Lost in the national news about the events in Tucson was the killing of a Baltimore Police Officer who was shot by… his fellow officers. Officer Torbit has been described by his neighbors and colleagues as “tough but fair.” From the anecdotes others told it sounds like he was mostly just tough. On Saturday night Torbit was responding to a “Signal 13” officer-in-distress call at the Club Select in downtown Baltimore. Some uniformed officers were already on the scene; a fight inside the club had spilled out onto the street. Unfortunately officer Torbit was not with his partner, who was busy booking a recent arrest. As a narcotics officer, Torbit was in plainclothes . . .
As he was arriving to the club a departing patron took offense at the way another patron exited his parking spot. The offended expressed her displeasure by removing her shoe and banging her heels on the offender’s car. [ED: Shades of Krushchev.] Officer Torbit attempted to intervene, and then shit got real.
Another patron (possibly the deceased Sean Gamble) thought that Torbit was overly aggressive with Ms. Shoe. He began yelling at the officer. Torbit was “swallowed up” by the crowd. No doubt fearing for his life, Torbit began to shoot into the crowd, probably killing Mr. Gamble. He fired a total of eight shots.
Frankly I don’t have a problem with that at all. In 1988, two British Army Corporals were attempting to photograph mourners at a funeral for three people who had been killed by a UVF terrorist while they had been at a funeral for three IRA terrorists who had been executed by the SAS in Gibraltar (got that?). The Corporals made a wrong turn and were trapped by the crowd, beaten and then executed. For some reason, the Corporals were (posthumously) commended in the local press and Parliament for not shooting into the crowd.
Even though my sympathies are ethnically vaguely Republican (in the Irish sense), I always thought that was just stupid. If your life is on the line, all bets are off, especially if the people you need to harm to save yourself are the ones that are actively trying to harm you (vs. swerving into a tree to avoid a child in the road or something). Oh, and the IRA also ended up with the dead officers’ guns and may have used one of them to kill a UDR member Roy Butler.
Back to Baltimore . . .
Surprisingly, the crowd didn’t scatter immediately when Torbit began shooting. Four officers, all of whom worked in the same precinct as Torbit and knew him, didn’t pause to find out what was going on. There was a man with a gun shooting, the officer-in-distress was nowhere to be seen, shoot the man with gun! Of course the man they shot was Officer Torbit.
In the end 41 shots were fired, all by the police. Officer Torbit and club patron Sean Gamble were killed. Four others were wounded, including Officer Harry Dodge, who was ignominiously shot in the foot or leg, no word if he did it himself or if Torbit shot him (I am betting on the former). According to a witness . . .
Another cop, a heavy-set guy with ‘Police’ on his back, was screaming [expletives] . . . A cop in a brown hoodie fell to his knees, and that’s when we knew [the victim] was a cop.
Robert F. Cherry, the president of the police union stated . . .
Obviously it’s a tough time for us, because now that we know in no uncertainty [sic] that all the shots fired were our own, it makes it that much more difficult for the officers involved.
I don’t know how much solace one can find in shooting your own man if someone else had at least fired a shot. Maybe some. But the end result is the same.
A couple of years ago there was a BB called concealedcarry.org or something like that. It died out when the owner lost interest in moderating the flames (sound familiar?). Before it went downhill I was reading a hypothetical situation thread: what would you do if you happened upon a scene where someone was shooting?
Many people said if they saw someone shooting someone else, they would shoot the person with the gun. I always wondered why you would presume that person was the one that needed to be shot. If you saw someone shooting at a car driving away, would you a) think that some maniac was shooting wildly down the street? or b) think that he had just been car jacked and his wife and/or child was in the car? (btw do not shoot at cars unless you do not care about the contents).
Which brings us back to Joe Zamudio. Despite William Saletan’s profoundly illogical conclusions, Joe did everything right. He heard the shots and ran to the shooting. Rounding the corner he saw a man with a gun and yelled for him to drop it. Unlike Baltimore’s finest he did not start shooting immediately, he assessed the situation and within a split second made the correct decision not to shoot.
The four officers who killed William Torbit Jr. were all thirty or older. All had served on the force for at least nine years. All of them worked with and knew him. Somehow, either through poor training or poor decision making, they managed to kill their colleague. Meanwhile in Tucson, an untrained 22 year-old, without knowing any of the actors, managed to not shoot a stranger and fellow hero holding a gun at the scene of a mass shooting.
Finally, consider this from a George F. Will column of 1993:
Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck, using surveys and other data, has determined that armed citizens defend their lives or property with firearms against criminals approximately 1 million times a year. In 98 percent of these instances, the citizen merely brandishes the weapon or fires a warning shot. Only in 2 percent of the cases do citizens actually shoot their assailants.
In defending themselves with their firearms, armed citizens kill 2,000 to 3,000 criminals each year, three times the number killed by the police. A nationwide study by Don Kates, the constitutional lawyer and criminologist, found that only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal. The ‘error rate’ for the police, however, was 11 percent, more than five times as high.