A couple days ago, I wrote an article in which I discussed the current state of the investigation taking place in Arlington, TX where a burglary suspect had been shot by the cops. At the end of that article, I laid out what I clearly stated was my guess as to what might have occurred inside the dealership, out of the view of the surveillance video.
As much as I hate being wrong, I have to admit my educated guess was Entirely Incorrect. What I surmised might have happened, was far from what actually occurred.
With that said, please take the time to watch this press conference given by Chief Will Johnson of the Arlington Police. It is long, but it is absolutely worth the 28 minutes. He discusses all the details that they can release at this point, and surprisingly they released quite a bit of information. But he goes beyond that and describes how the case is examined on a number of levels, and he describes how both the reasonableness and legality of an officer involved shooting is measured.
For those of you reading this whom are not on the job; for those who enjoy analyzing and scrutinizing the actions of cops from the safety of your couch or desk, please pay special attention to Chief Johnson’s explanation of Graham v Connor (begins at 1:55 mark), which is the supreme court case that establishes the standard by which all deadly force uses by law enforcement are measured. His explanation is outstanding!
The Facts That Were Revealed
During the press conference, Chief Johnson ran through the series of events. I am going to summarize them here in bullet points, and am not including everything. Please watch the video for more details.
- Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress
- A total of 6 officers in 5 cars were sent
- Officers saw a single suspect inside the building
- One officer verbally engaged suspect through a closed, locked glass door
- Same officer noted a large bulge in the suspect’s pants pocket (others also saw it as noted later)
- The suspect showed the initial contact officer keys to a car and said he was going to steal it
- The officer ordered the suspect to get on the ground, but the suspect refused to comply
- Corporal Wiggins (training officer) and Officer Miller (trainee) began to pass the officer who was speaking to the suspect
- Wiggins stopped to talk to officer who was engaging the suspect, but Miller continued to the open/broken doors
- Miller entered the building by himself, with his gun drawn
- Miller verbally engaged the suspect who fled to the rear of business and tried to break through a glass door
- Miller, still solo, chased the suspect to the back and verbally engaged him again
- Suspect again refused to comply and began to charge Miller
- Wiggins entered the building attempted to catch up to his trainee
- Wiggins got to within approximately 4′ of Miller and Wiggins drew his Taser
- As the suspect charged Miller, Miller fired one shot but the suspect continued advancing
- Wiggins fired his Taser but the suspect continued advancing
- Miller firesd three more shots
- Shots fired broadcast on radio, emergency medical requested
- At no point did the suspect physically engage any of the officers
Investigation Results Thus Far
Chief Johnson was clear to point out at the onset of his press conference that there are two investigations that are going on simultaneously in any officer involved shooting. There is an administrative investigation and a criminal investigation. This is true no matter the jurisdiction, and the results of the two investigations are independent of one another.
- Administrative Investigation – Officer Miller screwed up, badly, a number of times. His screw ups ultimately lead to the confrontation that occurred. His mistakes were both officer safety in nature as well as tactical errors. Not only did his mistakes put both he and the suspect in danger, but they put all the other officers in danger too. Officer Miller has been fired (released from his probationary employment) as a result of those grievous errors.
- Criminal Investigation – Still proceeding. Results will be given to the District Attorney and will then be presented to the Grand Jury to determine if charges will be filed. If I were a betting man, based on the facts that were revealed in this press conference, I would put money that this case will be going to trial.
Stupid Media Questions, and Outright Bias
As is the case at nearly every law enforcement press conference for a high profile incident, especially those involving officers using deadly force, there were a number of stupid questions. However, beyond that, there was a couple that really display a bias by the media. I’m going to summarize a few of those below (not verbatim, unless in quotes).
- 21:38 mark – Did the first shot fired strike the suspect?
- How on earth would we know that? Bullets aren’t numbered. We have no way of identifying which slug was from which casing and in what order they were fired.
- 24:28 mark – Did Officer Miller explain why he continued to shoot after the Taser was deployed?
- Chief Johnson handled this much better than I would have. Does this guy think that this was some long, drawn out thing? From the first shot until the last shot was only seconds.
- 23:52 mark – Did Corporal Wiggins ever try to question Officer Miller, or intervene and ask him what he was doing?
- OMG, seriously? Is this person for realsies?
- Let me see, my trainee has disappeared on me, where did he go? Holy crap! There he is, he went inside by himself and is engaging the suspect. (runs to catch up) Trainee has suspect, who is now charging him, at gunpoint and suspect if failing to follow all verbal commands. This is where we call “TIME OUT” – okay trainee, why are you doing what you are doing?
- The utter lack of a grasp on reality displayed by some reporters is sometimes quite amazing
- 24:21 mark – BIAS ALERT – Do you think the outcome of this investigation would have have been different two years ago?
- In other words, did this outcome only happen because of all the scrutiny law enforcement is under right now?
- Chief: “No sir, I do not”
- Let us just say even if he did, which none of us who know what really happens in these investigations would ever think, but even if he did think that, does this reporter think he would say it would have been different? This is a BS, gotcha question asked so that they can say the “Chief denies investigation would have had different outcome without public outcry.”
- 25:30 mark – BIAS ALERT – Does Corporal Wiggins face and punishment for “allowing” his trainee to be separated from him?
- Chief: “Absolutely not”
- Follow up question: “Why did he allow him to go in there by himself?”
- When I heard this question, I actually yelled at my computer screen. What an arrogant ass. The Chief explains it politely, I won’t.
Because, mister “reporter,” here on planet earth, grown adults have not only free will, but we also have limited abilities. As a training officer at an in progress crime scene, like this was, he is not only trying to do his job as a training officer, but he is also doing his job as a cop, which involves not only trying to keep track of the suspect and his trainee, but also all the other officers at the scene. Additionally, as a mere mortal human being, I highly suspect he was unable to freaking read the mind of his trainee and know what the trainee was planning on doing…
He and his trainee were supposed to be moving to the open area to establish a perimeter position, in order to contain the suspect. When he stopped to talk with the other officer (I can only presume to discuss their plan of action) , the trainee continued. The trainee upon reaching their perimeter position, screwed up and took it upon himself to enter the building, solo, which goes against all officer safety and tactical training he would have received to that point. Apparently, the training officer’s superpowers were not working, and his assuming the trainee, who was nearing the end of his field training, would have followed basic protocols is the same thing as “allowing” him to do something.
Training officers and trainees are all only human. Sometimes humans make mistakes. This question, in the way it is worded, blatantly tries to assign blame on the training officer, and thus the department. This “reporter” should be forced to attend force on force and shoot/no-shoot training before being allowed to attend another law enforcement press conference.
- 27:11 mark – Have you spoke to the former officer in person, and how was that interaction?
- Chief Johnson: “Difficult”
- Followed by a long pause, after which he goes into a little more depth after politely shushing a reporter who was trying to interrupt.
Based on all the facts known at this point, this appears to be a bad shoot. The officer involved has had his probationary employment terminated. The criminal investigation is still ongoing. Once that criminal investigation is complete, the case will be given to the District Attorney who will present it to the Grand Jury. They will determine whether or not the case goes to criminal trial. As I said already, I suspect it will.
Thus far, everything about this investigation is functioning Exactly As It Should, and just like it does in every case, with or without the media breathing down law enforcement’s neck.
It really sucks that this young man was killed, just as it would have sucked even if it were a justifiable shooting. I wish the death of a child upon no parent. No parent should have to outlive their child.
But, while the shooting is horribly regrettable, one must not dismiss the suspect’s role in his own demise.
Two people made very bad mistakes that early morning. One of those people who made mistakes instigated the entire event, and made it worse by making yet more mistakes along the way. The other person was a man working a very tough job, trying to make his community a safer place, who was put on the spot and forced to make a split second decision, and he made several mistakes as well.
The question that now remains is, did that second man’s mistakes rise to the level of a criminal offense? I suspect we will have to wait to see what a jury says about that.
As for how the Arlington, TX Police Department is handling this investigation, I have nothing but respect for them. They are quickly handling a very difficult investigation under the public microscope. Additionally, the sincerity and emotion in both Chief Johnson’s words and body language in this press conference tell it all. This is a man who not only cares about his department and the employees, but also cares about his community. He appears to me to be a man of honor and integrity. Chief Johnson appears to be a man I would be proud to work for.