Oh my God. I had no idea.
I’ve been criticizing the Lima, Ohio SWAT team for killing Tarika Wilson, an unarmed woman who was holding her infant son as the team raided her house. In my last post on the subject, I mentioned that the cops also shot the family dogs, which seems to be a favorite sport of SWAT teams.
In my very first post on the Lima raid, I wrote this:
As SWAT teams often do, they shot the household dog as they entered. Now ask yourself, given that police have TASERs, pepper spray, riot batons, and body armor, what kind of asshole discharges a firearm in a house with children in it just to stop a dog?
It turns out I should have asked a better question: What kind of asshole discharges a firearm in a house with an armed and nervous SWAT team in it just to stop a dog?
An AP reporter describes the testimony of Sgt. Joseph Chavalia, the cop who killed Tarika Wilson:
Sgt. Joseph Chavalia testified that he saw a shadow coming from behind a partially open bedroom door as he walked upstairs at the house of a suspected drug dealer. He said he heard gunshots, flinched and pointed his gun toward the door.
“There was absolutely, positively no doubt in my mind right then and there that whoever this was is shooting at me. They’re trying to kill me,” Chavalia said.
Chavalia told jurors that he now knows the gunfire he heard was coming from downstairs, where other officers shot two charging pit bulls.
So, some sadistic cop kills the family dogs, and Chavalia misinterprets the source of the gunfire, killing an innocent woman, and permanently maiming the infant in her arms.
The defense’s shooting expert has an explanation for Cavailia’s behavior:
A retired FBI agent who now frequently testifies on behalf of police officers accused in shootings said Thursday that Chavalia made the right decision because he thought his life was in danger.
“We know this wasn’t the case,” Urey Patrick told jurors. “We have to look at this from the point of the officer.”
He also said that the shots fired by other officers at the pit bulls were literally right below where Wilson was in the bedroom.
“I can understand why Sgt. Chavalia thought those shots were coming from the bedroom,” Patrick said.
I can too, but there’s also this:
Under questioning by Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh, Chavalia said he never saw Wilson’s hands or face and didn’t know if she had a weapon. He said his line of sight was limited when he fired and he had no idea Wilson’s six children were in the bedroom.
So, he shot at noise and movement, without seeing a weapon or a muzzle flash, and without knowing what was behind his target. That breaks a whole bunch of gun safety rules.
But maybe you have to break some rules if the danger seems extreme enough.
I’ve previously written that I don’t know if the officer who pulled the trigger was the one responsible for this mess. The tragedy may have been inevitable from the way these operations are planned and carried out. If police keep sending violent raids into people’s houses, they are guaranteed to keep killing innocent people.
You know, a few people have taken me to task for my earlier criticism of this raid. They say I’m ignorant of police tactics, which is probably true. But nothing I’ve said is nearly as stupid and pointless as what the Lima SWAT team did.
Let’s see. You’re in a situation where you are a potential target. Two pit bulls charge you. You put your weapon down, reach in your pocket, pull out the pepper spray and hope it stops the dogs. If that doesn’t work, you pull out your handy taser, ask the dogs to sit while you tase them. Then you go back, pick up your gun, and proceed with the raid. Works for me.
Joel Rosenberg says
Part of the problem is made crystal clear in the charges that the gunman faces: misdemeanor manslaughter.
I don’t make this up, you know.
Mark Draughn says
David, your comment, although sarcastic, was thought-provoking. I’m working up a response.
Joel, I know you didn’t make that up.