I’m often asked to share my opinions regarding officer-involved shootings and other similar incidents, but I choose not to offer personal viewpoints because the purpose of The Graveyard Shift is to present factual information with, of course, an occasional bit of fun tossed in. I especially do not address issues regarding race, religion, and/or politics.
With that said, I thought it appropriate to post a dash-cam video recently released by the Chicago PD. The footage shows Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke shooting a suspect, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. McDonald was carrying a small knife in his hand and was several feet away from the on-scene officers when he was shot and killed.
Now, I’d like for you to clear your mind of all notions you may have of police officers, good or bad, and then watch the video with an open mind, much like jury members are asked to do. Afterward, please continue with the remainder of this article. Also, please try not to cloud your open mind with the age and race of the people in the video. Just the facts, as they say.
While the video is sinking in, let’s talk about the use of deadly force and when it should or should not be employed.
The use of deadly force is permitted in cases of self defense and to defend the lives of others. In other words, a real threat to someone’s life must be present in order to justify using deadly force. No threat to life or serious injury = no use of deadly force.
Was there a clear threat to life or serious injury in the incident shown in the above video?
1. Police officers are legally allowed to shoot a fleeing criminal suspect only when the suspect has killed/seriously injured someone and the officer believes the suspect will continue to kill or further cause serious bodily injury to others. This was not the case at the time the video was recorded.
2. Police officers are not required to be absolutely certain that a suspect is in possession of a dangerous weapon before they’re legally permitted to use deadly force. However, a threat must be perceived at the time the use of deadly force is employed.
3. Officers are not required to use less-lethal weapons before resorting to deadly force.
Do either of the above three rules apply to the shooting in the video?
What about #4? Is it possible that Officer Van Dyke feared for his life or the life of another? I believe that’s what his attorney has stated, that he feared for his own safety.
4. There are no absolute, clear, and defined laws that police officers must follow when using deadly force. An officer’s perception at the time of the shooting is enough to justify the act. In other words, only the officer who used deadly force can know if he percieved a suspect’s actions as a threat to his life or the life of others.
While you’re pondering these points, let’s address some common questions regarding knife-wielding suspects.
Some argue that a small knife, like the one held by McDonald at the time he was shot, present no danger whatsoever. Actually, the size of the knife is not an issue. Small blades can kill as easily as their larger cousins.
Why not use some sort of martial arts technique to disarm a knife-wielding suspect who is on the attack.? The answer to this question is quite simple. There is no foolproof technique, so why should the police or anyone for that matter, be forced to wade into a knife fight, barehanded? The suspect has initiated deadly force and that force must be responded to with the amount of force that’s necessary to stop the threat to the officer’s safety. The officer must defend himself with deadly force, if possible.
What about keeping a safe distance? Why not simply follow the guy until he gets tired and gives up? Well, suppose he’s using meth and doesn’t tire for 12 hours? Suppose he walks until he runs across an innocent person and decides to stab them? Obviously, this is not an option. At some point the police will need to confront the situation to end it.
We’ve mentioned distance, right? So what is a safe distance from a potential attacker who’s displaying a knife or other edged weapon? Well…
There is a long-standing and proven rule that an officer cannot draw, point, and fire his/her weapon if the attacker starts the assault from a distance of 21 feet.
In the photo above, the officer’s weapon is still in his holster, therefore he should be contemplating a means of survival other than attempting to draw his sidearm and shoot, such as running for cover, or preparing to go into a defensive tactics mode—hand-hand combat, with the almost certainty of being cut. I have nasty scars on all five fingers on my right hand, and my head, as proof of this last-resort tactic.
However, if the officer already has his weapon drawn and in a ready position, he’ll be able to effectively fire a round to stop the threat. Remember, officers are taught to shoot center mass, not shoot to kill, or to shoot a weapon from the attacker’s hand. That stuff is for TV.
In the two photos above the officer would easily be able to stop the threat by firing a round or two.
Okay, by now you should have a basic grasp of when the use of deadly force is appropriate when dealing with knife-wielding suspects. Now, let’s return to the shooting of Laquan McDonald, by Officer Van Dyke. Did you see anything in the video that should/could justify the use of deadly force? Did McDonald make any movements that could be deemed as threatening to the officers or to anyone else? What about the number of shots fired—16? After all, we know that when using deadly force officers are trained to shoot until the threat is stopped.
What did McDonald do that could be perceived as a threat, and when, exactly, did the threat cease to exist? Was it after two shots? Five? Ten? Fifteen? Or was it the 16th round that terminated the threat?
Or, did the officer simply commit outright murder with an obvious disregard to human life?
Well, prosecutors have now charged Officer Van Dyke with 1st degree murder and he is currently being held in jail, without bond. Obviously, they believe they have a solid case.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on the use of deadly force against McDonald, but I ask that you address only the use of deadly force, saving comments regarding race and/or cop-bashing for your own sites.
Last night’s episode of Castle unfolded pretty much like I expected, but it didn’t end the way I’d hoped it would. Sigh. Some folks are ecstatic the way it turned out, but me? Not so much. I did enjoy the ride for the most part, loved the bits of humor, and am happy Kate finally told Rick the truth about why she left him, but I do wish he hadn’t had to dig up evidence on his own first. She should have just been honest with him from the beginning. I also wanted an end to all the secrecy and this despicable Loksat storyline. No such luck. At least Hayley finally proved herself to be useful—even though I’m with Lee in wondering why she’s on the show at all.
Rick and Kate worked together like old times during much of the episode. I loved it, but still had trouble getting past the lack of a kiss or anything intimate when he first wormed his way into her investigation after their sexy tryst at the end of last week’s show. I still believe Kate is acting out of character. One minute she’s pushing Rick away, and the next she’s all over him. What happened to the settled, in-love wife we saw at the end of last season? I don’t recognize Kate at all at this point. The story has gotten so convoluted, the writers don’t know which way to go. The fix? Hire some romance writers to straighten things out.
I loved the Martha moments, Kate’s talk with the three “Marthas” on board the ship, and Rick’s silly dance routine. And I’m happy Rick and Kate are back together, at least behind the scenes. Their plan to not let anyone else know they’re together again irks me and reminds me of when they first got together and wanted to hide their relationship from everyone at the precinct. How silly, unnecessary, and ridiculous is that?
I’m ready for Castle to return to its roots and become the show I’ve loved for seven years. Please, writers—give us the characters we’re used to seeing when the show returns on February 1 (not in January as I reported last week). I want true Caskett happiness and a baby, but maybe that’s just me. The showrunners have no plans for the latter at this point, from an article I read this morning, but we can hope. Think of the comedy that would ensue! Just please at least get Kate back in character and end this torturous storyline. I’m sick of it.
For me, the fact that Beckett had every reason and means to stop the passenger ship from fleeing the harbor, and didn’t, was part of the reason this episode hovered at a level barely above the “just okay” point. But we’ll come back to the escaping boat in a moment. First let’s talk about the medical examiner portion of the show when we were treated to a visit from Perlmutter. I used the term “treated” because the episodes have historically been better when he shows up. No offense, Lanie, but there’s something about Perlmutter that changes the “feel” of the show.
As usual, Perlmutter delivered believable lines even when the information was slightly off center of reality. However, in defense of Tamala Jones (Lanie), the writers seem to save all the good lines for Arye Gross and assign pure crap to Jones. Perlmutter’s scene last night was a fine example…
Perlmutter ~ “It’s a contact gunshot wound. Looks like she was killed execution style and dumped in the water. Based on blanching and bloating it looks like the body has been in the water for 10-12 hours.” During the exam Perlmutter retrieved a small bag from the victim’s throat, and then said, “I’ll put a rush on this at the lab.”
The lab reference was great. Lane would have somehow instantly known the chemical composition of the bag, it’s contents, and the air around it, along with what everyone who’d touched it had for lunch. The writers must have a some sort of grudge against Jones.
Back to Perlmutter’s dialog. Was it accurate?
First, bloating, of course, occurs during decomposition when bacteria in the gut begin to break down tissue, a process which releases gases into the intestines and abdomen. The accumulation of gases in a dead body will certainly help make it float.
Blanching is a part of livor mortis (lividity), something Castle writers absolutely cannot leave alone. Lividity, the purplish discoloration/staining of tissue as the result of pooling blood at the lowest parts of the body, begins the moment the heart stops beating. The discoloration of tissue is absent from areas where something presses against the skin—clothing, floors, furniture, jewelry, etc. This, the process of squeezing the blood from those areas during lividity, is called blanching. So, I’m not sure how much, if any, blanching would appear on a body that’s been freely floating in water. I say this because there’s no constant pressure on any area of the body, pressure that would force pooling blood away from any particular spot.
Still, Perlmutter’s lines were quite believable in spite of the slight inaccuracies. His delivery of those lines helped us believe whatever he said. So why don’t the writers do the same for Lanie? This is a better mystery than the stupid cases they concoct each and every week.
* To view photos of lividity and blanching click here. Be aware, though, that the photos are extremely graphic. Do NOT click the link if you are sensitive to images of dead bodies during various stages of decomposition. I am very serious here. These photos are graphic!
Now, back to captain of the cruise ship refusing to stop the vessel, citing that the Coast Guard was too far away to intercede. Well, for starters, Coast Guard boats constantly patrol and monitor the waters around New York City (remember terrorism?). And, the NYPD has its own fleet and officers who patrol the waters—N.Y.P.D. Harbor Patrol. Believe me, police boats would be nearby and they’d have no problem stopping a cruise ship, especially one that was a floating murder scene.
New York City Police Department harbor units patrol 146 square miles of navigable waters and 576 miles of waterfront. Their duties include, patrol and respond to incidents within the harbor, protect life and property, prevent and detect crime, arrest offenders, preserve peace and to enforce laws.
Vikram. Why does he have access to evidence from a murder scene? How and why is he allowed to take a portion of the heroin to conduct his own analysis of the drug? And who performed those tests? Was the drug weighed before the lab gave him a portion of it? After all, removing any of the package contents changes the weight of the drug which, in turn, could affect the charges against an offender. You knew drug weight makes a difference, right?
For example, 100 grams of heroin could earn a 5-year minimum sentence of 5 years in federal prison, whereas one kilo of the same drug guarantees a minimum sentence of ten years (I didn’t research these numbers, but it’s a good guesstimate for the purpose of this paragraph).
And, why is Vikram allowed free access to the NYPD? This guy is annoying. He has no real connection to either character—Beckett or Castle—, yet he’s over-the-top concerned for Castle? From the beginning, I have not liked how he’s been forced on us. The same goes for Hayley. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
The one positive aspect left going for this show are the antics of Ryan and Esposito, and we saw very little of them in this episode, and that was unfortunate. Their absence throughout left a huge hole in the overall experience.
At least Castle and Beckett made kissy-face at the end, and hopefully we’ve seen the last of Beckett’s tiresome nonsense for a while. However, I now expect there’s a lot of over the top, save the world darkness in store for us in upcoming episodes. I hope I’m wrong and the writers will somehow return to the fun side of the show. But I doubt it. They seem to be writing for themselves and not the fans. And that’s truly unfortunate. I picture them huddled around a clunky old computer in their mom’s basement, giggling and punching one another on the arm as they type out these wacky scenes.
At least Castle and Beckett are back together, for now, and that’s a start. But will it last?