Albuquerque police officers Keith Sandy and Dominique Perez were charged on Monday with murder for the March 16, 2014, shooting of James Boyd, a 36-year-old homeless man who (allegedly) was illegally camping in the Albuquerque foothills. Officers Sandy and Perez shot Boyd after a standoff that lasted four hours. Boyd allegedly had refused to leave his ersatz campsite after officers approached him guns drawn. The entire confrontation was captured on a helmet camera . . .
It sounds as though one officer is trying to talk the man into giving up, assuring Boyd: “Don’t worry about safety – I’m not a [expletive deleted] murderer.” It looks like Boyd collects some a backpack and some possessions from the ground. Someone then says, “Do it,” a concussion grenade goes off, Boyd reaches for something in his pocket, and the officers open fire.
I am not an expert, I have not seen all of the evidence, and in the right context everything I say may be wrong, but it isn’t clear to me why this situation had to end the way it did. It appeared that Boyd was getting ready to leave, which is my understanding of the reason why the police were there in the first place, but the officers had a plan to take him down and executed it on cue. It is clear from the video that Boyd had a knife in each hand after he was down, but (and again, the video is not completely clear) it looks like he may have drawn them only after the action began. It is also worth noting that Boyd had apparently been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
It’s also not clear what else happened in this situation – the confrontation for four hours, and the helmet cam video only lasts for four minutes. The officers’ case is not strengthened by a dashboard cam audio recording from two hours earlier, in which Officer Sandy–upon being advised that New Mexico State Police had been requested–replies: “For this [expletive deleted] lunatic? I’m going to shoot him in the penis with a shotgun in a second.”
Regardless of the merits of this shooting (the police officers, like anyone, are innocent until proven otherwise, and are entitled to their own day in court,) I couldn’t help but think, just because you have a solid plan of action, and have the ability to execute it successfully, that doesn’t mean that you have to execute it. If the situation changes, you may have to adapt accordingly. Yes, easier said than done, especially in a situation where you’re already outside of your comfort zone and feel sufficiently threatened to have drawn (or are about to draw) a firearm, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
It also struck me: many people have licenses to carry firearms. Some of those fulfill some sort of state-mandated training requirement, and others who are not required to do so still attend training at their own expense. But I’d be willing to wager that the lion’s share of the training done by non-law enforcement civilians is focused on gun safety and the basic mechanics of shooting. Perhaps some close quarters armed/hand-to-hand stuff for the people who take the ‘advanced’ classes. Important topics, to be sure, but in terms of the twin objectives of surviving without grievous bodily injury and avoiding an extended all-expense-paid stay in a local correctional facility, having a plan to control and de-escalate a tense situation is at least as important as being able to hit the X on demand.
So…have a plan to kill everyone you meet. But also be ready to let them walk away. Knowing which plan to execute is wisdom, no?