of people. They were wrong, and that's awful, but looked at from their perspective, it's completely understandable why they would think that way.

As for blaming the guy. He has partial responsibility, because the fact remains that you should NOT run from the police. Further, he did not even have a language barrier excuse because he spoke English well, and would have been able to understand the police instructions.

This is like high speed chases. The police go to pull someone over for a broken tail-light or something. Turns out the guy has a suspended license, and he doesn't want to get arrested for it, so he takes off down the highway. The police pursue. For all they know, he's running because he's just murdered someone or robbed a bank. All they know is that he's running, so he must have some reason for it. So they pursue him in a high-speed chase and unfortunately, as a result of the chase, the man flips his car and is killed. All for a suspended license.

Did he deserve to die? OF COURSE NOT! It's a terrible tragedy. But who do you blame for this? You seem to be saying that we should blame the cops for pursuing him.

Imagine again the hypothetical I described. What if he HAD BEEN a suicide bomber? They decided that they are not prepared to use lethal force, and then he manages to detonate, killing who knows how many people. They COULD have stopped him, but didn't, and it killed innocent people.

The fact is, this guy was not innocent. He was not connected to the bombings, sure, but he ran from the police, and we do NOT have the right to run from the police when they are ordering us to halt.

Now, once again, lest I be mischaracterized again. THAT DID NOT MEAN HE DESERVED TO DIE!!!!! IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!!!!! I am not saying it shouldn't be questioned! OF COURSE it should be questioned and investigated, and guess what? IT IS being questioned and investigated, and from what I've heard about it, it sounds to me like the police did what they thought was the right thing under the circumstances. People who actually make the decisions about what approach they should use will look at the details and decide the case.

I'm a little pissed frankly that you would characterize my argument as my somehow being glad this happened or happy this guy is dead. I'm not saying that the police did everything right. OBVIOUSLY they didn't. What I'm saying is that they did what they did with the intent of SAVING LIVES!

I go back to high speed chases. Sometimes innocent people are killed in those chases, whether the person fleeing or otherwise, and when it happens that's a terrible tragedy. But are you going to suggest that the police simply stop all high speed chases? All that will do is allow anyone who wants to evade arrest to be able to get away by speeding away.

Likewise, if they adopt a policy of no lethal force ever, then all a REAL suicide bomber will have to do is run past the police and blow himself up in the crowd before they can reach him.

Christiana said...

if they had some good reason to believe he was a terrorist...

And exactly how good do their reasons have to be before they pass your test?

I think it's 100% clear that, even though they turned out to be wrong, they thought at the time that he WAS A SUICIDE BOMBER! That's WHY they shot him!

So you think they should have sat down and had a meeting first to discuss whether their reasons for thinking so were good enough, while this guy who emerged from an apartment under surveillance, and ran into a tube station against police instructions after two bomb attacks in tube stations in less than two weeks?

Recidivist said...

It is amazing how willing some people are read ONLY the official version ... the official version that has changed at least nine times and that is contradicted by almost all the other versions, which have remained pretty consistent.

maurinsky said...

Christiana - when they caught him, why did they have to shoot him? That's the question we should be asking. Why are terrorists so special that they can't be treated like every other common criminal? They caught the guy, all they had to do was search him, book him, and go from there. There was no reason to shoot him in the head five times!

In the time it took them to shoot him in the head 5 times, they could have determined whether or not he had a bomb under his coat. Shoot first, ask questions later is not a reasonable power the police should have in their arsenal!

John Howard said...

Christiana, I wasn't trying to characterize your argument in any way, and I wasn't talking aobut you specifically, and I was generally talking more about things I saw from other commentors and in other places. But anyway, thanks for clearing up your thoughts on the matter. Having said that, I still have a lot of issues with what you have said.

it's completely understandable why they would think that way

How is it understandable? The guy ran from people who were chasing him, it's not clear from what I've read that he knew they were police or that they even identified themselves as police.

the police were sincerely trying to stop someone they thought was a suicide bomber from blowing himself up and killing dozens of people

But they didn't, they shot an innocent man in the head. Obviously, whatever they were basing their beliefs that he was a terrorist on was seriously flawed.

would have been able to understand the police instructions

It's not clear that he was even given any instruction to follow.

You seem to be saying that we should blame the cops for pursuing him.

Where did I say there was any fault on the part of the police for pursuing him? What I blame the police for is shooting him in the head.

Imagine again the hypothetical I described. What if he HAD BEEN a suicide bomber?

This is not a hypothetical situation. This guy was NOT a suicide bomber, and I don't want the police shooting every person who acts suspiciously (in their view). I would imagine that that policy would just cause the actual suiced bombers to become better at blending in and not acting suspiciously. Or having two peopel involved, one to distract by acting suspiciously while the other does the damage.


The fact is, this guy was not innocent

Actually, he was, unless your definition of guilt is far, far looser than mine, and also much looser than the "innocent until proven guilty" standard that we like to use.

we do NOT have the right to run from the police when they are ordering us to halt

I haven't seen anything that suggests that it's clear that he knew they were police, or that they identified themselves as police, or that they ordered him to do anything. And they were in plain clothes, so even them saying that doesn't make it something that he should bet his life on. Are you saying that we don't have the right to run from people who are chasing us?

IT IS being questioned and investigated

Right, and that's good. The attitude that I have a problem with is the one that says that the story is over, and we already know that the police did the right thing.

What I'm saying is that they did what they did with the intent of SAVING LIVES

But they didn't save anyone's life, they took one. Their motives don't bring this guy back. I'm not saying there was anything wrong with their intent, I'm saying that you better be a lot more sure about what you're doing before you shoot people in the head.

But are you going to suggest that the police simply stop all high speed chases?

Actually, I'm not suggesting that, but I bet if you researched that a little bit you would find that a lot of people are suggesting that and that police departments are crafting policies around exactly that circumstance. However, this was not an accdental death as the result of a chase, this was shooting an unarmed man who was already captured in the head with the clear intent to kill him. That's a completely different situation.

if they adopt a policy of no lethal force ever

I never suggested this, but in this case, it's pretty clear to me that they went overboard, since for one the guy was innocent, and second, they killed him, and third, they already had him captured when they shot him.

John Howard said...

And exactly how good do their reasons have to be before they pass your test?

A lot better than living in a house under surviellance, wearing a coat, and running from people who chase him.

Robert Bayn said...

I totally agree john, i watch alot of cop shows, never do they ever shoot someone that is running away, second u go for the leg if you really have to, COPS NEVER go for the head, something is very wrong about that. And it really gets me going seeing people defending a innocent person being shot, that's just fucked up.

Christiana said...

Regarding all the different accounts of what happened, I find that when accounts differ, people choose to believe whichever one validates the position that they already held.

Therefore, when the police have one story where they were heroes who made a tragic mistake, and the bystanders have another where they were trigger-happy thugs, people will choose to believe whichever one tells them what they already believe.

Frankly, I'm inclined to believe the official story MORE than the accounts of some random bystander, not LESS.

So some witness doesn't remember hearing the police identify themselves. Does that mean it didn't happen, or does that mean that witness just didn't hear them do it? Or that, because it all happened so fast and was so shocking and scary that they don't remember everything perfectly?

It's a dirty secret of law enforcement that witness testimony actually tends to be one of the LEAST reliable kinds of evidence, because people remember things wrong all the time.

So, it may well be that there were serious tactical mistakes on the part of the police. That's what the investigation is for! To determine what mistakes were made and how to avoid making them again in the future.

They caught the guy, all they had to do was search him, book him, and go from there. There was no reason to shoot him in the head five times!

Well, clearly it's easy to armchair quarterback after the fact. How eager would you be to wrestle a resisting to the ground and try to handcuff him when he may have a bomb under his jacket set to explode at the slightest touch?

A lot better than living in a house under surviellance, wearing a coat, and running from people who chase him.

So basically, a standard so high that no actual suicide bomber would ever reach it? The fact is, that the only possible hope of catching these guys before they blow themselves up is to vigorously investigate people who are behaving suspiciously.

I'm not saying the police did everything perfectly. Obviously if they had, this wouldn't have happened. But it's not like they pinned him to the ground, he stopped resisting, and then they cold-bloodedly shot him in the head just for the hell of it.

They had only one concievable reason to shoot-to-kill and that was to prevent him from detonating a bomb. Now, turns out he didn't have a bomb. But THAT'S the mistake, not shooting him. The man's death was a tragic result of that first mistake.

So the next time someone wearing a coat who is already under surveillance because he lives in a building that is connected to terrorists tries to force his way on to a subway train against police instructions, how do YOU think they should handle it? Ask him if he has a bomb in his jacket, and if he runs away, just let him go?

The simple question is: If the next guy DOES have a bomb, do you think that the police will have more reason to be suspicious of that guy than they did about this guy? Probably they'll have LESS.

Do you think that the police should be able to kill him if its necessary in order to prevent detonation? Or should they have to subdue him using only non-lethal force, thus risking their own lives as well as the lives of everyone around them?

Frankly, a lot of my position is shaped by watching the TV show "Cops". Now, say what you want about the sleazy people that often show up on that program, but if you watch a few epidodes, a very clear pattern starts to emerge.

Police pull someone over because of some small infraction or suspicious activity. The person seems totally polite, intelligent and cooperative, even friendly, just like any of us would be if we were pulled over. They keep acting like that until some breaking point where the police are about to discover further wrongdoing like a suspended license or warrants for their arrest, at which point they speed off or take off running. The police then have to chase them down, struggle with them and finally take them in.

What's my point? Criminals don't wear black and white stripes and masks or carry big signs that say "I'm an evil-doer" on their backs. It's the policeman's JOB to be suspicious. If they weren't, they'd never catch anybody at anything.

Recidivist said...

Well the accounts of your “random bystanders” are all more or less the same .. the 'official' version that you so readily believe is ever changing. So that leads me to ask exactly which version of the official versions you believe?

It isn't some witnesses who don't remember a police warning. It is NO witnesses remembering a police warning before he was overpowered on the train.

The simple fact is that the police had ample opportunity to confront this man before it became an 'emergency' .. they made it an emergency by not confronting him earlier and by readily let him use public transport that was just as vulnerable as a tube train.

Why did they leave it? Because the prospect of him leading them directly to Mr Big was more important to them.

The whole point is that had they confronted him earlier, when they had the chance to do it in a manner that wasn't so desperate, then none of the questions that you ask would have been of any relevance.

The police created the situation, the police then compounded that error my brutally killing the man with seven (not five) shots to the head. There simply is no excuse in my books.

John Howard said...

I'm not choosing to believe either story, but when it's clear that the police shot an innocent man, then I'm more likely to err on the side of the guy that didn't do anything than the people who shot him.

Why would you believe the offical story more when the only ones with a motive to lie ar ethe ones telling the official story? And as recidivist pointed out, the offcial story has changed already. Maybe they identified themsleves, maybe they didn't, but if the bystanders weren't sure about it, why do you think the victim should have been so clear on it? People do remember things incorrectly, but even in the offcial story, the end result is that they shot an innocent man in the head, which is unacceptable either way.

HE wasn't already under surveillance, the place where he lived was, and that's a pretty important distinction. It's not too much to ask that they actually identify the targets of their surveillance before they start shooting them. As for how it should have been handled, you don't ask the guy if he has a bomb in his jacket, but you also don't assume that he does just because it's possible. Using that logic will lead to nothing more than a lot of tragic shootings.

In the next case, if the guy does have a bomb, then I hope if the police decide to shoot him, they have a lot more reason to be suspicious than they did in this case, becuase unless there's more than I heard, there was no evidence that this guy was a terrorist, and everything he did had an equally plausible explanation that did not mean he was a terrorist.

Yes, I think if the police know he has a bomb, and killing him will prevent it's detonation, then that would be justified, but they didn't know, they were guessing, based on some pretty flimsly eveidence, and that is a big problem for me.

Your COPS pattern seems pretty accurate, but I'd be equally as upset if I saw someone on COPS shoot someone in the head at the end of a chase. And anyway, the circumstances there are a lot different, because first, usually the people on COPS have committed some crime, which this guy didn't as far as I can find out, and the other thing is the police are pretty obviously police, which I don't know was clear in this situation. And finally, they don't usually end it with 5 shots to the head, instead they take them in, like you said.

It's the police's job to be suspicious. I have said over and over again, they had reason to be somewhat suspicious of this guy, what they didn't have was any reason whatsoever (that I'm aware of) to shoot him in the back of the head.

Yankee T said...

This is so disturbing. If it were one shot, and we could talk ourselves into believing they were aiming for his leg and MISSED (or some such thing), it would be one thing. But to repeatedly shoot a person in the back of the head BEFORE knowing what, if any, involvement he had in another case, is without conscience, IMHO.

John Howard said...

I agree, yankee. And everytime anyone says, well he COULD have been a terrorist, it just makes me even sicker.

Me4Prez said...

If he was a terrorist and they are known to use pressure devices that they release to blow up, what good does shooting the guy in the head in the station do? A leg shot could have been just as safe in that situation.

John Howard said...

Yeah, me4, the point to meis that the police didn't know what the situation was, so there was no reason to believe that shooting him would make it any better, but there was every reason to believe that shooting him would make things worse, i.e. he would be dead.

Shakespeare's Sister said...

Maybe he pointed out that someone had bad teeth. That seems to make a lot of people mad.

John Howard said...

Yeah, that would be a good justification.

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

Robert Bayn you are wrong. Cops only aim for legs in the movies.

Cops train to shoot center mass to bring down the target. There are also cops that do train to complete 2 shots to the body( center mass) and 1 to head in special circumstances and of course snipers.

maurinsky you obviously have never worn a uniform. Generally cops perfer to go home at the end of their shifts to see their families. I doubt seriously a cop would hand search someone he/she really thought was loaded with bombs.

Christiana you are the only sane one in this discussion. The whole point of your arguement is Cops are humans who do not possess supernatural powers to do a job based on split second life altering decisions. These decisions become very complicted when subjects refuse to comply.

The whole hyperbole of a living in a police state arguement is nonsense. Cops are people just like every one else they do not want to engage in any of that any more that ordinary citizens want then too.

The reason you do not see Cops shootings persons fleeing from their presence is found in Tenn V. Gardner. Cops can not shoot a fleeing felon unless the felon posses an immediate threat to the public.

Here is simple rule of thumb, comply with the guys with guns. If they are wrong be alive in the morning to sue them.

John Howard said...

Yes, they definitely hit what they were aiming for. Not difficult at point blank range, I would think. I bet nowhere in their training does it say to assume people are terrorists if they wear a heavy coat or run.

this decision should not have been complicated. You don't just automatically assume anyone has a bomb and then let that dictate your actions.

Yeah, comply with guys with guns, that will work fine except when they don't happen to be cops, and they kill you. Whatever misjudements this guy made were reasonable, and he more than paid for them, the police made ridiculous misjudgements based on fear and it cost this guy his life, they should definitely be held responsible. At the very least they should put in a position where their poor judgement will never be a factor again.

Recidivist said...

"These decisions become very complicated when subjects refuse to comply"

Only complicated when you conveniently start the story 15 seconds before the unloading of 7 shots from a Glock 17 self-loading pistol into the innocent victims skull.

Extend the story however and include the previous 24 hours of relative inactivity when there could have been proactive measures taken and then you have a very different and far less complicated story of crass incompetence, Mr Always Sourced and Very Much Disputed.

The one thing I will agree on is that “cops are humans” .. and it precisely because they are human that they should be held accountable before the law, just like any other human is; to which end I am delighted that the officers involved have now been suspended from normal duties and are being investigated.

sumo said...

I believe it has come out now that he was shot 8 times...I think there was a great deal of fear put into those shots besides the obvious. Too bad he didn't stop. Personally it makes me wonder why. I hope they found drugs or something of that nature to explain why he continued to run...otherwise it makes no sense. It does make one scratch their head. I'm not saying the cops were right btw.

maurinsky said...

I actually work with a lot of cops, and most of the ones I know are egotistical drama queens who never see the kind of action we see on the TV shows. They are the kind of guys who wish they could have been the losers who shot an innocent guy in the head, because it would provide them an opportunity to drama queen about how dangerous their job is.

I know many good cops, too - hardworking and sensible. But the majority are drama queens with serious ego issues.

You ignore the whole freaking story just to focus on what the cops did after they had the guy. If he hadn't blown up yet, I don't see why they couldn't take a sec to confirm the existance of a bomb.

maurinsky said...

Oh, and I think the actions of those policemen not only didn't make anyone safer, they taught actual terrorists a valuable lesson - detonate when the cops are closing in, because they're going to shoot you either way.

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

Sumo,

Unless you are in the crowd that believes COPS enjoy killing innocent people, you are right on.

This officer will undoubtedly spend several years trying to mentally wrestle with exactly your point. Why did the guy run?

recidivist normally I consider you frankly less than revelant to the discussion given your current choice of residency. However, here it is you that should be the loudest voice campaigning for change not sitting here debating our opinion of the situation.

I thought you said you are smart.

Think Globally act locally

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

maurinsky

There is always a danger in taking the behavior of a few and transferring that behavior to a group. I would also urge you to consider that you did not hear what you thought you heard.

Police, Firefighters, Military personnel, ER Doctors and others whose jobs are multifacted combining a desire to help, violence, stress, sometimes say things that if you have never walked in their shoes you would likely find offensive and disturbing.

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

JRH "guys with guns"

give me break you know what I mean.

I have already told you I believe almost every one should have a gun so that the suspect has to stop and consider whether or not his/her next robbery will be his/her last.

You are references our earliear discussion on gun control. To which I reassert my point gun control laws do not work. Consider the D.C. home to the highest crme rates in the country. Guns were banned in 1976 apparently the suspect did not get the memo.

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

maurinsky

I almost forgot well duh. Where have you been getting your news from? Have you not heard of secondary explosions rigged to explode when police,fire, and medic arrive? Checkpoint bombings? and in the bosian conflict putting bombs on captives and forcing them to march back toward their friends? Putting bombs on children?

Recidivist said...

Never Sourced,

Nice dodge of the issues. Shame you know nothing about me or my activities to even be able to make an informed comment on them.

Guess that just shows the sort of ignorance we are dealing with.

Have fun.

Always Sourced, Never Disputed said...

Educate me on your efforts.


What dodge are you talking about?

I merely pointed out it is us in this country commenting on something in your country as though our opinion really matters. The incident is far more germane to you and your fellow citizens.

Recidivist said...

Robert,

The leg shot suggestion is actually perfectly valid. In the case of suicide bombers, that is the other shot advised in the revised Met policy that was drawn up after consultation with the police in Israel and Sri Lanka (the two countries who have lots of these types of bombings).

John Howard said...

I don't care which shots are the correct shots or whatever. In this case, there was no reason to shoot. They had no reason to hink this guy had a bomb other than some vague suspicions. They shouldn't have shot him in the leg or otherwise. They should have stopped him before he got to the subway if they were really so concerned, or just left him alone altogether, considering he didn't do anything wrong.

I'm not sure where your conversation on gun control came from, always sourced.