The NYPD close range shooting of 51 Darrius Kennedy has many asking questions about the use of deadly force. Police officials and the mayor say the officers were justified under NYPD regulations, but the questions persist: could police have used other means to disarm a man surrounded by officers, and bystanders, other than shooting to kill at close range?
Two officers fired a dozen shots--7 of the bullets struck Kennedy according to the NYPD. That means five others missed and went elsewhere.
And while the videos captured by bystanders' cellphones show police pushing him up against an office building, many, including his family, are saying there had to be another way to stop this man without resorting to gunfire in one of the city's crowded Times Square on a Saturday afternoon.
We learned after the shooting that Kennedy, brandishing an 11" butcher knife, had prior run-in's with police: he brandished a screwdriver at police and drivers on the Upper West Side and was sentenced to 40 days in jail; he's had multiple arrest for marijuana and was sent to Bellevue once for evaluation by police. Saturday's incident started after a uniformed officer spotted Kennedy smoking marijuana in Times Square and asked him to stop; he refused.
Mayor Bloomberg was questioned by reporters today about the NYPD's use of deadly force. "The professionals seem to say they didn't have much choice. They didn't use tasers, they used pepper spray. They tried to disarm the guy; he lunged at them with a knife. The cops shot to protect their lives and to make sure he didn't run off and kill other people."
Kennedy's family was also questioning the use of deadly force. Kennedy's aunt, Mary Kennedy said at her Hemsptead home, where Darrius lived until 1978, "They shot to kill him, that's what they did. He had the wrong color skin, and I am fed up with all of it."
As Bloomberg was pressed by reporters with repeated inquiries about Taser usage, or other means of non-lethal force, he took a defensive posture. "I can't tell you anything else. You have a non shooting question? You don't get the message."
The NYPD says officers first pepper sprayed Kennedy six times, but he kept lunging at cops with the knife. So they shot him at close range, a justified use of deadly force according to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
But the Kennedy family, and social media, decry the deadly use of bullets as the only means to disarm Kennedy. Twitter posts, too, quickly questioned police tactics. One asking--"Good time for a negotiator?" Another querried, "What happened to all those nonlethal weapons?" And yet another twitter poster, "No cop couldn't just shoot 'em in the knees? NYPD training is terrible..."
While the mayor snapped at reporters to get their answers about non-lethal forms of intervention from the NYPD, this reporters line of questioning went unanswered.
Police sources say the Emergency Services Unit couldn't make it to the stand-off quickly enough as it steadily marched south by a backwards walking Kennedy. The team has multiple intervention tactics: using a "sheppard's hook", that is about 10 feet long to knock the knife out of Kennedy's hand, or ballistics shields which could have knocked the knife down. Sergeants are meant to carry tasers, which might have incapacitated Kennedy, without killing him. But the NYPD says no tasers were present at the scene.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times