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The following was written by a police officer and TTAG reader who we’ll call TS:

It would be easy and, in principle, correct to withhold final judgment in any officer involved shooting (OIS). Until all the facts are known, until they’re compared and contrasted and weighed against each other, any analysis of an OIS may be fatally flawed. But it is also true that human nature leads us to draw conclusions from available information, so that we can learn something from the experience. Those conclusion often depend on our perspective. Take the case of a fatal OIS of double amputee Brian Claunch (above) in a Houston group home on Saturday; as reported by CNN and the AP [via PoliceOne] . . .

Police responded to a report of an aggressive man threatening fellow residents at a group home. Mr. Claunch was a diagnosed schizophrenic sitting in a wheelchair. He was waving a metal object in a threatening manner at people in the home. At some point after the police arrived, Claunch managed to corner one of the officers.

At a distance described as “inches to a foot,” Claunch attempted to stab the officer. At which point the other officer fired his weapon and killed Claunch. Keep in mind that mentally ill people can display surprising strength and exhibit extremely erratic, unpredictable behavior.

At the time of the shooting, the officer claimed he didn’t know that Mr. Claunch was holding a pen. If Claunch was trying to stab the officer in something not unlike a frenzy, the officer’s inability to identify the object seems reasonable. It can be impossible to identify something small waved around quickly.

Now stop and consider this deadly encounter from a non-police perspective (as has been pointed out here at TTAG, police are legally civilians, so I won’t use that term).

Imagine you find yourself in a confrontation with a mentally ill person. He’s agitated and  aggressive. He refuses to listen when you tell him to calm down. He corners you and tries to stab you with a slender, pointed metal object that’s long enough to reach any number of vital organs.

Are you justified in defending yourself? Are you justified in defending a friend or family member if they’re the ones who are cornered and threatened? Legally, if it’s a credible threat in the process of being delivered you’re good to go.

The main question about this unfortunate fatal incident: were there errors in tactics or judgment before Claunch cornered the officer, police or home staff procedures that could have prevented the deceased from presenting a lethal threat in the first place?

We don’t have sufficient information to make that call.

But we do know a simple fact: once there’s a credible lethal threat—a slender, pointed metal object slashing towards your neck (carotid), leg (femoral), chest (aorta) and any number of highly vulnerable body parts from a close range qualifies—there are only a three ways the encounter can go.

Fight, flight or freeze. The officers were unable to maneuver to escape Mr. Claunch’s clutches and reposition themselves at a safe[r] distance. Feezing was not an option; Claunch was in the throws of launching an attack. From the sound of things, fight was the officers’ only realistic option.

Out of uniform, your options to avoid these sorts of violent confrontations are pretty good. However, if you’re a law enforcement officer on duty and the call comes in, that’s where you’re going. What you do once you’re there depends on what you can do, what you have to do and what you’ve already done. And not necessarily in that order.

While commentators have been quick to condemn this regrettable incident as a lopsided attack indicating excessive force, many deadly police – citizen encounters defy easy explanation. If you look beyond the headlines and read between the lines, chances are you won’t find hard answers. But you stand a good chance of asking the right questions.

We can judge now or judge later. But it seems that Mr. Claunch did more than enough to seal his fate. Did the police do too little to take him into protective custody? We my never know. But unless and until we do, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. The people who survived the attack deserve a fair and full accounting. Who knows? They may even get it. Watch this space.

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  1. Unable to evade a guy with no legs in a wheelchair? In addition, if he was wildly slashing he was hardly maneuvering the wheelchair, thereby unlikely to be able to pin these police officers into a corner. Perhaps a taser could have been an option? I don’t know all of the facts but at first glance it seems to be an excessive use of force.

    • Agreed. Furthermore, if you are responding to a call about a man waving around a metal object or just being disorderly at a home for people that have conditions up to schizophrenia, I think that a non-trigger-happy officer may have taken precautions.

      Police have many tools in their arsenal to face confrontation. Gun, pepper spray, taser, night stick, and applied hand to hand systems using kevlar reinforced gloves. Since the cop was cornered by a leg-less man with I assume only 2 arms which one was busy thrusting and parrying, I think it would be safe to assume that the wheelchair was powered.

      I think given pepper spray and gun, most law- abiding-not-protected-under-the-bubble-of-LEO-status civillians in this situation would have employed pepper spray before the gun and long before they were cornered. I will say with one exception and that would be if it were the life of a loved one that was being threatened.

      Good thing there were no dogs present in the immediate area.

    • I guess the ‘cornered’ officer must have been in such a position that he couldn’t kick or lash out with his leg and shoe. This article doesn’t give the gender of the ‘cornered’ officer. Maybe they just panicked for a second and were vulnerable?. I guess the shooter didn’t think to kick the wheel chair over or to grapple the perp. Maybe they were too far away, but in that case, maybe they were taking a dangerous shot that might have hit the other officer?

  2. It sounds like the officer made a tough, but correct decision. I would be more interested in the events that led up to the officer allowing himself to get cornered by a man in a wheelchair.

  3. Wrong count guys. He had one arm and one leg amputated.

    Now, remain calm for a moment. Step away from the keyboard and switch to decaf.

  4. Was the officer arrested, his gun confiscated? Was he booked and placed in a holding cell at the station? Will he need bail and an attorney the next day? Will he lose his job because he didn’t show up for work the next day?

    No because they have special protections.

    The odds are no and therein lies the difference between a cop and the rest of us. When we face crazy people plenty of arm chair quarterbacks arrive to question everything and the process is notably different. The mere fact a citizen is armed becomes a big question, it seems to be a bigger problem a gun was used for self defense. Too many times protecting yourself becomes a legal battle.

    DGU citizens are considered suspects and treated as such. It’s a shame that’s the way it is but we live with it.

  5. To play devils advocate, maybe he wasn’t constantly waving the pen around. Maybe he just whipped it out when the officers were in striking range.

    Maybe the wheelchair was back in a corner in a place where there wasn’t much room to move.

    If someone came at me with an object (especially a shiny metal one) I would attempt to drop them like a bad habit using the most expedient and legal means at my disposal.

  6. Look, I don’t mean to be callous but a LEO’s job is to take risks that would be unreasonable for a bystander in the same situation, in order to control the offender with the minimum possible violence for everyone. In my mind that means you attempt to tackle the guy once you determine he doesn’t have a gun, even if he does seem to have some kind of sharp instrument.

    To put it in another situation, go back to Waco. What was the justification – really – for sending two companies’ worth of guys in SWAT gear to serve a warrant on the first try? It just wasn’t necessary. Go up to the door with a couple guys in plainclothes, knock and say “we have a search warrant”, and when (if) the occupants refuse entry, then you come back later with SWAT. Clearly, it wouldn’t have been any worse in the end. Same thing for Ruby Ridge. Same thing for Amadou Diallo. Or to put it another way, cops should display some greater “Jedi” skills than George Zimmerman in a similar situation. Until there are bullets in the air, you can take an extra moment to try to see whether the guy’s got a cell phone or a gun. This is your job. If I ever signed up to be a cop, I’d accept it as my job.

    I’m not among the commenters here who seem to think all officers are irredeemably bad, but I am very tired of the “he was coming right at me!” excuse for these kind of incidents where there ought to have been another way.

    • “In my mind that means you attempt to tackle the guy once you determine he doesn’t have a gun, even if he does seem to have some kind of sharp instrument.”

      Sorry, but you would be wrong. Dead wrong, most likely.

    • Not commenting on this situation in particular, just replying to your comment. Like the Author, I don’t easily hop on the judge-this-guy’s-decisionmaking-at-a-point-of-stress-and-chaos-even-though-I-wasn’t-there-and-really-don’t-know-sh*t-about-sh*t bandwagon. Additionally, couldn’t agree with you more with regards to situations like WACO.

      You are correct; it is a LEO’s job to take risks. The armed citizen is called upon in defense of themselves, their families and others when it is appropriate and they find themselves in that situation. A LEO on the other hand responds to dangerous situations by definition, even seeking them out because as you said, that is his or her job.

      Strictly speaking, you would feel differently if you were a LEO and you were attacked with an edged weapon. It is never a LEO’s job to “tackle” ANYONE with an edged weapon, club, rock, etc. It is not a LEO’s job to subject his or her self to serious bodily harm if he/she can prevent it. Meet a LEO with a threat and he will escalate to the next higher eschelon of force. Punch him? He’ll hit you with a baton. Pull out a knife? He’ll shoot you. You might feel like that’s not the way it should be or you might think that’s not the way it is. You’d be wrong. Pull a knife or a club on a LEO and you’re going to die. It’s been my experience that the same it also true of the armed citizen. State laws may very (ie duty to retreat BS) but if the armed citizen is presented with a knife or club threat it’s time to squeeze the bang switch. Hell, not long ago a guy was punched in the head in downtown Austin, fell, hit his head and now he’s dead. The human body is fragile. Edged weapons and clubs are extremely efficient at killing it.

      • I appreciate the discussion. Beyond just confronting the situation/offender (instead of retreating, as the armed citizen should unless a compelling reason not to) the LEO is supposed to resolve the situation. That may ultimately mean injuring or killing the suspect, but that shouldn’t be a go-to. BS aside, the unarmed British police manage to control plenty of unruly individuals without killing them, and American police used to (and often still do – again, I’m not a cop-hater) be able to deal with tough situations without resorting to deadly force. Somehow the German police get through an entire year with something like 100 rounds expended on duty. The French, who have all the same innercity issues we do, also have much lower rate of dead suspects. I’m not ready to believe that things have changed so much, or are so different here, that the only way to react to a disturbed individual is to kill him.

        I do tend to think that militarization of the police is to blame. The human brain just isn’t good at saying “I’m going to act like Andy Taylor except when I’m wearing the SWAT uniform” Pretty soon it’s going to be SWAT all the time. And lest you think I’m making this up, there is research going as far back as the 60s showing that police are more effective, more accepted by the community, as well as racking up fewer violent incidents just by getting out of their patrol cars and walking a beat. That’s obviously taking a certain level of risk versus being in the car, but just think about how much *more* separated from the normal you must feel when you’re wearing the SWAT getup. Small things, but they matter.

  7. Yeah….there must have been a good reason for shooting the ONE ARMED MAN IN A WHEELCHAIR.
    Give me a f***ing break.

    • It’s worse than that – he was a ONE ARMED and ONE LEGGED man, but he somehow managed to manuever his wheel chair with his one arm to trap the cop in a corner AND at the same time wave a deadly pen with that same one arm at the cop; so the cop had every reason to shoot and kill him. Truly sick and unbelievable. And of course the cop who wrote this – as all of them do,all the time – automatically decides that the cop was justified, without having witnessed the killing and having no more information than the rest of us, YET demands that we reserve judgement on the murd-, I mean police officer, while he happily judges that the cop was surely in his rights to end this crippled, unarmed man’s life. Truly sick

  8. I once attempted to deal with a crazy man wielding a screwdriver and threatening to kill people by spraying him with O.C. Spray and then tackling him like some are suggesting should have been done in this case. I ended up getting stabbed by a big ass screwdriver. Lesson learned: The appropriate response level when dealing with a suspect armed with a deadly or dangerous weapon who is presenting a threat to you or others is deadly force. Something I already knew but due to being young and overly concerned about armchair quarterbacks, lawsuits, and know it alls, I ignored. Won’t happen again. And yes, he ended up getting shot anyway.

  9. Let he who is without sin.. What if the thing in his hand was a dirty needle? The officer in question did not know what it was, and if it was me and someone was threatening me with an object that could give me HIV or Hepatitis then yes, I would pull the trigger! And it’s justifiable force ! (I love that term)

  10. As stated, its hard to call since we weren’t there to see the whole incident. People with mental conditions can product super strength while upset. From the facts stated I do believe the officer was justified using deadly force. If the police were called than the other residence were in fear of their lives.

  11. I’m still trying to figure out how on duty police officers are legally civilians. To state that is incorrect on a myriad of circumstances from failure to obey a lawful order to impersonating a peace officer. For a site that portends to tell the truth, I continue to find that disturbing, and of little practical value. If you mean that police are public servants, I wholeheartedly agree. Otherwise, state exactly what your terms are and whether or not you are expressing an opinion.

    As to the shooting, it certainly appears at first view that the officer may have had other options. The article didn’t mention the lighting conditions, which may have made object recognition difficult, or perhaps he just didn’t wanted to get stabbed by a knife / shiv / pen etc. at close distance. I know that I wouldn’t. A taser or pepper spray would not necessarily stop an edged weapon from close distance.

    • IMHO, a “civilian” is anyone not subject to the provisions of the UCMJ. I understand that this is only my opinion. I understand that you may not like it. Frankly, I don’t give a fvck.

      • And I could have an opinion that a firefighter on the way to an emergency call is legally the same thing as a UPS driver, and it would be an inaccurate opinion. Read a vehicle code or penal code and show me a section where it says the police are civilians. Start with CA Vehicle Codes 20, 27, 31, 2800, 21806 (a) or CA Penal Code 148 (a). I’ll wait. Or look them up in your home state. If the National Guard had responded, than the UCMJ would have some relevance.

        In my opinion, TTAGs whole deal that police responding to emergency calls are civilians is not only legally inaccurate, but something the gun grabbers could us against us.

        • Ahem. The point was that unless you’re military, you’re a civilian. I understand that cops are treated differently. The problem is that they shouldn’t be. If I am involved in a (later justified) shooting, I’ll still have spent at least a night in jail and had to pay out of my own pocket. You, on the other hand, will get paid time off and a union-sponsored defense. You’ll have to forgive those of us who must take immediate responsibility for our actions if we don’t really think that’s fair.

        • The police are armed agents of the civil power, with certain responsibilities, duties and protections, all as part of that status.

          They are nonetheless civilians in that they are not in the armed forces.

        • It’s no more fair than a non-uniformed person’s practical ability to walk or run away from a dangerous situation while police are expected to run towards it. Yes, it was my choice to get the job. Yes, if I feel the need to use deadly force to protect human life, it is my decision, just as it is for anyone who does not wear a uniform.

          If I have to worry before every shot about being treated like George Zimmerman, and I know the Supreme Court has ruled I have no responsibility to protect a stranger? There are some cops who just wouldn’t bother responding in that case. I would find another job, because I don’t want to show up and stand there while people are killed because I’m afraid of lawyers.

        • “Ahem. The point was that unless you’re military, you’re a civilian. I understand that cops are treated differently. The problem is that they shouldn’t be. If I am involved in a (later justified) shooting, I’ll still have spent at least a night in jail and had to pay out of my own pocket. You, on the other hand, will get paid time off and a union-sponsored defense. You’ll have to forgive those of us who must take immediate responsibility for our actions if we don’t really think that’s fair.”

          Um, your life as a civilian (unless you are a military contractor) does not involve going out and confronting bad guys every day. A LEO has an astronomically higher chance of becoming involved in a shooting. Do I agree with Johnny law tossing you in the slammer for a justifiable shoot? Of course NOT. I believe the armed citizen should get the same benefit of the doubt as a LEO. But don’t begrudge a LEO’s immunity from that. He runs toward the sound of gunfire when most others run and hide.

          DISCLAIMER: I am not defending sh*tty cops. As a LEO, there is nothing I find to be more repulsive than someone who sees it as a pay check instead of a calling. Also, while we are a part of the profession of arms, Cops are civilians. Civil Servants also.

        • The real question here is, why are you so insulted by being called one of us? Are all of us law abiders who pay for your pension really so sickening to you? Do we really simply not have any stature in your eyes, simply because we only take the everyday risks of living on the planet with humanity?

          So, your job is sometimes dangerous and different than many, certainly less statistically dangerous to life and limb than many less celebrated and even vilified jobs, but also prone to protecting its own from repercussions of their wrongdoings small or large, on a much larger scale than in other professions. That does not make you any less of a good guy if that is indeed what you are. All it should do is make you feel even better about being good in the face of so much opposition, even the “passive” blue line thou shalt not cross another badge holder unless you watch them execute an unarmed person and maybe not even then thing.

          See, good cops are like the rape victim who thinks they are being blamed because they dressed like a corner hopper, you’re not to blame (the jackass she should have shot is) but there are steps you could have taken that may have greatly decreased the likelihood of such an occurrence. I don’t mean you personally, I mean good copdom in general. The bad ones have been a large part of your public image for a long time because you keep letting them get away with so much crap they become local to national legends for corruption and violence. Some even get their own retellings in movies or TV. Good cops got Serpico, and scant else.

          If good cops outnumber them as you guys would have us believe, then what is the problem? Become the ruling body, stop covering for these guys or just looking the other way and forcibly eject them. Why should it be the other way around if there aren’t more bad than good? Why isn’t the blue line one that protects good cops instead of bad ones?

          We don’t disrespect good cops, we just acknowledge the fact you can’t tell if you’re encountering a bad one until you take the first hit. And even if one of you guys is around, the likelihood is they’d just walk away all “mad” about what is happening or scared instead of doing something about it.

          You seem like a decent kind of person, and I respect that you continue to strive to be so in your profession. You just have to understand that we have the disadvantage here. If you good guys would clean house, a lot of us would have less cause to be wary of the unknown element with a stern look, gun and badge approaching.

    • Until the recent paramilitarization of police forces (and use of terms of art which encourage separating themselves from those they are to serve) police have always been “civilians”.

      If one is not actively serving in the military, according to the International Laws of War, one is a civilian. If one is not actively serving in the US Military, one is to this very moment in every printed disaster manual in the use right now, a civilian – whether cop, fireman, mayor, judge, whatever. Not because the job is to serve civilians, but because if you don’t spit out a serial number with that name and rank, you are a civilian.

      Working of the government in any capacity save for the military, makes one a civil servant by all rule of law.

    • I take the “cops are civilians” argument is legally true, even if I don’t really like it. It is argued back and forth because common usage of the word has changed, and some dictionary definitions show firefighters as not being civilians. However, the fire department can’t charge me with a crime or arrest me under the authority of their badge/uniform. If they investigate a fire and find arson, they inform the police. The WA traffic code that covers failure to obey lawful orders also covers those orders given by firefighters and flaggers at construction sites.

      On the flip side, a judge can certainly give me a lawful order, and there can be serious legal consequences if I do not obey. I think there are also laws in some places about impersonating doctors, but not in my state under the criminal code.

      So my take on it is that it’s complicated. While police don’t act like just about any other kind of “civilian,” there are many legal jurisdictions that still define us to be civilians, all the way up to international law. The laws of my state seem to consider us civilians while granting us legal powers to enforce the law. Other states may be different.

      • That makes sense. Although the International Laws of War wouldn’t seem to have as much relevance outside of a war situation. In reality cops are legally defined as peace officers in some ways and apparently civilians under international rules. Perhaps its the difference between state laws and federal / international law. I guess it’s my turn to look up International Laws of War and see what I can find. Unless someone has a quick reference that would save this confused LEO a little time…

        • Call the DoD and ask them if you, sworn peace officer, are “military” or “civilian”. They’ll explain that were you to ever even get involved in anything “non-civilian” you’d be an unlawful enemy combatant. Next time HSA is in town pissing away a few million on one of their “trainings”, ask them if you are a civilian authority. Better yet, read your disaster preparedness materials.

          POST certification and that swearing in procedure puts police, just like attorneys, judges, DAs, PDs, and the whole legal system as officers of the court. Each officer of the court has certain powers and responsibilities. Not a single one of which makes a cop a non-civilian.

        • Just to be completely accurate, there are some LEOs who are not technically officers of the court. But all sworn LEOs are still civilians unless they are active duty military functioning on military assignment (which would be a whole different Constitutional issue).

          I also realize that the common internal PD-lingo over the last 40 years has degenerated to referring to non-sworn LE employees (911 operators and whatnot) as ‘civilians’. Which they are. Just like the sworn LE emps.

        • @16V

          I understand to an extent what you are saying, but it has no practical value to me. I’m not sure what “non-civilian” activities you are refering to. Anyways, it’s business as usual for me – the definitions that actually have relevance to my duties (Penal Code, Vehicle Code, W & I, Webster’s,, etc.) do not consider me to be a civilian. I put some of the sections above for reference. Also, if I am tried for a crime, it will likely be a state law. Ditto with the LEO in the scenario above. So if the state defines me as a peace officer, then events will transpire accordingly. The officer above, if charged, will be subject to state law and definitions thereof. If I contact the DOD in New Jersey which is approximately 2800 miles from my current location, they may consider me to be a civilian. Unless that presents any practical value, it’ll go into the circular file.

        • @Accur81, If you ever do deal with the military, you will be reminded in very short order that a LEO is a civilian.

          I know its currently popular to misuse the term at the office and on TV, but I’m a civilian just like you, except I don’t enforce the law for a living.

        • Trying to determine the truth of the “civilian or not” question based on principle is useless. The UCMJ could have a different, but similar, definition of “civilian” than the international laws governing war. However, state, county, and local law enforcement does not derive its authority from the UCMJ, or directly from the federal government.

          Therefore, as a matter of law in an individual state, “civilian” may have a different and entirely legally correct definition, and a state may have a defined status for law enforcement that falls outside “civilian.” My state does not, and so I am a civilian police officer in legal fact, and also a civilian according to my own principles. Your state may be different.

        • I should have added that if you are talking about martial law, say during a natural disaster, then UCMJ may indeed apply and override state law. If you are talking about a foreign deployment, then you probably need to follow a combination of UCMJ and international law. If you’re just visiting a military installation, then UCMJ also applies.

          The point is that you have to consider the law that applies where you are.

        • Hasdrubal, You have put some thought into your viewpoint and in terms of the minutae of state law, there indeed may be some places where the “non-civilian” point of view has some referencial relevance in case law. I’ve never heard of them, and I’m still waiting for a factual example, but at least you have a plausible argument.

          My big picture is just this – If for whatever reason FEMA or the Natty Guard show up in your jurisdiction, local (and by that anybody not military) government will be considered civilian authorities . Same as they have been since the dawn of the country.

          Find a FEMA, HSA, whomever plan that states otherwise and I’m open to hearing it. But I’ve seen many, and none ever say that non-military are anything but civilian. Were the police anything other than civilians, there would be a huge Constitutional problem.

  12. My wife works in a very similar group home with people that have metal illnesses and challenges. She has done this kind of work for 6 years. Some of her residents are heavily medicated in an effort to prevent such outbursts, some are always peaceful, just slow to understand or do things. I worry about her being around such people, and I had read this story before seeing it here, and it scared me to think of my wife being in that kind of situation. Her group home is a standard house in a typical neighborhood, with narrow hallways, smallish bedrooms, the typical lighting that you would find in your own home, etc, not a commercial type building with multiple avenues of escape. I can see where the officer might have been forced to make the decision he did. I’m not going to second guess him. I can feel sad that a handicapped person was killed, but I can also easily believe that there may have been no other choice. Sounds like a real tough day to live thru to me.

  13. It’s also been reported that the same officer had to shoot and kill a man that was stabbing his neighbor to death a few years ago. I could see why he wouldn’t hesitate, if that’s true.

  14. I’m willining to conceed that from what we currently know of the situation at the time, it was most likely a justifiable use of force. However, I’m unwilling to gloss over how the police ended up in the situation in the first place. I find it incredible that a one-armed man could so efficiently operate a wheelchair in order to corner someone while at the same time weilding “something” in his hand. At the very least, the question must be asked what failures of tactics on the part of the police led to them being cornered and threatened by a cripple.

    • Exactly – it looks like poor tactics places the officer in an untenable situation. It might even have been the result of good intentions (i.e. trying to calm the guy down rather than just tasing from a distance).

  15. A pen can be lethal if wielded with deadly intent, and people have been killed by them. But it’s not only threat of death that justifies deadly force, it’s also threat of serious bodily injury. I assume that the officer being threatened was standing, while the perp was sitting – think about the vulnerable areas within reach in that situation. Not just the obvious [insert family jewels joke here if you’re so inclined], but, as commented above, the femoral arteries, from which one can bleed to death before the call for an ambulance has even connected, as well as all the soft tissue that even a pen could penetrate.

    In the CNN article a psychologist commented, “This was an incident that didn’t have to take place if the individual — a police officer — had been trained in dealing with emotionally disturbed individuals.” True enough, but that, then, puts the fault with those responsible for training the officers, not the officers themselves. And I think it’s safe to assume that the employees at the group home WERE trained in dealing with emotionally disturbed individuals, yet the caretaker found it necessary to call for armed support AND waited outside for police to arrive.

    I definitely agree that we don’t have enough info to really determine what happened or who was at fault. My point here is only that the bare facts of the story (“cop shoots and kills one-armed, one-legged man in wheelchair”) in no way defines what really happened.

    I’m also wondering why a schizophrenic who was known to “have a temper” and “fly off once in awhile” wasn’t in a psychiatric hospital instead of a group home.

    • I’m also wondering why a schizophrenic who was known to “have a temper” and “fly off once in awhile” wasn’t in a psychiatric hospital instead of a group home.

      Yep.. If I’m in the officer’s shoes, I’m shooting that guy. Crazy is pretty strong, and a sharp object can do all sorts of permanent damage in crazy’s hands. Any time I see crazy (which is fairly often in downtown Austin, though sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between weird and crazy) I am on my guard and ready to strike.

      • In Austin? It’s easy. The weird ones are Austin residents left over from the 60s; the crazy ones are in the Texas legislature.

    • for real… isn’t zimmerman being prosecuted for putting himself in a position where it became necessary to use his gun? if you want to say the shooting is justified, whatever…. then fire he guy for putting himself in that position…. would absolutely love it if that group home has surveilance video of this wild and crazy encounter….

  16. As many here know, I have been one of the few supportive voices for law enforcement on this site. Although I do still agree one must not jump to conclusions, I can’t come up with any scenario truly necessitating the use of deadly force with this situation. To argue that these supposedly highly trained and experienced cops couldnt have handled a wheel chair bound, double amputee by other means sure seems ludicrous. Sounds like a case involving bad decisions, incompetence and unnecessary deadly force to me. A trajic story that I will be watching with interest.

  17. All the speculation above is just proof that until the Investigation is completed and the “facts” established. third parties can engage in whatever mentation they choose and establish nothing worthwhile (except, maybe, reveal their own biases). But, as “TS” points-out, this is just human nature reacting to a report of a situation and trying to make sense of it. No affront meant to anyone who commented previously.
    I say “facts” with regard to the Investigation because the final factual findings are what the Investigators decide they are. In the end, the instinct to preserve oneself in the face of conflict tends to win-out no matter what the circumstances may later be determined to have been. That, too, is human nature.
    We revere the person who sacrifices their life to save their friends (as well we should), vilify those who sacrifice their friends to save their life (as well we should), but all the cases that fall between are the ones that give us trouble…

  18. yawn…. a cop getting in line to give a cop every benefit of the doubt…. apparently the admonition to reserve judgment only applies if you’re coming down on the cop but doesn’t apply if your intent is to explain away the actions…. no reason at all someone who is “highly trained” and all that crap should be given the benefit of the doubt to an extent so much greater than your average joe. no way on earth I don’t go to jail for doing the exact same thing as this officer did…. highly trained guy should be held to a higher standard, not a lesser one…. that’s the way it works in every other profession. The ER doc who screws up CPR doesn’t get a pass while the average joe who screws it up goes to jail….

  19. Having worked a year in a prison I know just how lethal a pencil. a pen or even a toothbrush can be. Add to that this officer’s previous experience of shooting a man that was stabbing another. I also know how such previous violent encounters can affect you having been in a few.

    I’m going to side with the cop until the investigation is complete. I have a stepson who lives in a group home because of mental issues. If he had been stabbed or killed by another resident because of hesitation or waffling on the cop’s part I would have been very vocal in my anger.

  20. While I agree the shooting is “justified”, a lot of very poor decision making led to this man’s death.

  21. Agree with we need to let all of the facts surface. However, I would be interested to know how a one armed, mentaly disturbed, wheelchair bound individual had the speed and capacity to not only “wheel” the officer into a corner (with one arm) and at the same time threaten the officer (with the same one arm.) Now I wasn’t there and officers only have a spilt second to make a fatal decision. But there is a profound difference in a violent 6’5″ 300 lb dude coming at you (with a pen of all things) and a one armed dude who can’t walk.

  22. What a bunch of crapola. The cop had ample non-lethal options available, but he chose to kill a one-armed, one-legged man in a wheelchair. Yes, schizos can be very strong — but a one-legger with one arm in a freaking wheelchair is not a credible threat to a healthy, two legged, two armed cop. And unless that cop was Billy Barty and three feet tall, that “slender object” was a long way from the cop’s neck.

    The cop could have kicked the chair over. He could have used all of that expensive cop sh!t hanging from his bet for something other than decorative purposes. He could have beaten the crap out of the double-amputee with his handcuffs, for god’s sake. But no — officer D!ckless wanted another scalp on his belt.

    Don’t tell me that I wasn’t there and can’t judge. If you ever have a DGU, I promise you that a bunch of cops who weren’t there will judge you.

    It wasn’t the cop’s first OIS, and I’m betting it won’t be his last. And they wonder why some of us don’t trust most of them.

    • Gotta ask Ralph, if instead of shooting him the cop had turned his chair over and beat him with his cuffs or tased him, what would your comment have been then. No doubt some rant about police brutality.

      If, no matter what they do, including doing nothing the cops are critisized how then is it a wonder that the cops have a us against them mentality?

      • Anytime an incident ends in use of deadly force against any citizen, one had damn well expect there to be inquiries.

        The newish metric of Darryl Gatesian control-at-all-costs-dominate-the-situation-charge-in-yelling-like-an-idiot policing brings this us these kind of very predictable (and predicted) results.

      • is it a wonder that the cops have a us against them mentality?

        Cops made “them against us” a matter of police orthodoxy, not me. When cops stop killing cripples and shoving plunger handles up people’s a$$es, I’ll stop disrespecting them. It’s just that simple.

        • Not to mention blasting Fido as a matter of procedure, rather than evaluating the threat. Or even, ya know, checking the address first.

        • Ahh yes Moonshine. They got another one just yesterday if memory serves. Cop investigating a stolen ladder in someone’s back yard without owner knowledge kills dog on short leash nowhere near him.

          But cop “was scared”. What a pathetic bunch of pansies. Good thing our postal carriers have some stones or the mail would never come…

  23. While I’m most certainly willing to wait until all the facts are presented (assuming they are, and evidence against him doesn’t ‘disappear’) before coming to a conclusion, the last person who should pretend to have an unbiased opinion here is a fellow cop. You’re conditioned from your first day to protect fellow officers, no matter how corrupt or vile, from all those pesky laws that are supposed to hold police accountable.

  24. Was the officer wearing a vest? Then the major bodily organs were hardly in danger. Unless he was extremely short then there was no chance for the man to hit his neck. He could of handled the situation a LOT better IMHO. I believe the death was unnecessary.

    • I’m guessing your crotch isn’t considered vital to you huh? Femoral artery? Nevermind that regular ballistic vests are not stab proof.

  25. Observations from professional experience:

    Mental Health facility staff are usually very reluctant to call LEOs unless the situation is already extremely dangerous, because the average LEO will be out of their depth dealing with the situation. That said, once that option is used, if the patient doesn’t chill at the sight of uniforms, it often goes very badly. The patient in that level of crisis doesn’t respond as expected to commands, or even threat of harm (the patient may actually want to be arrested, hurt or killed). If the patient’s lost touch with reality all together, there’s no reasoning: he may be sure the LEO is there to kill him. Add extreme rage, no fear and the dulling (or stimulating) effects of certain meds, and it’s a horror movie (unless you’re used to that sort of day). I’ve had folks come at me or others with kitchen knives, broken glass, bats, furniture, pens, skull-smashing projectiles or just extreme strength and size–it’s nothing like what you’ll usually face in a fight. (I’ve seen staff hospitalized, raped, even killed on the job.) And we don’t know yet if the LEOs involved had already used or threatened to use mace or Taser to no effect. Even extreme pain or injury may fail to deter (making the nightstick barely effective).

    As for getting cornered, the average group home is a cheapo little house or apartment, so spaces tend to be tight. Having worked a lot with amputees, they can be very quick in those chairs (ever played wheelchair ball?) and the lowered posture makes them harder to reach without exposing your tender areas (again: if you’re not used to it…).

    As for “Why wasn’t he in an institution?” there’s been this trend in the last quarter-century to make those places go away (though it’s often driven by budget issues more than concern for welfare). Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s dangerously misguided, and I have my own too-long list of fatalities (patients and others) because of it. The tragedy is the guy might have been able to get better care, but it wasn’t available, or the stressed system didn’t have the resources to pay better attention (haven’t we had this conversation regarding spree killers?).

    We weren’t there. We don’t know. And the shooter may not have had the best POV to consider his options with a sharp object well within Teuller range of his partner (why his immediately-threatened partner didn’t shoot is a good question–maybe he specifically tried to close without drawing in an attempt to calm the guy, thinking he could control it).

    Bottom line: this sort of thing happens a lot when LEOs have to deal with mental health crises. The amputee factor just got it headline status. To be continued…

    • this sort of thing happens a lot when LEOs have to deal with mental health crises.

      I know. That’s the scariest part.

  26. Imagine if this situation had happened without police intervention. A member of the staff who worked there had a gun and ended up shooting the person in question. Would he be given the benefit of the doubt? Would the police refrain from arresting him until all the facts were known?

    A year from now this officer will probably be back on the job. Under the same circumstances someone else would be locked up no matter the “righteousness” of the shooting.

  27. How nice it would be if civilians were given such somber non judgmental innocent until proven guilty treatment. No taser? Couldn’t throw a sheet over his head and beat the snot out of him? 1 guy in a wheel chair against how many cops? And you can’t take him into custody without killing him? Just how did the officer get “cornered”? That close a pen still looks like a knife? I’m not anti officer. But 1: cops should be held to much higher standards, that’s what your paid for and 2: some people, regardless of the amount of training they get, just should not be in uniform. Graduation from the Academy is not equal to Canonization. A needless death of a human being. Not exactly top shelf PD work.

    My favorite line is ” The officers were unable to maneuver to escape Mr. Claunch’s clutches”. Or do you mean crutches?

  28. I want to know where everyone is getting the idea that this guy was as strong as superman. If he has spent god knows how long in a wheel chair, then he is suffering from muscle atrophy. I doubt the pen penetrated more than a inch in to the officers body, if that.

    • You’re right. People should wait to see how deep an attacker with a shank or sharp object can stab them first before defending themselves.

  29. The question I would most like to know the answer to is why not use his baton, pepper spray, taser, a spare mag, handcuffs, or a leg to repel the wheeled super attack?

    Also, how does one get cornered by a man in a wheelchair? You’re telling me you got outmaneuvered by a guy in a wheelchair? Give me a break.

  30. My issue is NOT whether or not a crazy man waving a metal pen is a potentially lethal threat. He is.

    My problem is, how in the Heck does an able bodied cop get pinned down in a corner by a guy who is simultaneously running his wheelchair AND waving his pen around, with only one arm? He gets himself backed into a situation where his only good option is Combat Tupperware before any of the options of Tiptoe away, Tonfa, Taser, or Tabasco Eyerinse can be employed?

    He shot the guy because he had to, in the position he found himself in. However, he found himself in that position because he closed his eyes tightly and ran at full speed into the “Don’t Go Here Woods“, thinking his Magic Badge Shield would keep him safe.

    In other words, the nutbag is dead because Officer SuperCop doesn’t know how to do his job with a modicum of self preservation and de-escalation. (Notice, it’s always the ones who charge in stupidly and get themselves into unnecessary danger who also cannot ever seem to de-escalate. Trooper Billy Bad@ss the Indestructible gets cops, critters, victims, and innocent bystanders killed every day. In very stupid fashion.)

  31. On a related note, I have a friend who was in a horrific accident a few years back and suffered similar injuries. Lost an arm and a leg up to his hip. Also suffered severe head injuries that were non permanent, but caused him to exhibit bouts of similar aggressive behavior randomly. Luckily with time it stopped and he has very little recollection of the incidents. He was fortunate enough to be in a facility that understood that he had a medical issue causing hid behavior and were trained and equipped to deal with things without the cops. Sounds to me there was a whole lot of incompetance on everybodys part in this incident. I agree that LEOs have to be able to defend themselves but it seems they should have had several methods of less than lethal force at their disposal but chose not to use them.

  32. Those who’ve been there know I’m right. I’ve said so before and I know of what I speak. And we tend to stick together…human nature.

    I have a friend, another LEO, who in the last 2o something years has been in 13 shootings, nine of them fatal. Each one cleared by a grand jury of “civilians.” Sometimes you just work a bad area of town. And if you haven’t been there, you can only pretend to know what you would have done.

    • “you can only pretend to know what you would have done.”
      Right now, I’d be practicing my footwork to make sure I didn’t get cornered by a one-armed dude in a wheelchair. Such practice would include walking, perhaps while chewing gum.

    • How many of those shootings involved your friend sticking his nose into the voluntary transaction of a non-officially sanctioned plant product between two consenting adults?

    • What about those civilians who live in those bad parts of town their entire lives. They can get by with out shooting 13 other people. And were those grand juries comprised of people from the same part of town which the shootings took place? Im inclined to think they were not. Was the officers prior record of shootings presented to the grand jury? Did the states attorney present the evidence in a similar fashion as if he was seeking the indictment of a civilian? Once again, i’m inclined to think he did not.

  33. “were there errors in tactics or judgment before Claunch cornered the officer, police or home staff procedures that could have prevented the deceased from presenting a lethal threat in the first place?” Gee, I don’t know, maybe, I guess, I’ll have to think about it.

    So, let me get this straight and please correct me if I’m wrong; a schizophrenic, debilitated, wheelchair bound, double amputee got way deep inside the OODA Loop of the responding “Only Ones”? Yes? Outstanding!! The “shooter” was “cornered”? “CORNERED”!! JHFC!!!

    “Did the police do too little to take him into protective custody?” Yes, indeed they did.

    “The officers were unable to maneuver to escape Mr. Claunch’s clutches and reposition themselves at a safe[r] distance. ” Nice alliteration. Unable? Seriously? SERIOUSLY??

    Let us all be thankful that the Dear Departed Mr. Claunch didn’t have any pets.

  34. >“Shizophrenic double amputee in a wheelchair”
    >“Claunch (i.e. the double amputee in the wheelchair) managed to corner one of the officers”
    >“The officers were unable to maneuver to escape Mr. Claunch’s clutches and reposition themselves at a safe[r] distance”
    Generally, I highly respect LEOs …but…are you kidding?!
    If they do not convict this LEO they should fire him at least for grossly negligent lack of preparation, lack of adequacy, poor tactic and incompetence.
    If schizophrenic double amputees in a wheelchair were physically THAT apt and wily, I suggest hiring the non- schizophrenic ones for law enforcement. Seems they may do the smarter job.
    Just my preliminary (!) 2 Cents based on the very (!) limited information available.

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