Could this latest police shooting have been prevented?
It started routinely: a man slept in his car in a fast food passage. But it quickly got out of control when the Atlanta police tried to handcuff and arrest Rayshard Brooks for his poisoning.
The video of the scene from late Friday shows the 27-year-old black man wrestling with two white officers, taking a taser from one of them, running a short distance through Wendy's parking lot, and then pointing the stun gun at you. This officer shot him twice in the back and killed him.
How did everything go wrong so quickly? And what could the officials have done to alleviate the situation?
Law enforcement experts say the answers to these questions are complicated and not as clear-cut as the recent death of George Floyd, the black man who was pronounced dead after a Minneapolis official put his knee on Floyd's neck for almost 9 minutes.
Under the questions asked, couldn't officials just take Brooks away and let him go home or have someone take him away instead of arresting Brooks? Could the officials have said or done anything else to keep him calm and arrest him safely?
And why did one of the officers shoot him instead of just letting him run away and catching him later, since they already had information about his driver's license?
"It's not an open case. The prosecutor has a damned good choice to handle this case," said Timothy T. Williams Jr., an expert in violence, who worked at the Los Angeles Police Department for almost three decades. "It is a very complicated case. "
The officer who killed Brooks was released and the other officer was sent to the desk. Atlanta's chief of police has resigned. The prosecutor expects to decide by mid-week whether the officials should be charged.
Some observers said officials had other options than to arrest Brooks, especially at a time when the coronavirus is making prisons more dangerous.
"They could have easily waited and caught him later," said L. Chris Stewart, the Brooks family lawyer, on NBC's "Today" show. "It was just unnecessary."
Williams said it was not that easy and called for efforts to reconsider the decision to arrest Brooks quarterbacking Monday morning.
"You are trained to enforce the law. If laws are broken before you, you have an obligation, a legal obligation to do what needs to be done, "he said.
Law enforcement experts disagree as to whether lethal violence was justified in this case.
The police can generally use lethal violence if they reasonably believe that their lives or the lives of others are in immediate danger. Jurisprudence has recognized that officials have to make decisions in a fraction of a second, and the law gives them some leeway.
The question here is: would a sensible officer who fears that the Taser could be used to put him out of action would decide that lethal force is needed to stop the threat?
While the police generally regard tasers in their own hands as non-lethal weapons, Kevin Davis, a Ohio-based police officer who has specialized in training for nearly three decades, said that a stun gun is in the wrong hands and, for example, on the head could be fatal or cause serious injury.
On the other side of the argument, tasers have a range of about 15 feet, so the officer might have tried to keep their distance. It was also a crowded parking lot, making it risky for an officer to fire his gun.
Could the officer have shot Brooks in the leg or anywhere else that would not have been fatal? Police experts disagree with the idea, saying that officers who they believe pose a lethal threat are trained to stop the cold, which usually means shooting a person's upper body.
In any case, "the idea that in such situations, if you have a subject in motion and move and you will shoot it in the leg?" That's absurd. It's just not realistic, "said Davis.
Some experts say that the real friction took place long before Brooks and the officers.
How they dealt with each other was influenced by decades of racism and distrust between the police and the black community, said Kalfani Ture, a professor of criminal justice at Quinnipiac University and a former Metro Atlanta police officer.
"Whether we like it or not, this society socializes us to see black men in particular ... as a potential threat, if not a real threat. And even though it seems to you and me in this film that this is a very harmless exchange, encounter, it is filled with a lot that just whirls under the surface, ”said Ture.
Davis pushed back the idea that racing was an essential factor in this case.
He watched the videos, slowed down the footage, and zoomed in to analyze it frame by frame. In his view, he said, the officer who killed Brooks tried to run for cover in the parking lot and avoid Brooks. These actions, he said, show that the officer felt that there was a risk of immediate harm.
Brooks "was shot because he was a lethal threat to these officers at that moment," said Davis. "Mr. Brooks escalated this resistance to a point where, under very dynamic chaotic conditions, these officers were forced to make a decision in a split second."
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