An unarmed man, six foot four inches tall weighing 303 pounds is shot dead by local police. Prior to the shooting, the officer, himself of average height and build was attacked twice by the assailant. A physical struggle had become necessary for the officer to retain possession of his firearm. The officer eventually gained control of his weapon and the assailant is alleged to retreat. Something in the mindset of the assailant encouraged him to reengage the police officer, a fatal decision. It is alleged the assailant’s hands are raised in surrender.
What transpired during and after the incident is not a mystery. It is logical in the mindset of a police officer who has been attacked in similar circumstances. Confronting a person with the physical characteristics of a World Wrestling performer and having the ability to inflict great physical harm is more than a challenge. The officer, if average size, is at a tremendous disadvantage. Body size is a crucial element in physical confrontations.
Looking back at my career, I recognize that if I had been any smaller I would not be writing this now. There is not a salary paid that equates to fighting for our lives. In Ferguson, the officer was reportedly treated for a fractured eye socket sustained during the encounter.
The deceased was the suspected perpetrator of an unarmed robbery. The televised video indicates he robbed a store and assaulted the clerk, stealing $50 worth of cigars about 15 minutes before he was shot.
Much has been said about the officer not knowing of the robbery and nonetheless confronting the deceased in broad daylight, in the middle of the street. Police do not customarily use physical force for J-walking, especially on a perpetrator nearly twice our size, nor do we start the day planning a shooting. The officer’s service record will reveal how many confrontations he has had over J-walking.
The gunshot wounds to the victim, six in all, were from the front. He was not retreating or running away, he decided to reengage the officer. It is reasonable to deduct that the two head wounds of the deceased are the final wounds. The other four wounds are in the right hand and arm. I suggest the four arm wounds are the beginning of a string of discharged bullets indicating the officer was bringing his weapon up to a firing position with necessary haste.
If he had his weapon trained on the deceased, intending on execution as alleged, I doubt if he had been aiming at the victim’s hand. If the victim’s hands were raised, as alleged, it would be a little improbable that the officer was aiming over the victim’s head, firing as he brought the weapon down. The bullet trajectory will be assessed and should reveal the position of the arm when it was wounded. The bullet trajectory of the head wounds should reveal additional. If the deceased was not advancing on the officer, the officer would have had time for more calculated marksmanship -- the wounds indicate a rapid deployment and discharge of the weapon.
Much of the above is my opinion, based on my own experiences as a police officer. Certainly not an opinion is the ongoing media circus and the parade of politicians and civil rights leaders visiting Ferguson who, with the promise of justice for the deceased, are recklessly convicting the officer before the investigation is even concluded.
Peter Risatti is a former police and military officer.