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by Peter Moskos

October 1, 2014

Utah shooting of unarmed man justified

Dillon Taylor was another unarmed white boy shot and killed by police. In (mostly) conservative circles, Dillon Taylor was compared to Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri. In some liberal circles, people believe police only shoot and kill black people. But Taylor, who is white, got almost no press (and I think the officer who shot him was hispanic). Michael Brown was black (and shot by a white officer). There were protests about both shootings (no looting in Utah), but unless you make an effort to follow these things, you've probably never heard of Taylor.

Comparing Taylor and Brown, one person wrote:
But they are alike in this important way: Neither young man deserved to die that day. Neither Michael Brown nor Dillon Taylor was convicted of a crime related to their activities on their last days, and even if they were, it wouldn't be a capital crime. And this doesn't appear to be an uncommon mistake.
Well leaving aside what "common" means, a police officer does not shoot you because of the crime you did or did not commit. You are justifiably shot because a reasonable police officer believes you to be an imminent and potentially lethal threat

To be clear, Taylor was not armed (nor was Brown). But Taylor sure doesn't act like like he's no threat. Taylor was -- and acted like -- an armed criminal. Still, knowing only that Taylor did not have a gun when he was shot, anti-police folk went out and filled in their ignorance with their ideology. The inevitable conclusion: police are to blame.

But comparing the homicide of Taylor and Brown, there is one important difference: the officer who shot Taylor was wearing a body camera! As is usually the case, the video shows exactly what police claimed to have happened. We'll never for sure what happened in the moments before Brown was shot: Here's the Taylor shooting:

The shooting was declared justified. This is maybe not the best shooting, as Taylor was eventually raising his shirt, presumably to show he wasn't armed. I also can't see Taylor's right hand, which could change things. But at some point it seems to me that Taylor is doing the old "life your shirt to show you're not armed" thing. So it does seem unfortunate to shoot a guy when he finally does comply with "getting his hands out." But there was a period of non-compliance. And then there sure was a quick move from a concealing waistband. And had Taylor been armed, and I think a reasonable officer had good reason to believe Taylor was armed, then yes, this is a justified shooting.

There are certain things you have to take on the job: dumb people; dirty people; violent people. But a depressed criminal idiot (perhaps with a death wish), playing "I might have a gun on me" is not one of them. Still, though I'm willing to give the officer on scene the benefit of the doubt, well, like I said, it's not the best shooting. But yes, I think it is justified.

Many people don't realize how many idiots police deal with. As a police officer, more than once I was approached by a kid (always on a bike) who would quickly reach into his waistband and act like he was pulling a gun to shoot me. Honestly, driving toward them, I never had time to react. Also, they were young teenagers. And unarmed. Still, it's the kind of dumb move that can get you killed.

And yet when I've told seemingly smart people (who are far removed from ghetto policing) that this happened a few times, they stare at me in disbelief. They simply can't believe that anybody, much less a unarmed young black male, would do something so potentially lethally stupid as pretend to pull a gun out and shoot a cop. And yet that attitude was routine enough that I didn't even deem it worth mentioning it in my book. It was just some real life FATS training, I suppose.

It was more common, it might be worth pointing out in this post, for young men to routinely (and without any prompting from me) raise their t-shirts to show they were not armed. That move would baffle ride-alongs.

[For what it's worth, I strongly suspect that police who work in violent areas -- and though those officers will be involved in more shootings overall -- those same officers will shoot fewer unarmed people because those officers are acculturated to a certain level of danger. Those cops who work the tough beat have more experience and less fear. I have no idea how to test this killer hypothesis.]


Anonymous said...

Let this be an instructional video for wanabe thugs. Don't follow officers' instructions, act suspisously, and make quick threatening movements and bad things might happen.

PCM said...

Indeed. Good advice.

And I'd love to see their in-service training!

Anonymous said...

and I think the officer who shot him was black

Nope, he's hispanic.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and reaching into his waistband and intimating a gun was par for the course for this suspect.


Third District Court records show that Taylor pleaded guilty to a reduced count of second-degree felony robbery in connection to thefts at a Beto’s restaurant and another 7-Eleven in South Salt Lake in May of 2012. Taylor’s co-defendant grabbed the tip jar at Beto’s, according to court documents. About an hour later, Taylor’s co-defendant stole a case of beer at a 7-Eleven at 2700 S. Adams St. (450 East). When the clerk followed him to a car, Taylor placed a hand into his waistband and told the man, "Don’t be a hero ... or I’ll ... shoot you," according to court documents.

PCM said...

Thanks for the correction about the race of the officer. Corrected.

David Woycechowsky said...

He was complying* and he did not take a long time to comply. A couple seconds delay in compliance is not non-compliance. Rather, it is comprehending and registering what the policeman is barking at one. Same thing goes even more for the WAL*MART shooting.

"Imperfect" self-defense is manslaughter, and that is what I think the video tends to show.**

* Might feel differently if we could see his right hand.

** See previous footnote.

Anonymous said...

He's not complying, he replies to multiple commands of "show me your hands" with "no, fool" and reaches into his waistband. It's specifically discussed by the DA in this article, which shows the vid with sound.


David Woycechowsky said...

what he meant is ambiguuous.

"no, fool, [I ain't got no glock]."

"no fool [don't shoot me]"

"no, fool [I just minding my own bizzle, popizzle]"


Multiple commands don't mean anything when there is no real chance to comply timewise. Again, same as with the "multiple commands" in the WAL*MART slaying. "Multiple commands" is not some kind of magic spell that makes a person able to respond to a barking policeman whom you are surprised to see drawing down on you, itchy finger on the trigger. DA is protecting executive branch colleague.

Anonymous said...

So you think he's saying "no" to something that's not actually being said to him? The claim of no time to comply seems hard to square with the fact that two other people are with him and are able to comply immediately. Your claim that the DA is doing favors for law enforcement would get a laugh in this county. He's brought charges on cops multiple times and is largely regarded by the cops out here as anti police.

Anonymous said...

The Kid would not have been shot like this in any European Country, or Canada or Australia.
Think about that.
Scared cops in this country, with shoot first, ask questions later.