When “Hands Up” Is The Last Thing You Do

Among the many rules of engagement, surrender is the most universal.  In war, it’s understood no matter what language you speak.  At home, it’s how a guy who has done wrong ends it.  Surrender is where the threat stops and everyone takes a deep breath.

It’s the point where no one, no matter how badly you screwed up before, no matter what harm you did, gets killed. And the universal sign for surrender is to raise your hands in the air.  In Pinal County, Arizona, that got Manuel Longoria two bullets that ended his life.  Via Carlos Miller at Photography is Not a Crime:

The reporting is horrendously bad, but the video makes the point.  It doesn’t matter whether Longoria did the worst thing ever seen in Pinal County or not. He raised his hands in the air, and then he felt bullets enter his body as life left it.

The original excuse was on page one of the sheriff’s media guide:

“Officers and deputies attempted to use less lethal means to take him into custody including firing several bean bag rounds and Taser deployments. The suspect refused to obey the commands and suddenly reached back into the vehicle. A deputy felt the suspect was reaching for the gun he reportedly had, so he then fired two rounds.”

But when they put out the press release, nobody at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department knew there was a video that would put the lie to their claims.  So they turned to the back page of the guide, the part entitled “troubleshooting,” to figure out what to do when the shit hits the fan.  And the Sheriff himself, Paul Babeu, stepped in the save the day:

However, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu insists the man should have been killed much earlier because he wasn’t complying with their orders.

Oddly, there is a kernel of truth in there. While there is nothing to show that Longoria did anything worthy of death, it’s possible that the police might have had cause to shoot before Longoria put his hands in the air.

After all, the First Rule of Policing: If an officer “hesitates,” he “could die,” as Sheriff Babeu openly says.  The First Rule isn’t a big secret, really.  It’s just that people who aren’t law enforcement officers don’t appreciate that their making it home for dinner trumps your making it home alive.

And this happened after a car chase.  It seems to happen with brutal regularity after car chases. It’s still unclear to me why that is.

But what doesn’t seem to strike the sheriff about the killing of Manuel Longoria is that they didn’t shoot him while he presented a threat.  They didn’t kill him during the car chase. They didn’t kill him because he had a weapon in his hand. In fact, he had no weapon, but then, the police couldn’t know that and there is little that gives them greater latitude to kill than ignorance.

More to the point, there is no argument to be made that Manuel Longoria, hands in the air, presented a threat.

But a former DPS and Scottsdale Police Officer Jess Torrez disagreed after viewing the video.

“You have multiple police officers on the scene and only one person makes the shot. That tells me that other officers at the scene did not feel there was justification to use deadly physical force,” said Torrez.

Perhaps because they understood what was meant by hands in the air?

Torrez said despite Longoria’s behavior during the chase and initial part of the standoff, the only actions that were central to a decision to shoot, occurred right before the deputy opened fire.

“Officers are taught to look at the hands first and foremost. So if his hands are up in the air, he doesn’t have anything in them. How do they justify using deadly force?” asked Torrez.

It’s not a question.  There is no presumption that officers need to justify the shooting of a bad dude. That’s just public relations. The guy is dead. The deputy is alive. The rest is just details.

Except the shooting of a man with his hands in the air, even if there was cause to shoot earlier, presents a problem that Sheriff Babeu fails to recognize.  The First Rule of Policing demands that no risk, no potential threat, be suffered if there is any chance that an officer might be harmed.  Respecting the universal sign of surrender works to the officer’s benefit by ending the threat.

Instead, a message was sent by the shooter.  Surrender, raise you hands in the air, and you will still die. This undermines the point of surrender, to end the conflict.  This tells the person who police think could hurt them that they will not respect the universal sign of surrender, and that surrender is futile.

This tells the person that there is nothing he can do to bring the threat to an end while continuing to live.  And if that’s the case, then the only option is to fight to the death.  After all, if he’s going to die anyway, then he might as well die fighting.

And while that may, and likely will, mean that the person will not survive the confrontation, it may also mean that an officer will die too.  That violates the First Rule of Policing.

Is that what you meant to do here, Sheriff Babeu?  Did you mean to put the lives of your deputies at risk by sending the message that people can’t surrender in Pinal County and expect to live?  Did you mean to tell people that they might as well kill your deputies since they’re going to die anyway?

That’s a very bad message, Sheriff.  A very bad message indeed.

H/T Tim Cushing

29 thoughts on “When “Hands Up” Is The Last Thing You Do

      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        Nah. The flag is obviously a distraction device designed to give the suspect an advantage and provide concealment for his weapons.

        The First Rule would still apply.

        I intend on using this in my posts, but I’m too ticked off right now to write something that is reasonably coherent.

  1. Marc R

    “And this happened after a car chase… It’s still unclear to me why that is.”

    I’ve noticed that too. Officers I’ve spoken with say they are often very upset at the risk a suspect places the general public in during a high-speed pursuit. That must get their adrenaline pumping. If your hormones are altered, perhaps from HGH or steroids, your heart pumps even faster and seeing white it’s nearly impossible to calm down. It was one officer, in this case, who fired at the suspect. The percent chance his FOP union rep let him get drug tested?

  2. Lurker

    This would be a war crime, had that man been an enemy combatant. The justification to use lethal force is always situational. Even enemies can only be killed if they are a) legal combatants who are not actively surrendering or b) illegal combatants taking active part to hostilities.

    Now, the police are using the justification “He should have been killed even earlier.” This would fly if the man were an enemy. But even then, he would have lost the combatant status by raising his hands into air. By leaving himself to the mercy of his captors, he would have become a non-combatant, and entitled to protection. But now this man was no enemy, but a citizen. “Should have been killed earlier” should not work as a defence, but as an admission of premeditated malice.

  3. Rick Horowitz

    If this isn’t murder, then what is? If shooting someone who has raised his hands in surrender is okay, then what is NOT okay?

    I mean, really. I don’t even know what else to say without violating some kind of rule.

    1. Brett Middleton

      Not okay? Hmmm. Shooting an unarmed man (Jonthan Ferrell) who is approaching you to ask for help after running his car off the road? Oh, wait … that officer was just doing his job. Nevermind.

      That said, I do have to wonder if the deputy really had time to process the act of surrender, given the very brief time between when the hands were raised and the shots were fired. Longoria was still moving and turning as he raised his hands, and it looks like the deputy fired just as he went still. If the deputy had made the decision to shoot a couple of seconds before Longoria raised his hands, then he may have been pretty focused on getting a clear shot at the center of mass of a moving target in a crowded environment, at which point he just didn’t realize the significance of what Longoria was doing with his hands.

      While “tunnel vision” may not be an acceptable excuse, I can certainly see it happening under those circumstances. It isn’t as clearly a case of deliberate murder as it would be if the deputy had waited several seconds before firing.

      1. SHG Post author

        That’s a very common, and very dangerous, rationalization. Cops often speak to the adrenalin pumping that compels them to act without fully processing what’s going on around or in front of them. The problem is that the outcome is always the same: Dead person killed by cop for no good reason. That is not an acceptable outcome.

  4. Jyjon

    I wish I could say I was shocked by the polices attitude, especially in the news report. Not be a lawyer though, or involved intimately with the legal field, perhaps there is something I’m missing. I was not aware that being stupid, doing something that risks others lives as well as your own is a capitol offense and that summary execution was an acceptable way to dispense justice. What I learned about the law in school is extremely different than how it really is practiced.

  5. John Barleycorn

    Inside out and upside down enforcement is peace.

    Getting any warm fuzzy feelings that even nearly approach a political wing damn?

    This is not order nor law and this post is neither unique nor a particularly decent attempt to spotlight the “first rule” and it’s “orderly” consequences.

    “Universal symbols of surrender” need to be reciprocal by common experience and acknowledged as such otherwise they simply do not exist.

    Yes? I get your post but checking in at your leisure does not create outrage that is translatable to this reader.

    Overwhelming is a doctrine and force will continue to be a chaperone for as long as it works. I trust you have been putting your name forth to be a judge.

    Generation or three in the making and perhaps 3/4 of that if I were being optimistic to comprehend some semblance of balance, for whatever it may be, again.

    Wicked truth to your endeavors here?
    You are all here nearly to a fault following your daily curiosities.

    “They” are coming but not here yet.
    Yes. Way more to that and real on the ground right now acknowledged.

    Not your readership anyway. Your uneasy angst stubbornly wanting to plant a literal post in the dirt that will with any luck yield some sanity if we survive gracefully through a hopefully “moderate” Hegelian leap of consciousness.

    Strap in and chill this weekend.
    You need to seriously start clearing your head a few days a week. (Unsolicited, unknown, and not warranted). Just saying.

    Exercise some tunes this weekend. Yeah, it’s a bad idea considering your almost freaky consistency, but fuck it, if the children born five years ago hack on through to the other side you might blow their mind.

    Not with your tunes but your full head of hair. WELL, HopefullY the tunes too but I am holding out for musical wing dams that turn it all inside out again.

    This post of yours is rightfully with indignation but if you are going to go there I am certain you will need more than a defense attorneys hat to mill the grain which this post tragically displays.

    Hey Grandpa? Or one day might be Grandpa, your grandchildren will never appreciate the monthly server fees. But they will know intuitively.

    Keep putting it in jars.


  6. william doriss

    Penned at 2:58 a.m., somewhere. That should tell you something; says everything. Keep on truckin’, John, and don’t give up the ship. Which will not happen if you’re strapped in, or strapped on. Monday is a long way off.

    1. SHG Post author

      Not posted in reply to any comment. Not offering anything of substance that would make anyone smarter for having read it. Not comprehensible. Not funny. Not thoughtful.

      Not worth my bandwidth.

    2. John Barleycorn

      Mean Times at the Greenwich Reformatory but it’s all good they still give us eggs and bacon on Saturdays.

  7. william doriss

    In response to JB, above. You coulda figured that out. We’ve been thru this before, not just with me. It’s an easy mistake.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes, I knew who it was to. But it’s not other people’s job to clean up your mistakes. It’s an easy mistake. It’s also not very hard to get it right. We have been through this before, and I’m point out why you have these problems. And you’ve done it again here. Do you think you’re worth the high maintenance? If you want to comment, then don’t put me to this much effort.

      1. william doriss

        Yes, I realize that it is my responsibility, being a frequent commenter, to try not to turn your comments into incomprehensible rubbish by taking JB’s comments a step or two farther down the rabbit hole of sheer insanity. I also appreciate that this is a serious post about a serious problem, and that I have diminished its message because of my own compulsion to engage in nonsensical and absurdly unrelated commentary for my own amusement.

        Finally, I appreciate that this is your blog, not mine, and that I am here at your sufferance. I appreciate that you allow me to comment occasionally, and I will strive in the future to not devolve into lunacy, but rather to add something remotely resembling a relevant and cognizable thought to the discussion. You have been too kind to me, and I have been unworthy of your kindness. My apologies.

        [Ed. Note: I fixed your comment for you.]

  8. JohnS

    A nagging thought: Both in this incident, and in the earlier posted Dallas incident, setting aside the post-shoot CYA, is there any objective evidence that the cop actually intended to fire?

    No. I am NOT blaming the gun. (That is another issue.) But in at least some of these cases, are they actually >inadvertent<? I don't like the word 'accidental', but its could be somewhat accurate. That is, the cop was holding a live gun, safety off, round in the chamber, when startled, twitched the trigger, and somebody intercepted the unintended slug.

    Set aside the First Rule and Ambiguity Rider problems, to what extent do we have an undetected (or at least unadmitted) accidental shooting problem.

    Having said that, even if accurate, it is still a culpability problem because mostly everybody in uniform is lying like a rug about the facts of the incidents.
    But at least it is not all callous malice (is that the same as depraved indifference?).

    On the other hand, I hear myself suggesting that we have a better situation when we have an epidemic of inadvertent shootings followed by official lying as opposed to intentional shootings followed by official lying.

    My head hurts.


      1. ExCop-LawStudent

        There is no such thing as an accidental discharge. There are negligent discharges, but not accidental ones. The gun does not fire without a finger on the trigger and the safety off (or no safety).

        The problem is that when the stress rate goes up, you lose fine motor control – and don’t realize that you are gripping the gun tighter, in a death grip. If your finger is on the trigger, the gun discharges.

        Muscle memory kicks in and a first shoot is followed by a second, just like the officer is taught.

        1. SHG Post author

          Muscle memory kicks in and a first shoot is followed by a second, just like the officer is taught.

          Too bad that when they’re taught, inter alia, not to shoot people with their hands in the air, there is no muscle memory for that. They are taught that, right?

          1. JohnS

            The problem with the formulation of your question is it still has an element of volition in it.

            I am asking whether at least some of these are non-volitional shoots.

            I would posit these to be a subset of the larger set of scene-of-incident gun discharges, most of which go into the ground, air, buildings, cars, other cops, etc. and disappear into the police report noise.

            I think it is important to make this distinction because if we have two distinct problems we need two distinct solutions:

            If the problem is volitional shooting where there is no justification (whether the police community agrees or not) is one issue, with one solution.

            If the issue is non-volitional shooting the solution is completely different.

            In the first situation you have what are effectively artificial psychopaths in uniform.

            In the second the problem is fundamentally combat safety procedures.

            All I’m arguing is that you have to correctly identify the problem(s) before you can fix it(them).


            1. SHG Post author

              I’m not arguing anything in my comment. I’m responding to the comment above by ex-cop in a slightly wry, perhaps even satirical, fashion. The internet is renown for its occasional snarky responses.

              My premise is in the post, not in comments steps removed. If you are unclear, you should reread the post (with particular focus on the First Rule of Policing). But I do not, nor have I ever, contend this was anything but volitional. Nor, in fact, did ex-cop say that. He merely clarified a tangential detail based upon his personal experience.

              That said, I do not, nor have I ever, suggest that police are “artificial psychopaths in uniform.” They are human being, with the added distinction of being part of a culture that honors the First Rule of Policing above all else.

            2. ExCop-LawStudent

              I understood what you were doing and saying.

              I certainly do not believe that you feel officers are psychopaths. You’re right about the culture. One thing that the culture never considers is the right of the citizen to go home at the end of the contact with the police. It just never occurs to them.

          2. ExCop-LawStudent

            Police very rarely work on shoot-don’t shoot scenarios.

            The only law enforcement agency of any type that I know of which does it is the Air Force. Their Security Police (MPs) have to go through a shoot-don’t shoot simulation. The only passing score is 100% accuracy, but that is in their initial training.

            Occasionally a PD will do that type of training at the range, but in 20 years, I only remember it happening once or twice. Not nearly enough.

            There are training systems out there, but departments think that they are too expensive, both in initial costs and in time and personnel costs. It’s cheaper to pay damages, especially considering that they rarely have to pay those.

  9. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, one would assume that any & all law enforcement training (CHL & additional follow up classes) would automatically include an instructor vocally stating numerous times and in writing via handbooks, manuals & film footage to – Don’t rush towards the action, instead, take cover behind, under, or next to a fixed object and then take aim with the tip of your finger next to the Death Hole. Never insert your trigger finger into the Death Hole as you bark out instructions (unless there is an object clearly in hand, aim slight downward and off to the side an inch or so). If you were to twitch, fart, sneeze, swat a bug, or your cell phone buzzes next to your left nut – no one is going to get accidentally shot on purpose. Oh, and try to avoid the urge to shoot (double tap) the ones pulling up baggy pants.

    (or) place photos of the police cadets or trainers themselves on to the heads of target silhouettes during live fire pop-up training and let them apologize to their accidental victims in front of the class. I know, too easy.

    And, apparently, one would be wrong in a tuff on crime – take no prisoners, we got your bad back era. What’s surprising is the lack of a nation wide unrest or interest being exhibited by taxpayers and humans in general especially when video or eye witnesses disproves official reports and subsequent excuses. Thanks.

    R.I.P. Mr. Longoria

    1. Heywood James

      Four minutes before the fatal shooting, PCSO deputies were ordered on radio to back out of the pursuit since it was initiated by a local agency and it was getting dangerous.

      Deputy Rankin chose to continue in the pursuit, against his agency’s orders. Had he complied, this shooting probably wouldn’t have happened. Deputy Rankin wouldn’t have even been on scene. No one else shot at Longoria.

      Bad shooting, bad cop. This wasn’t his first wrongful use-of-force incident.

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