Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Official – Shooting Justified

Short notice on second page of the Friday, August 13, 2010, Times-Standard says: “Deputies going back on duty after shooting death.

Another press release statement from the Sheriff's office reveals Sheriff Gary Philp's decision: “After reviewing physical evidence, officer statements and witness statements, Sheriff Gary Philp decided to return seven-year veteran Deputy Dave Lundie and Deputy John Fomasi to regular duty, according to a Sheriff's Office press release. Philp determined that neither deputy violated Sheriff's Office policy or procedure during the incident.” [Emphasis added]

“Press release” information doesn't provide much if any opportunity to ask the Sheriff any questions. Surely, there are people in this community that would like to know what “policy or procedure” justifies using lethal force to shoot someone for “refusing to comply with officers' orders”? I know I would. Be nice if the Sheriff would produce the “metal handle of a garden rake” so everyone could see the real threat that suppposedly confronted these officers that a three-foot heavy guage steel or 3/4 inch lead pipe could.

 Again we see the Times-Standard's propensity for their play on words when reporting on police action in this community. In the above referenced article they state: "He was shot multiple times after allegedly approaching officers aggressively with the metal handle of a garden rake [...]." That statement is considerably different than the "broken" three-foot" piece of a "handle" reported earlier. By the way, my rake handle is five feet long, it's not metal, but it's not a child's toy either.  For the record, the Tuesday, August 10, 2010, newspaper article reported that Sheriff's Lt. Steve Knight said it, “looked like a three-foot metal pipe.” He also says that Robert Garth was close enough to these officers that, “at one point, had contact with one of the officers.” So, they could clearly see if that “handle” constituted an actual deadly threat. It obviously DID NOT constitute such a threat to the victim – the guy that called in the assault.

Since this action by the Sheriff establishes a baseline for the justifiable use of lethal force, i.e., the mere perception of some sort of fear induced threat or failure to immediately comply with an order, this community needs to see and know exactly what the Eureka Police Department and Sheriff's Office's policies and procedures are. If nothing else, they certainly need to be explained for everyone's protection. Be interesting to see if there's any kind of follow-up by the Times-Standard or any other local media outlet on this latest incident and the related questions that have serious implications for everyone in this community.

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