Mimesis Law
7 December 2019

Cop Tips: Suicide by Cop and Other Random Thoughts

Dec. 17, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Rule number one of a gunfight—bring a gun. Corollary—don’t bring a knife to a gunfight. Axiom—if you want the police to kill you, bring a knife and charge at the officer.

The problem is that when someone wants to commit suicide, but doesn’t have the cajones to do it themselves, they oft-times look for someone to do it for them. You know, a suicide by cop.

There have been three very clear examples of this within the past week, in Carmarillo, California by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office; in Indianapolis, Indiana, by the Indianapolis Police Department; and in Denton, Texas, by the University of North Texas (UNT) Police Department.

All of these appear to be justified shootings.

In all of them, an upset male subject came after police with a knife or another edged weapon, like a hatchet.

And in all of them, you have people commenting on media sites critical of the police.

First, let’s look at the incidents, since they are all on video.

In the Carmarillo shooting, you see a deputy contact a guy with bright orange hair who is holding a knife. The deputy draws his gun but is just holding it, pointed downward, when the suspect starts to approach the deputy. The deputy is almost running backwards, and you can hear him shouting at the man, Bryant Duncan, 23, to drop the knife and get on the ground. The deputy was at the scene because Duncan called 911 on a cordless phone he stole from a nearby convenience store, telling the call-taker that a crime was about to be committed and that he wanted the police to kill him.

When the deputy is charged, he tries running backwards, and starts shooting as he does so. The deputy trips and falls as Duncan finally collapses on the pavement. The incident was caught on cellphone video by a witness.

Here, in Indianapolis, you see a number of police officers with Christopher Goodlow, 25. Goodlow is outside in his underwear, holding a knife, and already cut himself before officers arrived on the suicidal person call. The officers tried to use a taser on Goodlow twice without success. Finally, he charged at an officer with the knife and was shot. The incident was also caught on cellphone video, and at about 2:45 in the video you hear the civilian witness say “do what you gotta do” after Goodlow takes a couple of steps towards one of the officers. Within 5 seconds, Goodlow charged another officer and was shot.

In the last incident, in Denton, you see Ryan McMillan, 21, coming at a UNT police officer with a hatchet in his hand, saying over and over “shoot me.” After retreating and telling McMillan numerous times to “back off,” the officer shot McMillan. The officer had been responding to a call of McMillan breaking out car windows in a parking garage next to campus.

In all of these cases, you have citizens criticizing the police for shooting the suicidal young man.

In Carmarillo, “s Dan” said:

There was a time they would have shot him with a bean bag and sent him off to the crazy house. Now days that is too much paperwork.

In Indianapolis, the “Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis” questioned if the officers handled the matter properly, if they had sufficient training to deal with the call. At PINAC, a photography rights blog, one said:

A K-9 unit and a negotiator would have been the appropriate response. Unholstering sidearms was incorrect. This is NOT a justified deadly force scenario.

In Denton, there’s a comment in the student newspaper:

How is a hammer or axe wielded by an obviously mentally deranged student enough to require a fatal shot? They have tasers and pepper spray…. Prime example of trigger happy police.

We can draw several things out of this. If someone wants to die, but doesn’t have the courage to do it themselves, they’ll find another way. Some, like these three, use the police to do it.

Despite what many say about police and dealing with mentally ill people, if someone is set on committing suicide, more training is not necessarily going to help. Police officers are not, and should not be thought of as mental health professionals. That’s what medical personnel do, what the clergy do. The problem is that when the guy is armed, the medical personnel and clergy won’t respond to deal with the matter; it’s the police that get called.

It takes time to get other resources to the scene, like a K-9 or a negotiator. In two of the cases, the entire episode was over within five minutes of the officer arriving. What is the officer supposed to do? Yell “time out” so he can call for someone else?

It’s a tragedy when anyone is killed, and it is a tragedy when someone takes their own life. It’s a waste, a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but it is one that has been around probably as long as there have been sentient humans.

It’s also a problem when the community starts to lose faith in police officers, to the point that everything gets questioned. We should always look at officer involved shootings very closely, and we should hold officers accountable when they are out of line or when they commit criminal acts.

That’s not the case in any of these three shootings.

Here, you had three disturbed young men, with edged weapons, who for reasons known only to them, wanted to end their own lives. It’s sad and tragic. It’s not criminal, nor is it bad policing, nor did the officers do anything other than their job.

If anything, you should be upset that these disturbed young men put the officers in that position, where they had no choice but to take a life. It’s something the officer will have to live with forever.

14 Comments on this post.

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  • Richard G. Kopf
    18 December 2015 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Greg,

    You realize, of course, that your post does not fit the zeitgeist. And, what is worse, no trigger warning. (Was that a sick play on words?)

    All the best.

    RGK

    • shg
      18 December 2015 at 1:26 pm - Reply

      It may not have fit the zeitgeist, but it is cutting edge. Sorry. That was bad.

      • James Gordon
        18 December 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

        It’s sad no matter how you slice it.

  • Eva
    18 December 2015 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    I do agree with you. These particular instances law enforcement had no choice but to use deadly force. Unfortunately by using that force they were manipulated by the perpetrator who apparently wanted them to do use their weapons.

    The part about using “other resources” such as a negotiator to communicate to suicidal suspects to try to talk down such a critical situation to me appears to be the better choice for all concerned.

    I just believe in any instance of use of deadly force it should be scrutinized and evaluated by citiizens who live under the protection of their local law enforcement.

    • Greg Prickett
      18 December 2015 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      The problem is that except in a few major cities, there’s not a negotiator likely to be on duty and you’re probably looking at an hour or so to get one to the scene.

      Against someone that is intent on dying, that’s not enough time.

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  • David M.
    19 December 2015 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Greg, why did the young man surrounded by cops, with his back to two people and his attention focused elsewhere at any given time, have to die?

    • Greg Prickett
      19 December 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Because he charged at an officer with a knife.

      Yes there were two officers behind him, but a knife is a contact range weapon and you do not put yourself in that range unless you absolutely have to do so. Had officers charged him from the rear, odds are that one or more would have been stabbed and the guy would have still been shot.

      You need to remember, this guy had been tased twice, without any effect. Whether that lack of effect is from PCP or another substance is not yet known, but do you want to take the chance that you can’t control him at contact range? I wouldn’t.

  • David Stretton
    19 December 2015 at 12:44 pm - Reply

    Seriously, is there no technology known to this rich and powerful nation that can stop a man from walking or running without killing him? It doesn’t even have to be that small or portable – it only has to fit in a police car. Try harder – lives are at stake.

    • Greg Prickett
      19 December 2015 at 3:48 pm - Reply

      You’re welcome to come up with a solution. Perhaps a phaser we can set on stun or something.

      Until we get that technology, we have to use what is on the officer’s belt, and it is not a viable solution to tell the officer that he has to get stabbed, hacked up, or cut while trying to save the suicidal guys life. That’s why tasers are not normally deployed if there is only one officer there.

      Look, I get that it’s not pleasant. No one wants to think about killing someone, least of all a cop. But it happens.

      • shg
        19 December 2015 at 5:09 pm - Reply

        Ironically, I bet the phaser set on stun would be doable if they could sell enough of them. Look what Star Trek did for the cellphone. Given the ingenuity of this nation, combined with profit motive (Hi, Taser International!), we’ve accomplished extraordinary things.

        Of course, if the phaser (weird how that name is similar to Taser) existed, there would then be the problem of cops using it as a compliance tool, to stun everybody in sight for not respecting their authority or making the break a sweat.

  • Allen
    19 December 2015 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    “doesn’t have the cajones to do it themselves”

    Even if you have the cajones, it’s tricky to kill yourself with drawers, unless they contain a gun or something.

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