Occam’s Razor is a principle of logic that says the simplest solution that accounts for all known facts is usually correct. It’s neither absolute nor necessarily easy to figure out what is fact or assumption, given many people’s tendency to replace reality with the crutch of “common sense,” but this isn’t about the joys of lex parsimoniae.
Whether it’s a picture or the story that goes with it, or a combination thereof, when what purports to be “known facts” are so inherently contradictory or nonsensical that Occam’s Razor can’t be applied, there is a problem. That’s what comes of Tim Cushing’s post at Techdirt, and it’s very ugly:
The picture of this young man is a known fact. Here are the others Tim offers:
1. He was caught shoplifting at a Wal-Mart along with his 19-year-old cousin. He was positively identified by Wal-Mart Asset Protection.
2. He was arrested and cuffed.
3. He ran from the cops before they could place him in the squad car.
But there are two more known facts:
4. He was tased.
5. He was tased in the face.
This is known because the District Attorney said so, and we accept it as fact because it’s a statement against interest.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler tells NBC10 that police officers yelled warnings at the teen and fearing for his safety, they fired a stun gun to subdue him. The D.A. says the Taser struck the boy in the face and with his hands cuffed, the boy had no way to brace himself against falling face-first.
As Tim correctly points out, “none of this adds up.” The young man’s mother says the police “brutally beat him.”
“If he did fall on his face, why does he have scrapes and bruises all over his whole face, everywhere. Why is his nose broken? Why is his nostril lifted off his face? Why is both of his eyes black and swollen?”
This adds nothing to the equation, as it’s just plain wrong, which is fine because it’s a mother talking and she’s not expected to be reasonable or objective. But we are still left with a series of contradictions that make it impossible to come up with any cogent explanation, based on the known facts, to explain what happened here.
Two questions in particular can’t be answered:
If he was running away from police, how did he get tased in the face?
If he was running away from police, how does that give rise to fear for their safety, thus justifying the use of force? Or does he mean that the officers feared for the young man’s safety?
There is one point, however, that would appear very clear. If a person is handcuffed behind his back, and then tased, he is incapable of protecting himself during his fall from severe harm. Or, if the circumstances are right, worse.
While there are many assumptions, mostly about evil cops, that people will project onto this scenario, the only solution one can come up with by applying Occam’s Razor is that the use of a taser on a handcuffed individual is likely to result in needlessly severe harm.
And if that’s the only takeaway from what happened here, it’s enough. Don’t tase handcuffed people. There is no excuse for this happening, even when the person tased is an evil Wal-Mart shoplifter and takes flight from police. Catch them. Don’t kill them.