This past weekend was a bad one for law enforcement. In two different states, police officers were murdered by suspects.
In Brooklyn, New York, two police officers were sitting in their patrol car when a man who officials claim had come from Baltimore vowing to kill police officers made good that vow.
He had made statements on social media suggesting that he planned to kill police officers and was angered about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
He is said to have shot the two officers and then committed suicide with the same gun.
The two officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were killed on the scene after the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, assumed a firing stance outside the passenger window and shot several rounds into the officers’ heads and upper bodies.
The officers never drew their weapons.
New York law enforcement indicate that the shooting on Saturday seemed reminiscent of decades past, when the city was mired in an epidemic of drugs and violence and, in 1988, a police officer was shot while he sat alone in his patrol car guarding the home of a man who had testified in a drug case.
As someone who was a prosecutor in Brooklyn at that time, I can tell you that it was not the only police officer killed in the line of duty.
The national weekend did not get much better.
On Sunday, in Pinellas County, Florida, 23-year-old Marco Antonio Parilla Jr. was being approached by police officers. He was being approached by officers because they had a received a noise complaint. The noise complaint apparently was the result of Mr. Parilla’s banging on doors in the community looking for a neighbor who he said had “dimed him out.”
Apparently, Parilla was accompanied by a woman who had remained in the car.
At the time law enforcement arrived, the woman began backing out of the driveway. Police Officer Kondek arrived, exited his vehicle and began to walk toward Mr. Parilla. In response, Parilla opened fire on the officer. He fired multiple rounds at the officer, striking him once above his bullet-proof vest.
Officer Kondek was able to draw his weapon and managed to return fire just before he fell to the ground.
According to law enforcement, Parilla ordered the woman out of the car, took the wheel and fled in the vehicle, running over Officer Kondek.
After a brief pursuit by police, Parilla apparently crashed into a pole and then into a parked vehicle.
Police Officer Kondek died at a nearby hospital.
Mr. Parilla was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Reality In Police Encounters This Holiday
Let’s put recent events into perspective.
I know that there have been reports that “cop haters” have made statements that would tend to justify these killings. Just this morning, as I listened to WBZ radio, 1030 AM on the radio, I heard Jon Keller speaking about an experience he had at a dinner party when the host had made the comment that she wished she could kill a police officer.
His reaction of disgust was appropriate.
The troubled relationship between police officers and the citizenry is complex. We’ve discussed it here and I’m sure we will again. However, in my experience, there is a problem with equating the killing of police officers with incidents we have dealt with recently involving civilians killed by the hand of police officers.
When police officers shoot someone, it is usually during the course of duty and when they have lost control. They are not supposed to lose control. They are professionals. What makes them lose control can be panic, anger, racism and the like.
I don’t think that many people actually believe that police officers wake up in the morning with the yen to kill civilians. Regardless of any racial bias on the part of the officer. Generally, these killings occur when there is a perceived crime being committed, or about to be committed, and the officer reacts or over-reacts.
Generally, police officers would like to protect the public, not get treated like a threat to humanity and get home safely at the end of their tours. The problem of when things go wrong, and someone ends up dead is a serious one. It is a problem that had best be improved quick.
The killing of police officers is something different. It is usually done by someone who has already decided to engage in some kind of criminal conduct. The law, and commonsense presumes that, upon venturing out with a weapon with the intent to commit a crime, the individual has some expectation that he may have to use that gun. He may have to use it against the civilian or a police officer.
And he does.
There is a vast difference between this person and someone who, while originally planning to protect to the public, overreacts and kill someone.
This is not to excuse, in any way, bad police shootings. It is also certainly not to excuse subsequent cover-ups. These should be dealt with extremely seriously for many reasons… not the least of which is the loss of a human life.
Of course, in the New York matter, the situation is even worse. The two police officers were simply sitting in the a cruiser when they were gunned down. It is reminiscent of the murder of a prosecutor of Suffolk County who was gunned down during his commute home one day several years ago. His name was Tom McLaughlin. He had dedicated himself to address The problem of the youth gangs.
And it ended up killing him.
On the same level as a police officer discharging his weapon several times in panic… even if that panic was driven by racism?
I don’t think so.
So that this blog is not simply an opinion piece, let me remind you of something.
The killing of police officers only makes police officers more nervous. Further, it enhances the righteousness of that nervousness. Nervousness leads to panic.
In other words, you can assume that, this holiday, officers will be even more nervous while approaching possible criminals.
In reaction, they are not going to approach fewer criminals. They are not going to be giving more benefits of the doubt to suspects. They are not going to take greater risks in an effort to calm the situation down.
Rule number one will remain survival.
You do the math. Maybe it’s right and maybe it’s wrong.
But it’s reality. Reality you had best understand as you and your loved ones leave home during this holiday season.
To review the stories upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/nyregion/two-police-officers-shot-in-their-patrol-car-in-brooklyn.html?_r=0 and http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/21/police-shooting-florida/20723027/