Sunday, May 11, 2014

Cops Need To Use Force According To Age...?

Last week in Hearne, Texas, a 93 year old woman became irate because she could not get her driver's licence renewed. According to her nephew, who was there, the woman armed herself because "he wouldn't give her car keys back to her." (It's unclear to whom 'he' refers.)

The woman (again, according to her nephew) fired at least two shots before a responding police officer shot her. The old woman died.

A tragedy for certain. A 93 year old woman, brandishing a gun and endangering the public, shot by a police officer. The officer was placed on paid leave during the ongoing investigation. Then, a few days later and before the investigation has been completed, city officials voted to fire him.

It's disconcerting to me that Hearne city officials fired the officer before the investigation is complete. Mayor Ruben Gomez recommended termination of Officer Stephen Stem. Gomez "promised that to demonstrators who marched to city hall protesting the shooting of 'Miss Sulie,' as many residents called the woman."

So - a mayor disregards the situation, the officer's rights and the fact that the public was endangered by "Miss Sulie" and bows to the will of a mob? OK - the woman was 93 years old. Are bullets fired by a 93 year old woman somehow less dangerous than those fired by a 29 years old man? Did the officer first order the woman to put the gun down? Did she refuse to put it down? Did she point it toward the officer? Sadly, those questions are not answered in the article I read. The Robertson County District Attorney is refusing to answer whether the suspect fired her weapon because the case is "still under investigation." Yet her nephew says she fired the gun, a gun 'allegedly' belonging to the suspect was found at the scene and, even though the investigation is ongoing, Officer Stem is still fired.

Stem has hired an attorney who says Stem acted appropriately according to the circumstances and that the mayor's actions were "inappropriate and unprofessional."

"He (the mayor) probably knows less facts about what occurred than I do," the attorney said.

What concerns me most in this case, besides the tragedy of  Miss Sulie's death, is the message being sent by Hearne city officials. It seems officers are now required to use force in a manner that is age-appropriate for the suspect regardless of what the suspect is doing. They're obviously not allowed to shoot an armed suspect if he/she is elderly. Does it work the same way if the armed suspect is young? Will there now be an age bracket for the use of deadly force?

To me it sounds like the mayor wanted to get Stem out of the department. Apparently he was involved in another shooting in his short, two-year career, although his attorney say the circumstances were different. He and his fellow officers were chasing several suspects through an unlit area in the wee hours of the morning and Stem fired his weapon. Again, there are no details but the article says he was "cleared by a grand jury," so it seems that shooting was thought to be questionable. 

But one must ask - what is 'questionable' to a mayor who will fire an officer for shooting an armed and active shooter?

Addendum: According to another article, Miss Sulie refused Officer Stem's repeated orders to put the weapon down and fired two shots into the ground. It was then that Officer Stem fired his weapon, hitting her twice in the chest. Justified? Once again ask yourself - is a 93 year old woman with a gun less dangerous than anyone else? What would you do?

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