James Weyant, a 46-year-old with underwear issues, was shot when confronted by an Altoona, Pennsylvania, police officer in an alley at about four in the morning. It seems Weyant was carrying his pair of guitar hero boxers in his hand because the waist band had stretched some and they no longer stayed put. The officer, Mark Sprouse, mistook the underpants for a gun and shot Weyant.
Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio said in June that Sprouse was investigating the “suspicious actions of a civilian in a dark alley” when the officer was confronted by a man holding black underwear that appeared at the time to be a weapon.
Sprouse was cleared of any wrongdoing. Or as Turley explains it:
The officer said that he mistook the shorts as a weapon, a claim that was accepted by the police review board composed of representatives of the police department and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy is not happy about the new concealed carry laws in Illinois. And now he is predicting that police will shoot citizens who are lawfully carrying firearms.
During an interview with WVON radio McCarthy made some very bold statements that show his disdain for the 2nd amendment.
“You put more guns on the street expect more shootings,” McCarthy said. “I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms, people who are not highly trained… putting guns in their hands is a recipe for disaster. So I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.”
But there is a constitutional right under the Second Amendment? You bet there is, and that’s what makes this particularly problematic. Not only does the law not require a police officer to wait until he sees a muzzle flash before acting in self-defense, but the First Rule of Policing demands he take no crazy chance at all. If it’s perfectly reasonable to shoot a guy for walking about with underpants in hand, there is no way the glint of steel doesn’t draw a bullet.
The story comes via a gun blog Guns ‘n’ Freedom, an excellent name if you’re a fan of guns and, well, freedom. The post culminates in this point:
While it’s a sad truth that police officers do sometime make mistakes and shoot the wrong person, predicting that his training will result in gun carrying citizens being shot is way over the line.
The contention is that Garry McCarthy’s “threat” is intended to intimidate gun folks to either not get concealed carry permits or not carry guns for fear of being shot, perhaps killed, by police. And no doubt, that’s what McCarthy has in mind when he tells gun folks that they’re going to die.
But McCarthy’s point, that no cop is going to wait until a guy with a gun identifies himself as a law-abiding, Second-Amendment loving, American or a skel bent on harming a cop before invoking the First Rule is real. Gun rights advocates, freedom advocates, can call it “over the top,” but no cop will await the bullet headed his way to find out.
Much of what gets posted here involves police violence, whether the product of malevolence or stupidity, where someone is needlessly harmed or killed at the hands of police who could have done far better in the performance of their duties. The point McCarthy raises reaches the line where it becomes hard to explain how a police officer is wrong to shoot. When he’s staring down a gun barrel rather than boxer shorts, the situation is substantively different.
Others are far more knowledgeable about guns than I am, and perhaps they have an idea about how this bottom line is resolved. Do people with concealed carry weapons keep them holstered? If so, then what’s the point in having them? Do they propose that cops be required to yell “drop the weapon” before shooting? That doesn’t seem adequate if a gun is pointed at them, as it only takes a fraction of a second for a trigger to be pulled, and somewhere in mid-word the bullet can strike them.
And yet the argument about rights and freedoms can’t be ignored. There is no right if it can’t be exercised. There is no right if the penalty for exercising it is death. It strikes me that McCarthy makes a sound point that there will be tragedy stemming from Chicago’s concealed carry law, and yet there will be a different kind of tragedy, the loss of freedom, if people are afraid to exercise their rights.
The bottom line is that no cop will be punished for defending himself at the sight of a gun pointed at him, regardless of whether the person holding that gun does so lawfully. And no argument to the contrary is going to stop that cop’s bullet. Ending up dead is no way to celebrate freedom, and there doesn’t appear to be any way to prevent it from happening.