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A death in Ripon
Who are you & I to judge?
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The second I heard about Tuesday’s police incident, involving a stolen car high speed chase, and subsequent shooting of the perpetrator – I readied myself for the two differentiating factions to raise their voices and opinions.
One camp includes the “He got what he deserved — one less criminal on the streets” hard liner. The other, the “Police are getting away with murder again. He didn’t deserve to die” soft belly. They both are mired in the belief that their way of thinking is the truth. Neither side is willing to take a step back and realize that the fact is, there are no absolutes in situations like these.
I find it odd that both choose to use the word “deserve” when arguing the death of this individual. I’m not sure what this individual deserved, and am fairly sure that it’s nobody’s place to decide what he did deserve. What I do know is that he “chose” to put himself into a position  that ultimately resulted in his death. People are quick to defend or vilify the actions of the police when shootings of this nature occur. And while there are laws hoping to restrict and manage the actions of officers when confronted with criminals brandishing weapons – we often forget that officers are only human. When they put on the uniform in the morning, they don’t suddenly become robots, able to make instantaneous decisions, (Though some argue they are trained to do so.) ones that involve the lives of innocent bystanders and fellow officers alike.
Let’s look at how this incident apparently unfolded. The Manteca Police Department attempted to make a felony stop involving what was believed to be a stolen vehicle. Many argue that until the car is physically stopped, and the driver is questioned, how can the police know the driver in question is in actuality a car thief? The perp in question made the decision to flee. Is this the action of an innocent person? I don’t know. And neither did the officers.
A high speed chase ensued. Many of the soft belly variety have a solution to this problem — “Let him go.” They believe the safety of others on the road outweighs the need to pursue and stop a possible car thief. Are they right? I don’t know. But I see their point. I also see poor precedent being set by allowing criminals to escape in this manner. What is to prevent future criminals from simply stepping on the gas, and heading for the nearest highway in a game of “First to the Traffic Wins”. And let’s all remember that the stretch of  Highway 99 between Manteca a Ripon is just a few miles.
Do we know that the officers involved didn’t consider ending the pursuit in lieu of public safety? It’s just a 3 minute drive to traverse that distance when pedal to the metal. Is that 3 minutes enough time to take stock of the unfolding pursuit, and call it off? I don’t know. Once again, people tend to speak in absolutes – “Should they or Shouldn’t they have ended the pursuit?” was curtailed by the rapidly approaching Jack Tone exit. The one this criminal chose to take, the one where he apparently ran a car off the road causing it to flip. Had the police been considering ending the pursuit at that point, what should they do after seeing this reckless idiot cause bodily injury and possible death to an innocent bystander?! Do you end the chase at that point? Absolutely not. Isn’t a vehicle considered a weapon? Last time I checked, there are more fatalities from vehicles than guns. (And yes, we will get to the fact he also had a gun shortly)
The car pursuit soon turned into a foot chase. Do you let him escape at that point? Absolutely not. He is in the commission of multiple felonies at this point. And has shown he is a danger to everyone within his vicinity.
Isn’t it imperative that he is subdued and prevented from possibly taking a hostage at that point?! For some people that is a huge leap — the idea that a car thief would jump to taking a hostage while being pursued. I even saw one person state “If he were going to take a hostage, he would’ve jumped into a vehicle after wrecking, he was obviously heading to the orchards to flee – not take a hostage.”
How can you, me, or more importantly the officers in pursuit be sure of that? Have you ever been involved in this type of pursuit? Adrenaline is on full – for both police and criminal. Do you think that an officer involved, should have the propensity to make on the fly snap decisions, as to the decision making process of a fleeing felon? I realize they are trained to do so. But once again, they are only humans being thrust into a highly volatile situation. There is no amount training that can prepare you for the overwhelming fear and anxiety that certainly happens in these chases....and then a gun is involved.
I can only have an opinion based upon the facts I’ve been presented. And neither me, nor you have them all although I’ve noticed over the last 24 hours, that it really doesn’t matter. People will spin it in whatever direction they deem necessary, in order to push their own agenda – and most spin into a direction that has little or nothing to do with the case at hand.
There are multiple versions of the story circulating. He shot at the police? Or he didn’t shoot? He was fleeing with a gun, and pointed it at the officers? He was shot in the back? I don’t know. I wasn’t there.
And this is where the majority of hard liners and soft bellies are polar opposite in their beliefs. He was fleeing on foot with a gun – what were his intentions? I don’t know. He was shot and killed. That we know. Was the officer attempting to shoot a leg and end the chase? I’d like to think so.
I can only be certain of one thing. It is absolutely unfortunate that someone was shot and killed on Tuesday. This is something that will stay with his family and the officers involved for the rest of their lives. It is something that shouldn’t callously be mocked by the hard liners and something that shouldn’t be generalized as an indictment of all police officers by the soft bellies.
A person made a series of horrible decisions, that led to his death. Did he deserve it?
That is not for you or me to judge.

“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”