Police Shooting Caught on Officer’s Lapel Camera


My most recent piece over at PJ Media concerns a police shooting that occurred last October in Albuquerque. The officer responded to a call of an armed robbery, and when he confronted the suspect, the suspect pulled a gun. The officer fired eight rounds, striking the suspect once, not fatally. As is usually the case, controversy followed.

Should the officer have fired? Would you have?

Watch the video and ask yourself how you would have handled the situation:

There are 34 comments.

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  1. ctlaw Coolidge

    Should the AV guy be fired for not properly setting the date on the second camera?

    • #1
  2. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart

    The suspect didn’t seem to be threatening the officer. What was the risk if the suspect got away (was he a serial killer, or holding 0.5 g of marijuana?). I’m a little concerned about the officer’s field of fire, how sure was he of what was downrange?

    All told though, good thing the suspect was a white male.

    • #2
  3. user_1546 Member

    Hard to tell WRT to the shooting, but what concerned me was the statement at the end from the officer about (apparently) a bystander.  

     “Hey, take his camera, he’s taking pictures.”

    As Instapundit often points out, this is not illegal, or “evidence”. Sure the pictures could be requested, or even subpoenaed, but not confiscated….

    • #3
  4. M.D. Wenzel Inactive
    M.D. Wenzel

    If you pull a gun on a uniformed police officer after committing an armed robbery, I don’t have much sympathy for you when you get shot.

    • #4
  5. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    We only have the officer’s testimony that the perp pulled a gun on him. What we see in the video is the perp fleeing and the officer firing wildly at him. My training indicates that once a person begins to flee you do not have an excuse to use deadly force. I am inclined to think that the use of deadly force was not called for. Shooting the way the officer did while running seemed a less than good judgment.

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT

    Please read the link, there are witnesses. Under the same circumstances I would have shot. The officer did well getting him at least once, hard to hit a running target.

    • #6
  7. Giantkiller Member

    That’s a tough call – I could not see from the video when/if the fellow pulled his gun. If the officer did see the guy pull a gun, maybe shooting was justified. I, too, wonder about the field of fire issue – could easily have been the proverbial innocent bystander behind the running suspect. I suspect the cop is in for a bad time.

    • #7
  8. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart

    Oops, sorry. I should have read Jack’s description and watched the video more closely. Still a little concerned about the officer’s fire control. But no tears shed for the suspect.

    • #8
  9. Yeah...ok. Inactive

    Since this video is public, I’d prefer this was considered standard response. If officer is disciplined it is for poor marksmanship.

    I already fear the government, why shouldn’t criminals?

    • #9
  10. peter@ricochet.com Contributor

    Eugene Kriegsmann:
    We only have the officer’s testimony that the perp pulled a gun on him. What we see in the video is the perp fleeing and the officer firing wildly at him. My training indicates that once a person begins to flee you do not have an excuse to use deadly force. I am inclined to think that the use of deadly force was not called for. Shooting the way the officer did while running seemed a less than good judgment.

    What Eugene says here sounds right to me. For the life of me, I couldn’t see that the bad guy had pulled a gun. What I could see was the bad guy was running away–and the officer was letting fly round after round while in motion himself. I’m completely untrained in these matters, but could the officer have called in support to help him pursue the bad guy without discharging his weapon?

    • #10
  11. Leon Inactive

    My understanding of a deadly force scenario such as this one is that the officer is only justified in shooting a fleeing suspect if he has reason to believe the suspect has the means, opportunity, and intent to cause severe physical harm or death to a member of the public or the officer. As the officer was responding to an armed robbery call, I am inclined to argue that the suspect had already shown a willingness to cause severe physical harm or death to a member of the public and/or the officer. Taking that with the knowledge that the suspect drew his weapon and was running into cover, a good place from which to fire upon the officer, I would have to say that the officers actions seem reasonable. The officer’s down range area seems suspect towards the end, but we must remember that he began firing before the suspect had nothing behind him to stop the officer’s shots. Could a reasonable officer make that mistake? I would say yes, and that’s all that would have to be proved in court.

    • #11
  12. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt

    The officer acted appropriately. I did not see the gun in the video but assume the officer did. The problem with videos is they never show what you want when you want. If the man would have done as the officer asked and followed his instructions there should have been no problems. Yes the officer should have shot and I would have done the same In his situation.

    • #12
  13. user_353507 Member

    The question is whether the officer’s actions are objectively reasonable!

    I seriously doubt that anyone here is qualified to make that judgment – especially in light of the very limited information we are given.

    • #13
  14. user_25971 Member

    Ortega possessed a weapon. I think that that’s well established. If it can be established that he pointed it in the direction of the officer AND failed to drop it when commanded to, then the officer is justified, IMHO.

    One side point. One often reads of police shootings when many rounds were fired to little effect (Albuquerque is not Manhattan, but …). The video gave me an appreciation of just how difficult is to maintain focus. Give me a square range any day ;-)

    • #14
  15. Devereaux Inactive

    The courts have long established that the concept of “may” includes the fact that an officer does not have to wait to be shot before firing. What he needs is a reasonable probability that he or others are in danger. The presence of a weapon is reason enough. The same rules apply to citizens. If you are presented with a situation that a weapon is pointed at you or even threatened, you have reason to fire.

    This officer was chasing an armed robbery suspect. The key word is armed. He actually withheld fire for a significant period and only fired when it appeared that he saw what appeared (and the gun on the ground proves the point) to be a weapon.

    Good shoot.

    • #15
  16. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    Given that there was a gun in the hands of a BG, I’m giving the officer the benefit of the doubt; errant rounds could have struck an innocent bystander, but apparently didn’t. Don’t agree with all this “fleeing” talk, though. There is also such a thing as “repositioning.” Once the BG presents a lethal threat, lethal response is appropriate up until an overt surrender. Note: I’m military, not LE, so the rules might be different. Just saying that just because the threat is “running away” does not mean he’s no longer a threat.

    • #16
  17. Pilli Inactive

    This area of Albuquerque (Central Ave. and surrounds) is rife with drugs and prostitution. I personally saw a police take down while I was picking up my car from the transmission shop across the street. The guy was obviously under the influence and was NOT cooperating. This time the cops did not have to shoot, but they were ready.

    • #17
  18. Aloha Johnny Member
    Aloha Johnny

    The suspect pulled a gun while being pursued by an officer. Standard rules of engagment for police officers call for shooting the suspect in this situation. It is hard to see suspect pull the gun, but the fact that the gun was found on the ground where the suspect was when the officer started shooting supports the officers version. Should the offficer have waited for the suspect to stop, get behind cover and take a good firing stance, and pop off a few rounds before he returned fire? I agree that there are situations where officers are to fast to shoot and where SWAT is used where a phone call and a knock on the door would be more apropriate, but this situations seems to be very clearly in the officers favor.

    • #18
  19. cirby Inactive

    Yeah, the shooting was probably justified.

    Better shooting discipline would have been useful. A two-second stop-and-shoot is a helluva lot better than blazing away while trying to run.

    The “take away the camera” part? That’s a firing.

    • #19
  20. ctlaw Coolidge

    When the gun was shown on the ground, its action was open. Does that indicate the suspect fired at the officer?

    • #20
  21. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    Peter, thank you for your comment. 

    I am a civilian, not a police officer. I know what the rules are in terms of what I can and cannot do in an armed confrontation. I would suggest that those who are police officers among our respondents identify themselves as such since several have made statements which seem to imply as much. I am a member of the Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network. I have read an enormous number of cases involving the use of deadly force by civilians, and have a pretty good understanding of the rules. Other than the current trend to abuse that power by Ninja Cops, the rules are not substantially different for police and civilians. No civilian could have legally done what this police officer did. My suspicion is that if he did not break the law, he certainly bent it.

    • #21
  22. user_697797 Member

    I’m having a difficult time understanding how he pulled a gun on the police while simultaneously fleeing.

    • #22
  23. user_697797 Member

    I’m usually quite critical of police. I think they’re generally under-trained, and are not given proper oversight. That said, I can’t argue with this officers actions. To be honest, I’m not even sure there’s enough here to consider this a noteworthy event.

    • #23
  24. Henry Higgins Member
    Henry Higgins

    An ordinary citizen acting in the way the police officer did would end up going to jail. The video provides no evidence that the fleeing suspect posed a threat to the police officer or anyone else.

    • #24
  25. Devereaux Inactive

    I’m not sure I agree with you, Eugene. Tennessee vs Coulter (Sup Ct 1985 I think) made the clear definition of what an officer can do in regards to using deadly force. Most particularly, he is allowed to use deadly force when the situation shows the possible injury of either he or a bystander. He does not have to wait for such a threat to fully develop; he only needs reasonable suspicion that it may. This was a chase of an armed robbery suspect. Note that the police officer called to the suspect several time to submit, show his hands, and that he was identified as a police officer. As SOON as a weapon came into play, he had the right to shoot. This really isn’t much different than what civilians can do – other than they are not to pursue suspect UNLESS they strongly feel others are in danger. So, for instance, an active shooter can be pursued by a civilian in, say, a convenience store until such time as he is apprehended, neutralized, or escapes.

    • #25
  26. Devereaux Inactive

    In fact the video doesn’t provide much evidence of ANYTHING. It is an incredibly poor quality film, showing mostly the officer’s arm.

    • #26
  27. Henry Higgins Member
    Henry Higgins

    You make good points. I disagree that an officer has the right to shoot as soon as a suspect takes out a weapon. Shooting a this point is typical practice, I am sure, but does not show proper respect for the individual’s rights – especially since officers are often mistaken about the nature of the object in the suspect’s hand.

    What a citizen may do varies widely by state. I hope your state takes the view you describe. Mine certainly does not. In fact, mine requires citizens to retreat from their own homes, if feasible, rather than shooting at armed intruders.

    • #27
  28. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    Devereaux, as you state, the particular case in question is a Tennessee case. Not only do laws governing the use of deadly force vary for civilians state to state, they vary for police officers as well. The officer in this case wasn’t an overdressed ninja looking for an excuse to use his gun. He is an ordinary cop in a highly stressful situation, one for which appropriate training may not have been given. The general rule, as I understand it, is that an officer should not use his weapon unless the perp represents a threat either to the police officer or to some other person. Other than on television, cops don’t shoot at fleeing vehicles. A perp running away from a cop does not represent a threat to that cop. I suppose if we knew where the perp was wounded, front or back, we would have a better feel for what actually happened. The general rule is that you don’t draw your weapon and fire unless there is a perceived threat. In that regard, we have no evidence that the perp fired at the police officer or that he even had a weapon. Contn. Below

    • #28
  29. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann

    After he was shot and captured the weapon was found, but we have no indication that it was ever fired. The cop had a report that an armed robbery was in progress. That is the only information he had that the perp had a weapon. There are a lot of suppositions being made by this officer prior to his firing his gun. In the not too distant past police officers needed to file extensive paperwork every time they simply drew their weapon. That seems to be less in evidence. I certainly do not want an police officer to be shot because he failed to react quickly to a threat. However, I don’t believe that he law justifies what appeared to be wild west behavior displayed by this cop.

    • #29
  30. Leon Inactive

    These are really good questions Eugene. I’m not a law enforcement officer, but I do have a lot of exposure to use of force issues for law enforcement. In 1989 there was a very important Supreme Court Case, Graham v. Connor. It essentially lays out the standards for law enforcement officer’s use of force under the 4th amendment. I would recommend reading either the court case itself or just some of the commentary you’ll find from a google search. It helps clarify the legal issues involved. However, that’s not to say that it makes any use of force scenario simple. As you have pointed out the video alone doesn’t look very good from a civilian’s perspective. When did the suspect pull the weapon? Was he just throwing it away? Graham v. Connor is very generous to law enforcement officers. It ruled that the use of force actions don’t have to look reasonable to the public, they only have to look reasonable to other law enforcement officers. I’ll probably do the case disservice if I try to describe it further, but I would encourage you to read it. Hope this is helpful.

    • #30

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