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They Finally Got it on Video

2015-04-08

A couple of days ago in North Charleston, South Carolina, a police officer stopped a man for having a broken tail light.  The man resisted arrest and tried to run away.  First the police officer Tasered him, but this didn’t stop his headlong flight. Then, from fifteen to twenty feet away, the police officer fired eight shots from his service pistol at the fleeing misdemeanant.  He was hit five times, three in the back, and fell face down on the ground.  He never moved again.   The police officer walked up to him and yelled at him to put his hands behind his back.  When he didn’t move, the officer pulled his hands back and handcuffed him.  He never touched the man again, leaving him lying face down in the dirt, unmoving.

Another police officer walked up to the pair and said something.  The first officer appeared to pick up his Taser from where it had fallen, twenty feet away, and drop it next to the man’s body.  A few minutes later, another officer arrives with a medical kit, and the officers are seen unreeling batches of gauze and applying it to the body.

Unbeknownst to the police officers, a witness was standing perhaps thirty or forty feet away, behind a short chain link fence and some trees.  The witness used his cell phone to record the entire incident, starting with the shooting.  The fact that the victim is running away and is at least fifteen feet away from the officer when he draws his gun is obvious from the video recording.  The officer is seen calmly raising his gun and firing eight times as the fleeing man stumbles and falls to the ground face first.  The officer never looks towards the camera.  The operator can be heard saying “Oh, shit” several times.

The existence of this cell phone video was cited when the police officer was arrested; he was denied bail.  There is a good argument that, if not for the video, the officer would be a free man.  In fact, the officer initially claimed that the victim took his Taser.

The video is chilling to watch.  There can be no question in anyone’s mind that this was a deliberate, premeditated homicide.  The police officer’s apparent attitude that a man can be shot dead for running away from a traffic stop is abhorrent.  The justification for this kind of behavior went out of fashion fifty years ago, although it can still be seen in old movies such as the scene in “Key Largo” where a sheriff shoots two Indian men who have broken out of jail where they were serving thirty day sentences for drunkenness.

It would be interesting to see how such pundits as Rush Limbaugh explain away this video.  They can be imagined saying, “Just do what the police man says and you won’t get shot.”  Why should a man have to risk being shot for the crime of having a broken taillight and being behind on his child support?  There is a point at which a man will risk his life to retain his liberty.  The struggles of this poor man can be enlikened to those of the protagonist in “Les Miserables.”

In fact, there is something noble about being willing to die to avoid being incarcerated again.  No-one who has not experienced the soul-crushing brutality of being locked up, even for an hour, can understand the feeling of needing to just get out somehow that overcomes the prisoner.  This man was willing to be shot to death just to avoid being locked up.  I say he was a hero, and the police officer was a villain.

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