Friday, May 18, 2007

Threatened with a gun

I have no idea if this police shooting is justified or not. I'm pretty sure that the official position will be that it was justified, but I'm equally sure that nobody is going to put much thought into that official position.

The newspaper article is short, doesn't really say much, but two parts stand out to me.
A Memphis police officer shot and wounded a suspect who pulled a weapon tonight, officials said.
About 7:15 p.m., a person flagged down two police officers in the College Park public housing area not far from Elmwood Cemetery, saying a man in a nearby park had threatened him with a gun, Memphis police spokesman Sgt. Vince Higgins said.

The officers responded and called to the gunman, who took off running. They pursued until the man turned, weapon in hand.

The cops says the guy "pulled a weapon". That implies an aggresive act on the part of the suspect. "Pulled a weapon".

But then he says the guy turned, "weapon in hand". That sounds like he'd been carrying the gun the whole time he'd been running.

There is a difference between pulling a weapon and having a weapon in your hand. It's a small difference, a subtle difference. But it's a difference.

Anyone who pulls a weapon is making a clear aggresive act. You should be concerned when someone pulls a weapon.

But someone having a weapon in his hand isn't making such a clear aggresive act. Maybe he's being aggresive, maybe he isn't. It's really not going to be that clear.

I don't know whether the cop was right to interpret the guy having a gun in his hand as threatening or not. Probably. But when intentional language is used (pull the weapon) that makes the danger of a situation sound more obvious than it actually was then I start to wonder if I should look in this horses mouth or not.

My thinking about this is colored by my tendency to never take anything a cop says at face value. I just don't trust them.

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