Good Friends And Bullets, A Grimm Tale

What are friends for? Shooting, when the cop brain goes into survival mode.

Andy Grimm, who knows Shaw, said he does not want the officer to be fired, the paper reported.

“I know Jake,” he said. “I like Jake.”

And Deputy Jake Shaw likes Andy Grimm too.

“We know the deputy. This is a small town of 5,000 people … We know the deputies. We work with them on a daily basis. We have an excellent relationship with them,” he said.

So a big hug will fix everything? Not the bullet holes in Andy Grimm’s body.

A newspaper photographer from Ohio was shot Monday night by a sheriff’s deputy who apparently mistook his camera and tripod for a gun, and fired without a warning, the newspaper reported.

Grimm saw Shaw performing a traffic stop and decided to photograph the incident. Small towns are like that, and since there was no errant cow on the loose to shoot, Grimm chose to shoot Shaw. Shaw shot back.

“He said he got out, parked under a light in plain view of the deputy, with a press pass around his neck,” Dale Grimm told The Washington Post. “He was setting up his camera, and he heard pops.”

Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Jake Shaw did not give any warnings before he fired, striking Andy Grimm on the side, according to the paper.

If one could set up a science experiment to control variables for a police shooting, this would have been perfect. Good lighting. A person known to, and friendly with, the cop. A completely lawful camera tripod that might have looked mysterious to a cop despite the set up.

Pop, pop, pop.

That there was no warning seems to matter to the story teller, but why would a cop, if he believes he’s about to be shot, hesitate and alert the shooter that would prefer it not happen? If a guy is about to shoot you, you shoot first if you want to live. It’s one of those details that makes sense in the retelling, but no sense at the moment, since we know after the fact that there was no threat at all. All Shaw had to do was yell out to Grimm, “Hey, Andy, please don’t shoot me,” after which Grimm could respond, “No prob, Jake, just taking some pics.”

So much of the discussion about police shootings these days obsesses over racism, that cops are more afraid of black men because they irrationally believe them to be more dangerous and criminal-y than others. Consequently, they leap to false and baseless assumptions about their harmful motives and take pre-emptive action. They shoot too soon. They shoot well before there is any objective basis to believe that their life is threatened, then make up a story about how they feared for their life by whatever mysterious movement they can cobble together.

But there was no mysterious, dangerous black guy here. There was a friend. A known news photographer. A guy with a camera and a tripod. And his pal Jake filled him with lead anyway.

The newspaper echoed the same sentiments of sympathy toward the officer and posted a message on its Facebook page asking its readers and followers to refrain from making harsh comments about Shaw.

“On behalf of our entire family, we thank you for all of the kind messages. One other thing. Please don’t mean mouth the deputy. Andy said he doesn’t want Jake to lose his job over this,” the paper wrote.

It’s easy, and to some extent, accurate to call Shaw a coward, but it’s also unfair in a sense. Shaw was no more a coward than many other cops who prematurely pulled the trigger rather than risk any chance of violating the First Rule of Policing. No matter how many shoot/don’t shoot drills are performed, when the fear strikes, you make the choice of risking your life for theirs. As killer cop Betty Shelby said, “better to be judged by 12 than carried by six.”

The problem isn’t race, or Shaw, or tripods. As long as we try to blame the wrong things, the problem won’t be fixed. The problems is cops are too fearful, too self-protective, too quick to pre-emptively shoot based on ignorance because cops won’t suffer any risk. No matter how close friends you may be, like Andy Grimm was with Jake Shaw, it won’t stop a bullet fired out of ignorance and fear.

10 thoughts on “Good Friends And Bullets, A Grimm Tale

  1. B. McLeod

    As with crimes, the victims of bad shootings shouldn’t think they get to award the bad actor a “pass.” The danger is to the public, and the issue belongs to the public, and the department needs to take care of it before Jake kills a half dozen citizens with his Barney Fifery.

    1. SHG Post author

      But is Jake a bad cop, or more precisely, any worse than most cops? No, this isn’t about Andy’s feelings toward his friend, but it’s also not about one cop who shot too quickly either.

      1. B. McLeod

        It may be not about one cop, but in the current legal framework (which departments themselves have no ability to change), it is going to have to be dealt with as a one-off, or not at all.

            1. SHG Post author

              On the contrary, the Nine can write opinions and it won’t change a damn thing when it comes time to pull the trigger. No cop is going to be willing to die to avoid potential liability that his municipality will pay off anyway.

              What can change things are the Finest growing a pair and promoting a culture of don’t shoot at the slightest potential possible hint of a threat based on your not having a clue what’s going on but you’re too much of a scaredy-cat to wait until you do.

  2. Pingback: Reevaluating Police Shootings • Rejecting Rationality

  3. SMG

    So is the real answer then to understand “why” cops are so terrified on the job, in spite of all of the training and drills they go through?

    I know this may be a bit of a leap – but the only thing that puts an officers life in immediate danger in these situations, is the potential of a firearm in the hands of their target. At least this is what I always hear them citing as a reason to shoot first and assess the situation second.

    When do we start the discussion about 2nd amendment rights and possible effects those rights are having on our society, in relation to all of these police shootings? Is it even part of this equation? Sounds like there is a direct correlation to me…

    Maybe its just easier to say that the media has sensationalized gun violence on the news every night for 30 or 40 years and we should blame them for the perception that “everyone has a gun, and is willing to use it”. Like wise, perhaps these police shootings are being sensationalized currently and they are not as rampant as we are led to believe?

    I don’t have answers and I don’t presume to know anything more about the topic or the intricacies of each shooting from a viewpoint other than what i can find from as many news sources as I am able to stomach wading through. I’m just here to read, learn and expand my horizons. My questions are honest and sincere, if a bit naive or simplistic.

    1. SHG Post author

      Maybe one of the cop readers would be kind enough to answer some of these questions as to what goes through their heads.

      1. phv3773

        I’m not a cop, but I was involved in military analysis enough to know that the usual pattern is 1) target detection, 2) classification (friend for foe), ….some other stuff, including aiming, …, Fire. Many of the cases that have been in the news are failures at the classification step. I have seen stories about some police training exercises that are focused on classification, but you hear much more about warnings that being wrong or late can get you killed. I don’t know whether a shift in emphasis during training would help, but the plain fact is that the classifying friend or foe quickly is damn hard.

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