If you've read my blog over the years you know that I am 100% pro-police, especially LCPD, and have always supported and stood behind them. Being a cop is a tough job and unless a person has done it, they really cannot even begin to understand the situations we respond to and the stress we endure. It's easy to Monday-morning quarterback if you are a civilian and haven't been put through the ringer dealing with the types of incidents police officers respond to on a daily basis. That being said, I am really, really, really searching for a way to justify the shooting of 75-year old Amelia Baca.
The confrontation took place at the doorway of the home. The officer never made it inside, he was standing on the walk leading to the door. The heavily edited video made by LCPD shows his approach before cutting away to photos and transcripts. The transcripts give details about what occurred, including the call to dispatch. I'd much rather see the video of what actually happened at the house on Fir Street but that content is not included. The transcript also tells us that the officer is a nine-year veteran with more than 70 hours of crisis intervention training beyond what was given in the academy. The officer's first reaction upon seeing Amelia Baca in the doorway of her home with a knife in each hand is to draw his sidearm and point it at her. We don't hear his commands for her to drop the knife but the transcript says he told her to and witnesses previously said he yelled out twice for her to drop the (expletive) knife.
The video transcript made by LCPD says that Amelia Baca never complies with the officer's request to drop the knives. Really, no kidding? Could it be that she had DEMENTIA and didn't understand what was going on??? That was the whole reasoning behind the family calling dispatch for help. Their grandma was elderly and had a disease that ravages the brain and takes away rational thought. She did not possess the logic and reason that is part of a normally functioning human brain. That explains her behavior and actions. At that point, it was up to responding officers to understand her condition and deal with the situation accordingly.
The video transcript says Ms. Baca moved towards the officer. It doesn't say if that move was aggressive, as in an attack, or what it was. I'm guessing that if she had gone into attack mode and let out a war cry and run at the officer with knife or knives raised, displaying a clear intention to harm him, those photos would have been shown. The absence of any photos like that tells me there was no aggression but she stepped towards the officer. The photos shown have her inside her house at the threshold of the doorway, but let's just speculate that she did move outside towards the officer. Was it one step, two steps, three? Was it fast moving, slow, moderate, what? It is unclear at this point.
Options besides shooting were available to the officer:
Attempt at dialog. None initiated.
Taser. Not utilized.
Pepper spray. Not utilized.
Nightstick. Not utilized.
K9. Not called for, but was one enroute? Nobody wants to use a police dog on an elderly person with dementia if it can be avoided, but it's preferable to shooting.
Backpedaling. Absolutely nothing wrong with giving up ground and creating distance, while waiting for other officers en route to get there, and it wouldn't have been long because you can hear sirens on the video. It's called strength in numbers. One cop can talk and distract while another gets in behind her and takes her down. Or maybe with more cops on scene she drops the knives. We don't know, we'll never know.
The video is in this newspaper article. If you skip to the 4:50 mark, you will see the still photos of the confrontation.
Compare the incident above to the one below, where a family called LCPD regarding their schizophrenic son being off his meds. He attacks the officers with a baseball bat and a female officer attempts to Tase him. He strikes her on the neck or head and the other officer shoots and kills him. This was a completely justifiable and necessary use of deadly force.
I'm confused why deadly force was used in the Amelia Baca shooting. She was a small, frail woman with dementia and all that was needed to resolve that incident was patience and understanding. Her appearance at the doorway with knives was no surprise, the officer knew when he got there she was armed and he also knew she had dementia. Compare that to the Bishop shooting where the young man with schizophrenia suddenly appeared with a baseball bat and aggressively attacked the officers, forcing them to shoot.
The rules of engagement, what we used to call the Use of Force Continuum, are no different today than they were over forty years ago when I first joined up. There are a plethora of retired LCPD officers who can tell you stories about all the times during their career that they would have been authorized to use deadly force, but didn't. Instead, we talked and listened. The job was no less violent in our era but we didn't shoot nearly as much. Maybe the training was different, maybe we just communicated differently. If we absolutely had to use force, we often just tackled the guy and got him into custody with bumps and bruises.
There comes a point in time when police officers have to ask themselves if we use deadly force because it is necessary, or because the actions of the suspect fit the legal definition of what authorizes a use of deadly force.