Friday, August 24, 2012

Snap Decision: Questions Emerge After Police Gun Down Shooting Suspect on Crowded City Street

There's a lot of questions, frankly. One concerns the decision of police to open fire with so many people in close proximity. The New York Times has that, "Decision by 2 Officers to Open Fire in Busy Midtown Leaves Bystanders Wounded."

As the two officers confronted a gunman in front of the Empire State Building on a busy Friday morning, they had to make a snap decision: Do they open fire in the middle of Midtown?

From a distance of less than 10 feet, the officers, Craig Matthews and Robert Sinishtaj, answered in unison; one shot nine times and the other seven.

Investigators believe at least 7 of those 16 bullets struck the gunman, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman. But the officers also struck some, if not all, of the nine bystanders who were wounded. This was the second time in two weeks that the police were
Keep reading.

By the looks of the security-camera video above, it was an easy call, frankly. Self defense. The suspect stopped, pulled out a gun, and appears about to fire on the officers.

But another question emerging tonight deals with the graphic media coverage of the shooting. The New York Post has all these graphic videos, for example, and the New York Times posted an image of the shooter's victim, in what looks like a pool of blood. Poynter reports on the reaction, "New York Times explains graphic photo from Empire State Building shooting." The photo appears at that link and can still be seen at the front page of the paper as this post goes live. It's the 5th shot in this slideshow, "Steve Ercolino lies dead on West 33rd Street on Friday morning after being shot by Jeffrey T. Johnson, a former coworker."

See also, "How the media handled graphic images of Empire State Building shooting."

There's a less a question on the police opening fire, unless the public expects officers to take bullets, offering no defense, any time there are civilian presents. I wouldn't make that call. Why would anyone expect police to take a bullet in that kind of situation. It goes against human nature. Moreover, had officers stood down (possibly getting shot), the suspect might have gotten away, which could have endangered the lives of others.

As for the media coverage, I'm actually a little surprised with all the graphic imagery, especially in the video clips. Although I don't think the New York Times' photo is inappropriate.