Sunday, January 15, 2006

Fake Gun

Late last week, an 8th grade boy, brandishing a pellet gun, was shot by police. He has since been declared brain dead, and the family is planning on donating his organs. [Sidepoint: Great article in the latest Tradition issue on Brain Death and Halacha].

The family's attorney has stated that police were told, before they fired, that the gun wasn't real. Both the father and younger brother of the child told that to police. The gun had been painted black to look more real. The student had held a classmate hostage, who thought he was going to be killed, until he realized the gun was a fake.

Presumably, this will be the subject of a lawsuit.

But there's an interesting question. If everyone, sans police, thought the gun was fake, why did they continue with the whole situation? Once they realized it was fake, the principle could have walked up to the child and taken the gun. Granted, the police were in control of the situation at the time, but if everyone was so sure...would the cops have shot the principle if he walked in?

Its reasonable to assume that not everyone was convinced the gun was fake. Its also reasonabl e to assume, that when the boy pointed his pellet gun at the officer, the officer felt his life was in danger. Taking into account that the father and brother of the child, who have a vested interest in their family member being kept safe, even at the expense of others, were the ones who told the cops that the gun was fake, I see no alternative other than to shoot.

When someone points a gun at you, threatening you, and you feel you life is in danger, you shoot. Especially when you have the training to recognize what a gun is, and how to use one. I'm sorry the boy died, it seems obvious that there were other problems, be they family or social. But failings of friends or family doesn't place the blame at the feet of the officer. His life was in danger. He shot. As he should have.

[Update: I've purposefully left out some of the facts, which make an even stronger case for the cop. At a press conference, the pellet gun, and a real 9mm handgun were displayed side by side. According to CNN (see link above) "To the naked eye, there was little difference between them." Yes it was a tragedy, but that doesn't place the officer at fault.]