This guy is going 90 mph so I pull him
over. He is irate, apparently at me, and although I have never seen
him before in my life, he wants me to kill him. What I’m really
afraid of is that he will try to kill me first.
He’s white, 30s, driving an SUV, and that’s
all I really recall. I guess he said he intended to
shoot me, but I don’t remember that. I don’t remember much,
including how many bullets I fired into him before he slumped to
This is a drill, only a drill, on a
training simulator a few weeks ago in the basement of the Bremerton
Police Department. At this point, nobody associated Pasco with
Ferguson or Staten Island.
Although questions about the use of force
by police have been steadily in the center of the national
consciousness since the shooting death of Michael Brown by a
Missouri city police officer in August, the fatal shooting Tuesday
of a rock-throwing man by police in the Tri-Cities has brought the
discussion home again.
The scenario is projected on a wall. An
officer at the controls can escalate or tone down the situation,
the weapons on my “belt” are borrowed from Laser Tag, but for our
purposes they are a Taser and a Glock.
The man who just led me on a 90 mph chase
to a residential neighborhood is screaming at me, telling me to
“C’mon!” he keeps screaming at me.
I keep telling him to calm down, just calm
down and we can talk about it. He keeps screaming. He’s going back
to the truck. What has he got in the truck? He’s not listening to
me, he’s out of control. I reach for my Taser.
Showing the public the scenario training
demonstrates to non-cops the preheated conflicts officers
waltz into, however, Police Chief Steve Strachan said it isn’t
meant to shock people into concluding the police are always right.
They are human, Strachan said, they make mistakes and should be
held accountable. The point of training is to reduce mistakes.
In the same way police work to understand
the challenges of dealing with a diverse population, including the
mentally ill, he said showing city officials, ministers and a
reporter the exercises can expand the discussion. It can help the
public understand how police train to secure the safety of others,
themselves and choose the appropriate level of force under
“It isn’t to say anything the police do is
justified,” Strachan said. “Because it isn’t.”
It is, however, terrifying.
Bremerton City Councilwoman Leslie Daugs
talked down a disturbed man holding a gun to his head, while
training her gun on him.
“Oh my God, I’m sweating,” she said after
the man put the gun down.
Even with unarmed people, situations can
spin out of control. In addition to weapons, lethal and non-lethal,
officers use their hands, but they are limited to their size,
strength and speed. If they choose the wrong person to grapple
with, their weapons can be used against them.
“Every time I’m in fight with a guy who is
unarmed, there is still a gun in that fight,” said Officer Duke
Currently, a fatal June shooting of Thomas
Daniel Rogers, 36, by Port Orchard Police is under review by
Prosecutor Tina Robinson. Police had gone to arrest Rogers on
felony warrants from Oklahoma for sexually assaulting children.
Rogers, who investigators said was armed with a kitchen knife,
allegedly wounded one officer in the encounter. In an eerie
coincidence, in October, Rogers’ brother, Jason Rogers, 35,
was fatally shot by police in Oklahoma following up a domestic
violence report. Jason Rogers allegedly pulled a gun on the
officers, according to media reports.
Incidents involving force are usually
inflammatory, one of the lesser reasons Strachan said he has never
known a cop who wanted to use his or her gun. When the incidents
are caught on video, the situation explodes. On top of the issue of
police accountability and training, the deaths trigger frustrations
people have with poverty and racism, Strachan said.
“I’m not justifying anything, I don’t know
what happened,” Strachan said of the Pasco shooting. But when
videos can be watched over and over, “People want an answer now,
they want a statement that is strong now.”
He added, “It doesn’t feel good, but we
have to take a step back.”
Back to my suicide by cop, who is a step
away from the SUV and is saying something I can’t remember.
He’s going back to the vehicle, like he is
going to show me. Whatever it is, I don’t want to see it.
Gun, I think. Gun. Oh, crap, he’s going for
I reach for my Taser. Good old trusty
Taser. That should do the trick. A little non-lethal force. He’ll
go down and we’ll both be fine.
“Taser failed!” I hear from behind me.
Taser failed. It takes a second to sink in. Taser failed. I don’t
really have a second to ponder the meaning of those words. My
stomach drops. I don’t have time to think.
I’m still yelling at him to get away from
the vehicle, to calm down, to just calm down.
He’s not listening. “OK,” I say out loud,
as if to say, you asked for it.
Out comes the Glock. Both hands. Finger on
the trigger. He’s got something in his hands. It’s the butt of a
gun. It’s a shotgun. I’m focused on the barrel. He’s holding it
like a gift he wants to give me. I’m waiting. What am I waiting
for? The guy is smiling. He’s actually smiling. I can’t wait until
I’m staring down the business end of that thing, I don’t want to do
He’s turning it on me. He’s still
I pull the trigger. I don’t know how many
times. Maybe two? Maybe just once?
The guy crumpled. I killed him.
My scenario was pretty clear-cut. He was
armed, and not with a rock. He was facing me and went for a gun,
not his driver’s license. He moved slow enough that I had more
time to react than I likely would have had in real life.
The lights come on. I’m shaking.
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