By Michael Storie
SPECIAL TO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
In recent news it has been reported that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on an officer involved shooting that occurred in Tucson years ago. Wednesday’s paper reported another armed robber, holding a hostage,who was killed by a Tucson police officer. Issues arising out of these types of incidents have precipitated national discussions, which all too often have been critical of police actions. Unfortunately, theseencounters are becoming more and more common, with officers facing these life-threatening calls in increasing numbers.
Several weeks ago, at around midnight, four members of a Tucson Police Department identified a man sitting on the porch of a second-floor apartment building as the same man who earlier had committed an armed robbery of a restaurant nearby, according to police accounts. As they looked up at the porch decorated with potted plants, they noticed he was holding a gun. After they ordered him to put the gun down, the suspect began to kick the door attempting to break it down, as he yelled ‘I am going to take and kill hostage.’
Failing to break the door, the man moved to the window and smashed it with his gun. All four officers opened fire as the man climbed into the apartment, striking him several times. In the meantime, the woman resident was hiding in a closet with her young child. The SWAT unit borrowed a ladder from the Tucson Fire Department and while the suspect was distracted in front, the woman and child were safely rescued out a back window. Eventually the suspect was detained and is recovering from his wounds. A week earlier, a Pima County Probation Officer who was serving on a joint task force was tracking several absconders who had outstanding warrants and needed to be taken into custody. Following a tip, he and his partner were let into an apartment where one of these absconders was asleep on his mother’s couch. As the officers entered the apartment and identified themselves, the suspect sat up, pulled a gun from under the blanket, and pointed it at the officers. The officer fired his weapon several times, hitting the suspect. He was then taken into custody.
This past week, a TPD officer responded to a domestic violence call involving a son and his father. When he got there, the dad and son began fighting over what ended up being a gun, which was fired during the struggle. The son wrestled the gun from his dad andpointed it at theofficer, who fired his weapon once, striking the man.
Not one of these officers woke up those mornings thinking they would be involved in these critical incidents that occur in the blink of an eye. I have responded and assisted officers in over 400 of these cases.
I have seen officers shed tears as they recount the events that they are trained to react to, but hope will never occur. I have also seen a canine officer weeping, covered in the blood of his own trained dog, shot and killed by a suspect during an arrest, who was then subsequently shot by several fellow officers.
What I have never seen in 20 years is an officer happy that he was forced to use deadly force during their shift. Sadly, it is often the suspect’s clear choice to escalate these situations, forcing ‘suicide by cop.’
In this age of body cameras and endless second guessing of officers, it is no wonder that the three incidents described above go practically unnoticed, even when it involved heroic actions to rescue a terrified mom and her child. The network news is not interested unless the cop is indicted. In the meantime, these officers quietly go home to their families and then return to the street, with the hope they will not have to unholster their gun again any time soon.
Michael Storie is lead counsel for the Combined Law Enforcement Agencies of Arizona, CLEAA, and has been representing law enforcement officers for 20 years.