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Enough Mistakes to Go Around

A year later, events following the televised firefight outside a North Hollywood bank show themselves more clearly. Yes, Emil Matasareanu died handcuffed in the street, untreated for nearly an hour. One doctor claims that despite the holdup man’s 29 bullet wounds, he could have been saved with proper medical treatment. But as Times reporters Steve Berry and Scott Glover reported Tuesday, medical personnel were kept away from Matasareanu.

Matasareanu and his accomplice were armor-clad bank robbers armed with automatic weapons who went on a rampage that caused not only their own deaths but the wounding of police officers and civilians as well.

Police and paramedics apparently violated policies that may have given Matasareanu a chance at survival. Do Matasareanu and his accomplice--who killed himself with a bullet to the head--deserve sympathy? Face it, the really big mistake was made by the robbers themselves when they elected to shoot at police rather than surrender. That said, it must be remembered that a society can be judged by how it treats its most despicable members. Justice is to be administered in the courts, not on the street. Even bank robbers deserve the due process of law.

So did officers on the scene watch with satisfaction as Matasareanu bled to death, as claimed in a lawsuit filed by his family? That will be a question for the judicial system.

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The police mistakes as seen today must be measured against the loud and dangerous confusion of an all-out gun battle. In the adrenaline fog that followed the exchanges of gunfire, police were struggling to restore order. To their credit, they quickly did. Clearly, procedures that should have been applied immediately after the shootout were not. But in the end only two people lay dead that day--the two who started it all.


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