Thursday, March 6, 2014

Malicious or Merely Stupid?

Back on January 4, 2014, at a Yakima, WA, car wash, a man with small amounts of some drugs in his system, Rocendo Arias, had fallen asleep in his car with an Airsoft pellet pistol in his lap. The vehicle was spotted by Officer Casey Gillette:

According to the report, Gillette was on patrol, accompanied by his fiancee, Neila Bahadar, when they drove past the car wash and saw a silver Volkswagen Passat parked near the car wash’s vacuum cleaners around 2 a.m. Bahadar was participating in a “ride along,” a regular practice permitted by the department that allows civilians an opportunity to see how police operate.
Almost an hour after first spotting the car, Gillette saw it again and decided to investigate.

Gillette looked through the tinted window on the driver's side then went around and opened the passenger side door.  According to the report, Arias, who had been asleep or passed out, awoke and "lunged" at Gillette while pointing the Airsoft toy at him.  Gillette shot Arias through the head.

I don't have any problem with the officer responding to being "lunged at" with what appeared to be a weapon by firing his weapon.  But how stupid does a cop have to be not to rap on the window on the driver's side?  For all Gillette knew, Arias had pulled up and stopped because he needed sleep and didn't want to endanger people on the street.

Open my car door in that situation, and see what I do.  I would have probably had my doors locked, but I've done that on road trips.  You pull in some place well-lighted and take a nap.  Arias probably had his toy gun in his lap because he was afraid. Gillette was afraid, also:

“I was convinced I was about to be shot, and I reacted by shooting once, then three more rounds,” Gillette wrote in his statement. “My perception of his actions and my reactions to them occurred within seconds, although now it seems they were simultaneous.”

Gillette’s initial shot struck an inside door post of the car, the report said, while another shot hit Arias in the head and the others struck the car window and the driver’s side door. Washington State Patrol crime-scene investigators found one of Gillette’s bullets 10 days later in the gravel next to where Arias’ car was parked, according to the report.
He dumped four rounds at the guy -- one fatal.  No shot was ever fired at Officer Gillette because, of course, Mr. Arias was "armed" with a somewhat realistic looking toy.

When one of my nephews was about four or five years old, he walked up on one of my dad's retired hounds.  The old dog was mostly blind and deaf, stove-up from a lifetime of chasing coyotes in Oklahoma and Missouri, and he was sleeping in a sunny spot in the yard.  My nephew was dragging around a halter lead, and he hit the old dog with the knotted end.  Startled, the dog jerked up and snapped toward the perceived threat, biting through my nephew's cheek.

Oddly enough, Dad didn't offer to put the dog down.  He told his squalling grandson to leave his hounds alone when they were asleep.

Ten minutes before Officer Gillette gunned down an unarmed man, Washington State Trooper Sarah Storms had seen Arias' vehicle while washing her cruiser.  What was her response?
... Storms saw Arias’ car, shone her flashlight on it and determined that Arias was napping. She chose to leave him alone and left before Gillette arrived.
Of course, she wasn't trying to impress her girlfriend. 

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