Officer Josh Hilling And A Lesson In Police Restraint
June 24, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Back in March, Officer Josh Hilling was patrolling I-75 in Glendale, Ohio[i] when he came across a man walking along the interstate with a backpack, more of a book bag, actually. He stopped to contact the man. In most states, pedestrians are prohibited on the right of way of an interstate highway, and in any event, an officer would stop to check on the welfare of the individual.
Hilling stopped and talked the man, asked him for identification, and then when the man told him that he didn’t have any, asked for his name. Hilling was given the name of Carlos Ambrella. That wasn’t his name. His real name was Javier Pablo Aleman who was wanted in Maryland for fatally stabbing a man in Baltimore.[ii]
Hilling then called dispatch and checked out on the radio, where he was and what he was doing, and asked Aleman to step to the back of the squad car.[iii] Hilling then told Aleman that he was going to pat him down for weapons. And that’s when the whole contact turned to ca-ca.
Aleman took out a knife and came after Hilling, who backed up beside the patrol car. While Aleman was coming at Hilling, he was repeatedly screaming “Kill me” over and over again. Hilling put one round in Aleman’s stomach, dropping him to the ground, and then he put out the radio call that will start all officers towards his location. Hilling screamed into the radio:
7 King 11, shots fired, shots fired!
No police officer wants to hear that on the radio, so their emergency lights and sirens kicked on all across Glendale and Hamilton Country as officers tried to get to Hilling to help him.
Being shot didn’t stop Aleman. He stood back up from where he had fallen, told Hilling that he was going to kill him, and came after Hilling again (at 2:03). Hilling backed out onto the highway and screamed at Aleman to get down, and when Aleman staggered and fell, for him to stay down. All during this time, Aleman was alternating between telling Hillman to kill him and that Aleman was going to kill Hillman.
In what would seem to Hillman an eternity, it was 30 seconds before you can hear the first siren approaching. At that point, you can see that the vehicles on the interstate had stopped, which was both good and bad; good because it meant that Hilling was not going to be hit by a car going 70 mph, and bad because it backed up traffic and made it harder for other officers to get to the scene.
Hilling, for minutes, continued to scream orders at Aleman, as did the other officers who arrived, without any compliance from Aleman, who by this time was sounding like a broken record, repeating “kill me” over and over again. As the officers were backed up to the first civilian car, Hilling told the other officer to “shoot him,” presumably to prevent Aleman from trying to carjack or otherwise harm a citizen.
At about 5:21 in the video, Aleman appeared to go towards one of the back up officers, who then hit him with a stun gun, dropping him to the ground. Aleman was then taken into custody and was charged with attempted murder. A Hamilton County Grand Jury no billed Hilling, who had been a part-time officer for the city for four years, but had just been promoted to a full-time officer three months earlier.
Hilling showed remarkable restraint, bending over backwards to avoid killing Aleman. Watching the video, I know that I would have shot him at numerous points in the encounter, and would have been justified in doing so. On June 16, 2016, the Marshall Project published Hilling’s account of what happened that day. People should read it, to learn what an officer thinks, if for no other reason.
You should also watch the video the entire way through. At 8:00 in the video, an officer from a neighboring city tells Hilling to hold off on talking, so that Hilling can make sure that he is taken care of. That’s appropriate in today’s world, and allows Hilling to get his union or association lawyer involved to protect his interests, not that there was a question in this case. Here, it was a clear cut shooting in self-defense.
Another thing that should be noticed is that after Aleman was taken into custody, Hilling was immediately moved away from both the suspect and the scene. One other thing that you notice in the later part of the video is how Hilling is starting to come down from the event. You really cannot explain how the fight or flight reaction works, because it is different in every person, but one thing that is consistent is that everyone gets a massive adrenalin dump in these situations. Listen to his breathing from after the shooting until the point that his chief of police tells him to turn off the video.
You know, with all of the accusations of police being trigger-happy and blood thirsty, they need to look at how Hilling handled this—he bent over backwards to keep from killing Aleman, when he had every justification in the world for doing so.
I don’t think that this is abnormal. I think that Hilling’s mindset represents that of most officers. This is what we should expect from our officers.
[i] A suburb of Cincinnati.
[iii] That was a procedural mistake, Hilling should have already checked out before he made contact.