Opinion

Someone 'maybe' having a gun isn't enough reason for a cop to shoot

To the editor: What struck me about the decision to not file criminal charges against the Long Beach police officer who shot a turning suspect in the back because he might be armed and might be intending to shoot the officer was that it appears police use a very loose standard as to when the facts justify a shooting in self-defense. (“Prosecutors: Long Beach police officer turned a minor call into deadly shooting, but he won't face charges,” Oct. 15)

The standard seems to be that the officer can shoot if the subject “might” be armed and “might” fire at the officer. Self-defense normally requires a reasonable belief that the use of defensive force is necessary, not that it “might” be necessary. I would submit that ordinarily, under these circumstances, an officer is justified in drawing his gun but not firing it, at least until the officer actually sees a gun that reasonably appears likely to be fired. 

Almost anyone “might” be armed and “might” be about to attack, but without objective observations, use of force, especially deadly force, cannot be justified. 

While officers are justifiably concerned for their safety, no one wants to see an unarmed person unnecessarily shot. Effective and clear standards consistent with the ordinary rules of self-defense need to be established and incorporated into officer training.

James Adler, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Why do our law enforcement officers continue to get away with questionable killings? Black Lives Matter came about because of stuff like this. The mentality of our law enforcement is to shoot first and then assess the situation later.

The officer said he feared that his victim was turning toward him with a gun in his hand, but no weapon was recovered at the scene. Am I missing something here? 

Charles P. Martin, Los Angeles

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