Police shoot man stabbing self, justified or not?


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Holly76201
September 27, 2003, 06:48 AM
Browsing through the Ft.Worth Star-Telegram this a.m. I found an interesting story. Seems police were summoned to a residence because a Mr. Torres was stabbing himself repeatedly in the chest and abdomen. Mr. Torres did not obey the officers' verbal commands to drop the knife. He only became more agitated when the officers tried using pepper spray to subdue him. Since the officers feared Mr. Torres would eviscerate himself before a Sergeant could arrive with a Taser, they fired almost simultaneously, both striking him in the right shoulder. The officers then proceeded to drag Mr. Torres outside where EMS was waiting to treat and transport Mr. Torres to JPS Hospital. Oh, and BTW, Mr. Torres was involved in a similar situation in July. Luckily {?} a Sgt. was readily available with a Taser before Mr. Torres could inflict fatal damage to himself.
Officers have applied for an emergency mental health commitment for Mr. Torres.
The spokesmen for the FWPD said they did not know if "shooting a man attempting to commit suicide is an issue covered in the department's general orders."
:banghead: IMHO the officers should have responded just a tad slower and let Darwinism take its course.
Opinions, different or sympathetic welcome.

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FJC
September 27, 2003, 08:15 AM
Perhaps they should consider issuing Tasers to the patrol officers, instead of just to Sergeants.

Holly76201
September 27, 2003, 08:23 AM
FJC, I think it's an economic issue that only Sgt.s carry the Tasers.

TallPine
September 27, 2003, 10:04 AM
So how is anyone, LEO or otherwise, justified in using deadly force when there is no threat to themselves or another party ...?

The officer was in fear for what ... certainly not his life?

Skunkabilly
September 27, 2003, 10:08 AM
"They ain't gonna make a canoe out of me!!!" :D

Flashpoint
September 27, 2003, 10:14 AM
You beat me to it.:rolleyes: :D

J Miller
September 27, 2003, 10:16 AM
This was the second incedent of this type? This guy wants to off himself.
He'll get it done eventually.

And the shooting was not justified, there was no threat to others or the officers. They should be slapped on the wrists and told "no-no" for their trouble.

timbo
September 27, 2003, 10:22 AM
Well, you could argue that the man was in danger and that the officers had to shoot to save his life, even if he was threatening himself. Reminds me a bit of Blazing Saddles actually...

I'm all for natural selection though.

ceetee
September 27, 2003, 11:16 AM
Can't you see the big lawsuit?

Stories in the paper titled "Man kills self while officers stand by and do nothing..."?

They were in a no-win situation, and at any moment the guy could have leaped at them with the knife. I applaud them for finding a way to subdue a nutbar without killing them, or allowing him to harm any others...

They could probably teach their brethren a thing or two about marksmanship, too...

TheeBadOne
September 27, 2003, 11:27 AM
ceetee:

Can't you see the big lawsuit?

Stories in the paper titled "Man kills self while officers stand by and do nothing..."?

They were in a no-win situation, and at any moment the guy could have leaped at them with the knife. I applaud them for finding a way to subdue a nutbar without killing them, or allowing him to harm any others...

Pretty well summed up. :cool:

TallPine
September 27, 2003, 11:27 AM
How come they didn't shoot the knife out of his hand ? :D

After all, if Roy Rodgers could do it ....

TheeBadOne
September 27, 2003, 11:35 AM
TallPine:

How come they didn't shoot the knife out of his hand?
That question will be raised in the inevitable lawsuit... :rolleyes:

Quartus
September 27, 2003, 12:16 PM
ceetee nailed it. They did NOT use deadly force. This is a much better outcome than that one we discussed recently where the cops were called to take a boy to the nut house and they wound up killing him.

Good job here.

FJC
September 27, 2003, 01:48 PM
Holly76201 said: FJC, I think it's an economic issue that only Sgt.s carry the Tasers.

I don't doubt that's the reason. But I'm willing to bet that the first lawsuit that they lose on the basis of officers having to shoot rather than use a non-lethal device would have paid for the extra tasers and training. :)

Double Naught Spy
September 27, 2003, 01:57 PM
Quartus, I am not sure how Lethal Force is defined in Utah, but it is well defined in Texas when it comes to firearms.

I have not seen the story, but assuming that things happened as described here, then the cops DID use lethal force as a firearm is considered a lethal weapon and its discharge considered lethal force by Texas law. More over, it is specifically against Texas law that lethal force be used to prevent a suicide. It is rather oxymoronic that someone would use lethal force on a person who is threatening or attempting to use lethal force on him/herself. You don't get to protect a person from theirself via lethal force. That is one of those things that makes you say, "Duh!"

Whether you shoot a person in the foot, hand, shoulder, chest, head, or between the feet, it is use of lethal force. It is going to be interesting to see how the cops get charged and defended if it turns out that the nut case did nothing to try to harm the cops so as to allow them to use lethal force.

The shame of the matter is that as noted, the officers should have let events take their course.

280PLUS
September 27, 2003, 02:41 PM
now you're one of the officers on the scene,,,

what would YOU do,,,

by shooting him, they actually saved his life...

try that one on the antis :evil:

to me, even a taser seems a bit over the top in this particular case, though non - lethal.

too bad there isn't a tranqulizer gun available to LE for cases such as this

there is for the animal world,,,

then theres always the sticky gooey spray stuff you see for riot control but thats probably either not really available yet or too cost prohibititve for most small depts to have hanging around for this one in a million case...

tough job,,,being a cop

as always, my hat is off to them...

m

Johnny Guest
September 27, 2003, 02:48 PM
The law and the exact definition of terms depends very much on the statutes of the particular state.

Quatrus - - -
In Texas, "Deadly Force" means force that is intended or known by the actor to cause, or in the manner of its use or intended use is capable of causing, death or serious bodily injury. Texas Penal Code, Section 9.01(3)

The application of an axe handle or a frying pan MAY be considered deadly force, depending on the exact use of the item. A firearm is always considered deadly force. Thus, the shooting of the individual was actually deadly force. It must be noted that the officers were very careful in the actual application of deadly force in this case, taking all due care to NOT kill the suspect.

Peace officers are allowed the use of deadly force under certain circumstances not permitted private individuals, most specifically for the purpose of defending and preserving human life. This is admittedly a very unusual situation. Along with most here, I believe the action was proper under the circumstances.

Interestingly, there is a specific provision in the Penal Code, for such circumstances:
9.34 PROTECTION OF LIFE AND HEALTH.
(a) A person is justified in using force, but not deadly force, against another when and to the degree he reasonably believes the force is immediately necessary to prevent the other from committing suicide or inflicting serious bodily injury to himself.
(b) A person is justified in using both force and deadly force against another when and to the degree he reasonably believes the force or deadly force is immediately necessary to preserve the other's life in an emergency. While (a) and (b) may appear to conflict, it IS possible to figure a scenario for (b): I know of one case when an emergency services physician came upon a traffic accident in which a victim with a mangled face was choking to death. The doc used a sharp pocket knife and a Bic pen barrel and performed an emergency tracheostomy which allowed the victim to breathe until he could be extricated. (If cutting a person's throat with a knife isn't deadly force, I dunno what is . . . ;))

Several months ago, I went to Fort Worth to interview a jail inmate as informant, who, naturally, wanted a "deal." The Tarrant County Assistant DA carefully explained to him the "Do Right" rule - - "Okay - - Give the information, and if it is useful, we are ethically bound to do right by you." Somehow, I don't think the two FWPD cops will fade much heat in this deal.

The question is raised, "How come they didn't shoot the knife out of his hand?"

I think they actually did a safer thing, shooting him in the shoulder. Consider the size and shape of a knife, and the way in which it is normally held. A bullet through the hand, with its large number of very small bones, would doubtless mangle the extremity, possibly beyond an effective reconstruction. Shoulder has more meat and fewer, larger, bones. Much easier for the surgeons to repair the damage. It's easier to earn a living with a stiff shoulder than with a permanently crippled hand.

Kudos to the officers for restraint, good judgement, and good marksmanship. I hope they'll receive an appropriate commendation.

Best,
Johnny

Late edit: Double Naught Spy posted his reply while I was composing mine off line. Prolly I should have checked before entering mine. Still, and with all respect to 00, I'll stand by my remarks. ;)
JPG

hansolo
September 27, 2003, 03:48 PM
This situation, IMHO, is vaguely similar to sterilizing a death row convict's arm with alcohol before administering the fatal injection.:uhoh:

BOBE
September 27, 2003, 03:50 PM
How does the phrase "But Judge we only shot to wound him" apply here?
:rolleyes: :rolleyes:

10-Ring
September 27, 2003, 04:02 PM
seems to me that they shot him because they had no other resource while they were trying to prevent him from further injuring himself...hopefully he can get the help he needs.

Double Naught Spy
September 27, 2003, 05:50 PM
BOBE, shooting to wound doesn't count in Texas as a non-deadly intent of the act.

10-Ring, shooting the guy because they had no other resource is not a valid argument either. In fact, they would have had other options and simply chose not to utilize them or it did not dawn on them to utilize those options. They could have beaned the guy with any amount of their equipment, but didn't. A walkie talkie, handcuffs, spare magazine, or even a shoe can make for a nice blunt trauma non-lethal projectile, but they didn't use any of those. Had they had ASPs, then they could have tried beating the knife from the hands of the man.

Thank you Johnny Guest for citing the specific laws!

Quartus
September 27, 2003, 06:22 PM
Point well taken. In the REAL world, they didn't use lethal force. In the LEGAL world, they did.

As to why they didn't do something else - my guess is training. He had a knife - you don't get close to a knife - you shoot.


In the old days, they'd probably have whacked him upside the head with their billy clubs.

Sarge
September 27, 2003, 06:29 PM
"10-Ring, shooting the guy because they had no other resource is not a valid argument either. In fact, they would have had other options and simply chose not to utilize them or it did not dawn on them to utilize those options. They could have beaned the guy with any amount of their equipment, but didn't. A walkie talkie, handcuffs, spare magazine, or even a shoe can make for a nice blunt trauma non-lethal projectile, but they didn't use any of those. Had they had ASPs, then they could have tried beating the knife from the hands of the man."-so says Double Naught Spy.

You go right ahead there sport. I'll even give you my shoe so you'll have an appropriate "anti-knife weapon at your disposal".

Never bring a shoe to a knife fight, or a knife to a gunfight. These guys tried pepper-spraying this dork, and it didn't work. It often doesn't, just like those little glorified car antennae that pass for impact weapons these days. So you fast-forward to plan B. The officers chose to deprive Mr. Whack of the ability to inflict fatal wounds (on himself as well as the officers) by shooting him where it would be less likely to kill him than, say, right between the running lights. It worked. They saved his life until next time. I guess we'll see what happens then, but one thing is for sure- he'll be the one who ultimately decides whether he lives or dies. The responding officers are just stuck with whatever hand he decides to deal them.

Yes, there will probably be a lawsuit- just like there would have been one if they stood back and let him finish what he started.

LawDog
September 27, 2003, 07:18 PM
Actually, the apparent paradox of using Deadly Force to prevent someone from killing themselves isn't quite as contradictory as it might appear at first.

A bean bag round fired out of a 12 gauge shotgun or a 37mm gas gun is more than capable of causing serious bodily injury or death and is therefore an application of Deadly Force in Texas.

You shoot a suicidal person with a beanbag to get him to drop the knife, you've just used Deadly Force against him.

Also, the application of a chokehold -- excuse me, Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint -- is capable of "causing death or serious bodily injury" and is technically Deadly Force.

LawDog

zahc
September 27, 2003, 08:29 PM
I don't think they should have. I'm against 'suicide control'. Totally wrong.

280PLUS
September 27, 2003, 09:28 PM
interesting point...

Double Naught Spy
September 27, 2003, 11:43 PM
Sarge, I don't think you read the description of the events that took place. There was NO knife fight. No aggression was made on the officers. As I said, they had any number of options at their disposal to use against the guy after the pepper spray failed to gain the proper response. Being as there was two officers present, one could still remain covering the nut with a gun while the other attempts to use any of the alternate options.

Sarge, I think the statement you made says it all, "The officers chose to deprive Mr. Whack of the ability to inflict fatal wounds (on himself as well as the officers) by shooting him where it would be less likely to kill him than, say, right between the running lights." Yes, a shoulder shot may be less likely to cause death, but that is still lethal force.

Quartus, shooting a person in the real world is still lethal force and is not just legal lethal force. The man was shot twice by the officers and neither officer had the ability to control their slugs once the slugs left the barrel, nor could they control the tissue damage inflicted on the guy.

Contrary to your statement that, "He had a knife - you don't get close to a knife - you shoot" does not apply here since the guy apparently attempted no harm to the cops.

So if shooting a person isn't lethal force, then what is?

tetleyb
September 27, 2003, 11:52 PM
Ask yourself this question:

How long would it have taken for the man to attack one or both of the officers, with the knife? Does an officer have to wait to be attacked, before using deadly force, or does the circumstances of each incident dictate what should be done?

Without getting into in depth specifics, action vs reaction, OODA Loop, etc. I believe the officers acted properly. In fact, I would have reamed them for shooting the guy in the shoulder. Wounded people can still cause great bodily injury.

If they were to fire, they should have shot center of mass on the suspect (yep, like it or not, he is a suspect) and taken head shots, there after, as appropriate.

Quartus
September 28, 2003, 12:02 AM
DNS, I was referring to their training. I think most current police doctrine is somewhat like that line from the old cop move (set in the time of the Watts riots) where the senior cop tells the rookie something like "If he uses a fist, you use a club, if he uses a knife, you use a gun."

Cops sure aren't trained to shoot to wound, and they aren't trained to try to walk up to someone with a knife and take it away.

Andrew Rothman
September 28, 2003, 12:23 AM
Contrary to your statement that, "He had a knife - you don't get close to a knife - you shoot" does not apply here since the guy apparently attempted no harm to the cops.

This is The High Road, so I won't call you names, but that is the most idiotic statement I've ever read, and I read a lot!

You DON'T get close to a knife -- period!

This poor crazy guy refused to drop the knife when two cops with guns ordered him to. He didn't stop after being sprayed with OC.

How do you figure he'll calmly hand it over when the cops get within stabbing distance?

Cops are trained NOT to place themselves in harm's way like that. He wanted to keep the knife. How can you imagine he wouldn't take a swipe at an officer trying to disarm him?

:rolleyes:

These cops made the best of a bad situation. They used their heads and made a good call. If this suicide attempter ever sanes up, he'll be thanking them.

Matt

Crimper-D
September 28, 2003, 12:52 AM
Anyone ever hear the phrase "Suicide by Police" Since the guy had a past history of self- mutilation and getting 'shot' by nonlethal means to prevent him from further self destruction, maybe _this_ time he decided to up the anti.:mad:
Reading stuff like this makes me yearn for more 'realistic' times... when attempted suicide was a hanging offense:neener:

TechBrute
September 28, 2003, 09:38 AM
Fact: The cops needed to respond ASAP, in case he decided to hurt someone else in addition to himself.

Fact: A man with a knife can cross 16 feet of ground in less than 2 seconds, even after being shot multiple times.

Opinion: Respond, clear the area of innocents, root him on and enrourage darwinism.

TechBrute
September 28, 2003, 09:40 AM
the guy apparently attempted no harm to the cops. not at that point, anyway. Are you going to argue that he wouldn't have? I'd think twice before backing up a mentally deranged individual.

Sarge
September 28, 2003, 10:21 AM
"Sarge, I think the statement you made says it all, "The officers chose to deprive Mr. Whack of the ability to inflict fatal wounds (on himself as well as the officers) by shooting him where it would be less likely to kill him than, say, right between the running lights." Yes, a shoulder shot may be less likely to cause death, but that is still lethal force."

Well, then I guess the only question left to ask is "Where would you rather be shot?" It's a no-brainer for me- but that's just me.

The justification of force used in law enforcement must meet one of two, and only two, requirements. Force can be used by the police for defense, or lawful control. Control can include preventing any course of conduct likely to result in the death or serious physical injury of another person. The character involved was a credible threat to himself and the officers whose duty was to take him into custody for mental evaluation. Both use of force requirements are met by this situation.

Once that decision to use force is made, the amount of force to be used must be decided. The use of force must be reasonable and necessary to accomplish either, or both, of the above justifications. Sound training doctrines generally teach an escalating scale, starting at the lowest points on the scale (officer presence, verbal commands) that are likely to effect the desired result. There is no requirement to start at the lowest point on that scale, or return to a lower point, if the actions of the person who initiated the use of force make it likely that the lower degree of force will be ineffective. Compliance or surrender are the two common actions that allow officers to de-escalate the amount of force being used.

The officers' decision to escalate or de-escalate rests soley on the individual upon whom the justifiable force is being used. You do not generally drop back three levels, because something in the middle of the scale didn't work. You turn up the heat until something works, the bad guy stops doing what made you apply force in the first place, and the situation is resolved. Unfortunately, it isn't always a happy, or "textbook perfect" outcome. This was one of those times.

I have decades first-hand experience with these sorts of situations, and I have helped to write use-of-force policies myself. I have a pretty good idea of how this will probably sort out. You can 'armchair quarterback' this situation to death if you want to, but neither of our opinions really amount to squat.

In the end a district attorney or grand jury will look at the facts, and determine whether the officers acted within the law- that's it. If they're lucky, external politics won't play any part in that decision.

The issue of whether they acted within policy will be decided by their department. If they're lucky, internal politics won't play any part in that decision.

The civil liability issues will be decided in (or settled out of) the court of appropriate jurisdiction- if there are any.

Yes, I read the original post. The police reports and witness statements will be the telling factor here, and I'd be shocked if any second-hand account, media or otherwise- were even remotely accurate.

FPrice
September 28, 2003, 10:52 AM
Kinda reminds me of the scene from "Crocodile Dundee II". Dundee and his girl are in the rocks, the bad guys have Dundee's friend and are threatening to kill him if Mick does not surrender, so Dundee shoots at his friend, grazing him in the head.

"You shot Walter!"

"Yeah, it was the only way I could think of to save his life."

Quartus
September 28, 2003, 05:19 PM
How can you imagine he wouldn't take a swipe at an officer trying to disarm him?


Oh I can IMAGINE it. I can even imagine it's a good possibility. He might not.


But he might. And I'm not going to be the one to ask a cop to take the chance.


If they HAD taken that chance, and gotten killed for their trouble, how many of us would have called them stupid for doing so?


Legalities aside, I think they did good. This guy is obviously troubled, and he may very well succeed next time he tries to kill himself, but he just might get help and go on to live a happy and productive life. If it were my Dad or brother, I'd be grateful that they didn't kill him.

Double Naught Spy
September 28, 2003, 06:33 PM
Play it how you like, but there is no way in hell that the officers are going to be able to justify in court shooting a person who is trying to commit suicide, and certainly not shooting that person twice....as noted by what constitutes deadly force. The suicidal guy is going to be able to live for quite some time on the money he gets from the PD and the city.

Holly76201
September 28, 2003, 07:04 PM
I started this thread and I've really enjoyed reading everyone's responses. One thing I neglected to put in the original post was that while the man was stabbing himself in the chest and abdomen he was yelling at the officers, "Shoot me, Shoot me! "
Knowing the populace in the area I doubt a grand jury will indict the officers and I hope FWPD doesn't take any Internal measures against these officers.
I think this is a justified shoot. As the officers stated, they feared the guy was about to spill his guts all over the floor. That is messy and leads to really gross secondary infections and would be more likely to kill him than 2 clean GSWs thru the shoulder. Not to mention, any of those chest stabs could have knicked a lung, his heart or a major blood vessel causing him to bleed out before he reached EMS right outside the house. So there's my logic for my opinion. ;) ;)

TechBrute
September 28, 2003, 07:10 PM
I don't give a crap about the dude or what he was doing to himself, I just want the cops to protect the innocents around him and themselves (in that order.)

tetleyb
September 28, 2003, 07:11 PM
DoubleNaughtSpy,

Are you a police officer or another law enforcement official? I don't believe you are, based upon your previous posts here and elsewhere. And, of course, I have no clue of your background, experience, and training. However, I would like to say I personally find your comments quite nieve.

Sarge, and all the others here have hit the hammer on the head. You don't bring a knife to a gun fight. It doesn't matter if the guy was pointing the knife at the police or himself. It can be turned on those officers in a fraction of a second, killing and/or injuring them. Its not what the suspect is doing, its the circumstances surrounding what the suspect is doing.

I, like Sarge, have to train police officers, write policies, and defend said police officers and policies in court. Simple, plain facts and common sense is what matters here. Written laws, policies, and procedures, are just that; written. They CANNOT cover every possible scenario out there.

There are two points to the "law." The letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Your correct in your assertation the "letter of the law" was violated. However, was that the spirit of the law? The law said you can't use deadly force on a suicidal person. Ok, fine. TECHNICALLY, fine. However, these officers used the "spirit of the law" to get their job done.

Under extreme stress, in a fast paced, moving, fluid situation, these two officers made a decision. Based upon their own training and experience. They ended the standoff without killing someone and, more importantly in my book, without injuring themselves. For that I applaud them.

At the sametime, if they were MY officers, I would have my foot up where the sun doesn't shine. You don't shoot to wound. Wounded people and animals, are still a threat. I don't train my officers that way and I wouldn't expect them to react that way.

At the end of the day, my job is to go home, with my uniform, skin, blood, etc all intact. No matter WHAT gets thrown at me. And, I will take whatever means necessary to that end. I expect every police officer in this country to do the same.

Johnny Guest
September 28, 2003, 07:30 PM
Wide variance of opinion here, and well expressed. Some initial thoughts, and some second thoughts, and all of much value. for certain.

Double Naught - - You are well on record with your thoughts: THE COPS DID WRONG. THEY'RE IN A HEAPA TROUBLE FOR WHAT THEY DID!!!. Four times, I think. :D We understand your feelings. I, for one, hope you'll not be sitting on the Tarrant County Grand Jury or the Citizens' Review Board, but that's MY opinion.

The matter will be resolved by FWPD and the DA's Office, and, possibly, the Grand Jury - - - I hope the Fort Worth Star-Telegram prints follow-up stories and that Holly76201 will bring this thread up to date.

And yes, I agree, there will most likely be civil litigation to follow. There always is, huh?

Best,
Johnny

ceetee
September 28, 2003, 11:12 PM
I'm with Sarge on this one. Nobody has brought this into the mix yet, but everytime I've come upon a bloodied individual I have to deal with, my first thought is "Damn, now where the hell did I put those gloves..."!

He coulda been ripe with HIV, hep-B, herpes, syphillis, malaria... any number of wonderful little bugs that just stay, and stay...

I'd think a time or two before I'd commit myself to hand-to-hand defensive tactics... especially against a glove-cutting implement.

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