Shooting Into A Moving Vehicle Is Murder
Nov. 9, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — An autistic six-year-old boy is dead. The police killed him. They put five bullets into his body. Why did this happen? The police initially told a tale of a fleeing suspect, an outstanding warrant, a gunfight, and a vehicle turned into a weapon by Chris Lew, the father of the deceased. Jeremy Davis Mardis was merely an innocent victim, caught in the crossfire. If anyone was to blame, it was his father, who tried to run down those brave officers.
Except they were not brave. Colonel Mike Edmonson of the Louisiana State Police came out and refuted almost every one of the initial allegations when he recently announced the arrests of Officers Norris Greenhouse Jr. and Derrick Stafford on murder charges. Apparently all of the bullets entered the driver’s side of Few’s vehicle, he was unarmed, and never reversed his SUV towards the officers.
We obviously applaud the rare occasion when cops are held somewhat accountable. The fact that two of the four officers involved have been criminally charged is a positive step. It is a far cry from the normal press conference promising us a thorough “investigation” and warning us of the dangers of jumping to conclusions.
Six year old Jeremy Mardis is dead. We have become so desensitized to police killing us that we sometimes fail to step back and examine how something like this could actually happen. Why did these officers think it was acceptable to fire all of those rounds into Few’s SUV? This did not happen because of Few or Mardis or legitimate fear. This tragedy happened because cops, for far too long, have been allowed to shoot into moving vehicles and get away with murder.
But this time, it might be different.
The Louisiana State Police, to their credit, quickly came clean about the true events of this shooting. Col. Edmonson made the decision to charge the two officers after watching body camera footage of the incident, calling it “the most disturbing thing [he had] seen.”
Clearly anything that ends with a child dying in a hail of gunfire is incredibly disturbing, to say the least. But the question I have is this. If Chris Few had actually reversed the vehicle towards those officers, like they tried to initially claim, would these officers have been charged? Probably not. Their actions would have been yet another in a long line of appropriate police responses to legitimate threats. But is a vehicle a legitimate threat worthy of being fired upon?
The DOJ and numerous police departments have guidelines that advise against police shooting into moving vehicles. But over 30 people have died this exact way in 2015 alone. The police have said in each instance that they were in fear for their safety. Nothing in this country is more important than the impenetrable safety of our police. Haven’t you heard? There is a war on out there.
We are constantly told by the police that we just don’t get it. We haven’t walked the beat and seen the dangers, therefore, we can never truly understand the tough decisions they must make. This is apparently never more true than in the wake of yet another tragedy, where a person is dead and the cop is the killer. We are told, time and time again that the cop’s actions were justified. Defense of self is all encompassing, as long as the “self” being defended belongs to a police officer. But this type of defense does not make any sense when applied to cases like what happened to Few and Mardis. We must let police know that firing bullets into a moving vehicle is not just against policy, it is against the law. It is murder.
The police rarely know who or what is actually in that car, and in the worst case scenario, a six year old boy is shot to death. But since we often disagree with the government on issues of morality, why don’t we examine the absurd logic of this tactic. Of course, no one wants to get hit by a car, but if you just take a moment to break down the thin defense provided by officer after officer in this scenario, it falls apart immediately. First, this is not a Bond movie. Unless you are standing in the middle of a one lane bridge or tunnel, when a car is coming at you, you would do well to devote all of your attention to getting the hell out of the way. Any time spent unholstering a firearm, aiming, and firing is precious seconds wasted in the window of time available to remove oneself from the car’s path. Firing actually decreases officer safety. Second, and this is where it really falls apart, shooting a person who is driving a car does not make your or anyone else’s situation more safe. All a cop does by firing into a moving vehicle is turn a rather cumbersome weapon into a potential weapon of mass destruction. Again, this decreases officer safety. The sad truth is this. When a cop fires into a car, he is not truly concerned with safety. Those bullets fly because the driver failed to adequately comply. Safety could be much more easily achieved if the police would just remove themselves from the path of the car as quickly as possible. Everyone stays alive in that scenario. But then the bad guys (who are often found, post-mortem, to be not at all bad) get away. Temporarily. Police use the same excuse no matter where they are in relation to the path of the car. Coming directly at the cop. Had to shoot. Driving by the cop. Had to shoot. Dragging the cop along. Had to shoot. In none of these scenarios is shooting the driver advisable nor does it increase anyone’s safety (especially the occupants of the vehicle).
Police have grown accustomed to deploying lethal force when it is not necessary. Firing a gun at someone should be a last resort. Firing a gun at someone who is driving a car should not even be a last resort. It should not be an option.
Police apologists will point out there are exceptions, times when an officer has no choice but to open fire on a moving vehicle. Fine. As with any criminal charges, officers should be afforded a full and fair opportunity to defend their actions. But we must not treat what has happened to the officers who killed Jeremy Mardis as the exception. It should be the rule. And that rule should state loudly and clearly that when a police officer shoots into a moving vehicle, he has committed murder.