On September 4 a trooper in Columbia, SC engaged a citizen as they exited their vehicle and asked for ID. Realizing the ID was inside the vehicle they turned back into the vehicle to grab the identification. As he turned to comply with the officer’s commands the officer fired his pistol hitting the man in the hip.
Several things went wrong here IMO. The first question I have is why is a trooper wasting time going after a seat belt violation in a parking lot? The trooper was parked and getting ready to exit the lot when presumably the SUV came in from another direction and caught his eye. That other direction would have been private property so it would seem a waste of time to reprimand a driver for a seat belt violation when cruising around a parking lot. In truth I think seat belts in cars are awesome. I love them. My first car had no seat belts and my father and I installed them. Now I think laws which require me to wear a seat belt are asinine. If someone wants to win a Darwin award by not wearing a seat belt more power to them. I see no need for society to mandate an individuals safety and to penalize them for being stupid when the only person they truly endanger is their self and then only if they have an accident. So the first thing that went wrong was someone wasting time for a simple seat belt violation if one occurred at all.
The next thing that went wrong happened unconsciously. If you watch the video the man exiting the vehicle is given the command to show ID and he taps his pocket and realizes the ID is in the vehicle. Rather than slowly turning to get it he thinks he better get it quick since that is what the officer wants and rapidly turns to get the ID. In this case it was human nature taking over instead of what I preach in my classes to move slowly and deliberately when dealing with the police since all they want to do is get home alive and all you want to do is end the encounter without being shot. So the second thing that went wrong was moving rapidly once engaged by the officer.
The next thing that went wrong is the only reason we have this blog post today. The officer did not take time to analyze the situation and determine if there was a credible threat. He immediately pulled his firearm and as soon as the man turned he began to shoot. He fired four rounds and one struck the man in the hip. I’m sure the officer will have plenty of time to think about this last part since he has been fired from the police force and arrested for his actions. He could have done several things differently and the outcome would have been different. Instead of remaining beside the cruiser when he saw the man going back into the SUV he drew his firearm and moved around his own car to a vantage point which did not provide cover and also did not provide a clear view of the man. Let’s assume the man had a firearm and intended to do harm to the officer, if I were the officer I would want to have cover and a good line of sight on the armed man. I would not want to be close to him without cover. Now I am not an officer and I have not been trained in combat situations, I am a pistol instructor and a citizen and I know the more objects I have between me and an assailant with a firearm the less chance I have of being shot.
The last thing that went wrong is actually the best thing. The officer’s aim wasn’t worth a plugged nickel. He fired four shots and missed with three only hitting the man in the hip. Had he been aiming center of mass he would have probably caused a more grievous injury to the man. I wonder where the other bullets went because he shot at him toward the driver’s door and into the gas station pump area and then shots perpendicular to the pump area. Things happened fast, but shot should not be fired without knowing what is behind the target. In this case that same place beside the cruiser I mentioned earlier would have given a backdrop of the man’s SUV and the gas station building with little chance of inuring a bystander if things had gone south.
I really feel for the man and I feel for the officer. My hope is this instance being broadcast nationwide will make some officer somewhere think before deciding deadly force is their only recourse. Had the officer taken two more seconds he would have known the guy was harmless and could have written that warning ticket or reprimand. Even better, skip the whole seat belt BS and this would have never happened!