Why Sometimes Police Have an Obligation to Shoot--Even the Unarmed

Picture of Dallas Shooting Victim

Just two days after the shooting of Michael Brown, the Dallas Morning News reports: Dallas police shoot and kill Andrew Gaynier:

Andy was unarmed and was shot multiple times by a police officer. This tragic situation is beyond comprehension. Andy was only 26 and the proud father of a 19-month-old son.

Like the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, there appears to be no police camera video.

Like the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, the officer shot the victim “multiple times”

Like the shooting of Michael Brown, the officer in the Dallas shooting stated that:

The man moved toward the officer in “a manner perceived to be dangerous to the officer”

In the Michael Brown case, people have, understandably, doubted the idea that any person would charge an officer with a drawn weapon, and I admit when I started reading the Dallas Morning article, I thought ‘ Oh Geez! Another shooting with a officer claiming he was “charged” However, my original thought was wrong.

Because unlike the Ferguson shooting, a security camera on a nearby home captured the shooting. The video apparently shows Mr. Gaynier, an unarmed father of a 19 month old son, charging the police officer and the officer shooting him. Why did Mr. Gaynier charge the officer? I have no explanation for Mr. Gaynier’s inexplicable behavior. I do not know what he was thinking, or if he was on drugs, or had mental issues.

I do know that the Dallas officer’s story about the suspect charging him was correct.

Could it be that the Ferguson officer’s story is correct too? Audio of a witness at the time of the shooting stated that Michael Brown “bull rushed” the officer although other witnesses dispute this view. Do I believe this account? I don’t know and unfortunately, unlike the Dallas case, there is not a video camera to show what really happened.

No matter what, the outcome is a sad one: Two young men with so much life to live are dead. One white. One black. I wish they could have been brought in without being shot. But police carry guns for a reason. As one police academy instructor wrote:

We carry and train with firearms because police officers have a sworn obligation to save lives and sometimes deadly force is the only way to stop a terrible person from committing a terrible act.

In the Dallas case, Mr. Gaynier before charging the officer attempted to gain entry into a family’s minivan. To protect this family, the officer who had been following Mr. Gaynier, got out of his car and drew his weapon. Officers need their firearms, but if a suspect charges the officer and takes his weapon, that weapon can be used against the officer or innocent bystanders. This means the officer who has a duty to protect the public does not have the option to shoot or not shoot such a suspect–they have the obligation to shoot.