Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Suicide by Cop

A true story by Bruce Baker

What follows is an account of a unnecessary police
shooting, I was there and this is how I recall it.

It was a warm sunny day, my wife and I were on the way home, we

had decided to stop at a local sandwich shop. As we approached the shopping

center, the main street was blocked ahead. Fire trucks, ambulances and many

police vehicles, people standing in small groups, all watching something we

couldn’t see. I took a left at the blocked intersection, next to the shopping center,

turning right into its parking area, parking near where we entered, across the lot

from the sandwich shop.

Business’s lined two sides of the lot, the sandwich store on the far side of

the lot. Stepping out of the car I didn’t smell any smoke, people were standing on

the sidewalks in front of the stores. Wondering what was going on we started

walking across the lot. Coming out of the parked cars, into an open area on our

right, was a large circle of police officers. In the center, about 50 feet from any

one officer stood a lone man.

The first thing I noticed about him was that he was shirtless, then I saw

the blood. His chest was crisscrossed with many long slashes and blood ran in

thin streams over his belly. His jeans were soaked dark down to his crotch, in

each hand he held a butch knife. He appeared to be about 30 years old, hair

disheveled and talking to him self. The angle of his wounds clearly showed that

they were self-inflected, blood dripped from the knives

We didn’t stop walking, passing behind one of the closest officers, he

motioned us to move faster. We were the only people in the center of the lot, the

officers and man to our right, lines of people to the left and in front of the

sandwich shop. At that point the bloody man focused his attention on us, I have

no idea what idea what was going on in his head, but we were now part of it. As

we still walked for the shop; he held his stare and turned slightly towards us.

People in the crowd were hollering “Throw a net over him, Knock him

down with the fire hose.” I didn’t see any preparations to do this, just the police

with hands on their weapons. We passed through the people in front of the stores,

and entered the sandwich shop. The circle of police was about 100 feet away

from us, right in front of the shop.

There were a few people inside, seated at tables watching the scene

outside, talking how to end it. We ordered our food, alternating looks at the

bloody man and food preparation. As I paid for the sandwich’s someone said

“He’s coming this way”.” Turning toward the front door I saw he was walking

straight for the front door, he had closed the distance to about 75 feet, the

people outside were gone. Three officers, their weapons drawn, walked close to

the sides and front of him. I thought, why don’t they knock him down, spray him

with mace, anything but what was happening. When he was about 25 feet away I

moved to hold the door shut, I couldn’t let him inside.

I was that close when the officers opened fire, seeing the guns jerking in

their hands, I didn’t hear one shot. Many shots were fired, hitting three times, at

the first two he fell to his hands and knees, dropping the knifes. The final shot

shot came from the officer on his right and slightly to the rear, at point blank

range he fired into the mans head. A fountain of blood arched into the air, thick

as a finger, it pulsed some distance. The bloody man dropped instantly, dead

weight, face down into the asphalt. I don’t recall eating the food, but we did. A

dead man lies in front of the window, and I’m eating a sandwich. By the time we

left the shop his body was gone, the blood, hosed to a near-by drain, where was

all of this efficiency when he was alive? It was hard to believe, so unnecessary,

of all the possible outcomes did it have be this way? I suppose the answer lies in

our culture, police training, we seem to turn to the gun to solve our problems.

I have told this story to few times, the usual response was “You didn’t

want him to get in the store did you?” I don’t know if he intended violence against
any one there, but certainly intended it for himself. Current estimates suggest that
as many as 10% of those killed by police officers, intended that was the inevitable
or likely outcome of action they took. Nothing came out of the inquest into the
shooting, only a small paragraph and obituary in the paper. Perhaps my writing
this down, will stop the scene, from playing over and over in my head.


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