Every time a cop kills a person, there’s a story. The problem is that sometimes, it’s hard to come up with a story that makes much sense, but there’s still a dead body on the ground and a cop whose brain is whirling a million miles an hour. You can’t kill a guy and just say, “oops.” Even among cops, it’s frowned upon.
So when an unnamed Downey, California, police officer shot and killed an unarmed Michael Nida, he did the best he could.
A Downey officer responding to the Saturday night robbery call spotted Michael Nida, a 31-year-old unarmed father of four who matched the description of the suspect, said Lt. Dave Dolson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has taken over the shooting investigation.
Customers at a nearby ATM had been robbed at gunpoint minutes earlier and Dolson said it was believed Nida was the suspect.
“It very well looks like it could be a matter of perception,” Dolson told KNX radio. “This individual somewhat matches the description of an armed robber who robbed people at the ATM.”
Somewhat matches the description is awfully vague. Maybe he was a human being of the male persuasion, walking upright, just like the ATM bandit?
Family members told CBS News station KCBS-TV that Nida had jaywalked across a busy street to buy cigarettes as his wife bought gas. Nida was spotted by a Downey officer, who said he was acting suspiciously. The officer asked Nida to sit down.
“He got up and ran away,” Dolson said.
Guys who jaywalk will do that, you know. Act suspiciously, I mean. And run away from a cop because he didn’t want to go down on jaywalking. They take jaywalking very seriously in California.
Nida was found a short distance away and officers ordered him to get on the ground, but he got up and ran again, Dolson said. Officers never checked Nida for a weapon and, believing he was armed, an officer shot him, the lieutenant said. No gun was found.
When a guy flees once, he’s just your run of the mill jaywalker. Twice? Well, that’s a threat if ever there was one.
The officer apparently “believed in his mind that this man presented quite a danger to the people around him,” Dolson said.
And really, a guy running away from a bunch of cops with guns because of jaywalking, because you have to remember that Nida knew nothing about the ATM robbery, is obviously the sort of thing that makes a cop “believe in his mind” (as opposed the various other places a cop might be inclined to believe) that he’s about to go on a murderous spree and harm everyone around them, cops included.
This may be one of the all-time worst stories ever devised to justify a police shooting. There is nothing, no part of it, that rings true. And it goes from ridiculous to absurd, and yet what makes it so significant is that everyone, most notably the investigating officer at the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, talks about it without breaking out laughing.
Sure, it means that the unnamed Downey cop (who is likely going on long term leave at full pay for therapeutic purposes given the traumatic stress of killing an innocent, unarmed man) didn’t have a throwaway to plant on Nida. Boy, wouldn’t that have made life simpler?
If nothing else, couldn’t he have come up with a story that amused? Maybe armed space aliens?
That Michael Nida lies dead for having the misfortune of coming within the line of fire of this unnamed Downey cop is tragic. He had a family. He had four children. When a cop goes down, there’s a fund for the children. It’s unlikely that the police will start a fund for Nida’s children. They won’t get a medal for their father being a hero. They will just go to a funeral and walk away wondering why this had to happen.
The family has started a fund to give Nida a “proper burial.” They probably didn’t expect that he would be shot and killed by a Downey cop for jaywalking and hadn’t saved enough money to lay him to rest. Maybe they’ll get an anonymous donation with a Downey postmark.
The least the unnamed Downey cop could have done is come up with a better story. This one sucks.
H/T Radley Balko