An ACLU Attorney is asking questions about why police shot a man charging at them with a four foot long metal tool. Officers were dispatched to a Carl’s, Jr. fast food restaurant in Monterey Park, California, in the Pasadena area. Steve Rodriguez, age 22, was on scene smashing windows with a large pipe bender. Ignoring police commands, he charged at officers who first tased him in the face. The tasing did not stop him. Rodriguez then stood like a baseball player and began to swing when one officer fired and then the other. Rodriguez was pronounced dead after the incident.
ACLU Attorney Peter Bibring, the organization’s self-styled expert in police use of force, feels that the first volley of five shots might have been acceptable, but the second volley of shots were possibly an excessive use of force. Please note his opinions have been offered before the investigation has been completed.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has not identified the officers. The department is investigating the situation which some believe was connected to an earlier incident at Mr. Rodriguez’ college. Amateur video of the incident has been released on YouTube. Be advised that the commentator is extremely liberal in her uninformed interpretation:
The standard for appropriate use of force remains Graham v Connor (1989), which outlines the concept of objective reasonableness. In this ruling, the Supreme Court made the distinction that reasonableness of force use is determined not by what people decide about the incident in retrospect, but rather what the officers perceived at the time of the incident.
Specifically the Court ruled:
The Fourth Amendment “reasonableness” inquiry is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.
Since the “newscaster” in the Youtube video probably can’t spell Graham v Connor, never mind interpret it correctly, her comments should be considered accordingly. Sadly, in every incident of this type, officers are judged not by their perception during a shooting, but rather the perceptions of individuals who often have no background in the use of force or law enforcement.
Dr. Bill Lewinsky is one of the premier researchers and lecturers in the United States about police use of force. He tells us that many factors determine how officers use force in the street, including training, conditions at the scene, neuro-muscular memory and function, and a host of other issues. Officers are not trained to wound, they are trained to stop the threat. Officers are also not taught to fire a certain number of rounds.
The perception of when the threat ceases may be when the perpetrator falls to the ground, which can easily be after five rounds have been fired. During officer-involved shootings, the primal fight or flight reflex kicks in for police and the resulting adrenaline rush makes it difficult, if not impossible, to stop firing in a nanosecond.
This same hormone dump from the adrenal gland causes the heart rate to go up. Dr. Lewinsky reports that time often distorts for officers under extreme threat and they often are not aware of the sounds of the shots fired. The field of vision narrows in a classic tunnel vision situation. Considering how many rounds one can fire off in a second, you can gain an appreciation for the fact that it would be easy to shoot five rounds while under a threat. In such situations, members of the community always question why cops just didn’t shoot a perpetrator in the legs and wound them. This is why.
Here is one surefire way to avoid being shot even once by police: don’t come after them with a four-foot piece of pipe with a hunk of steel in a semi-circle at the end.
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