July 23, 2005

"People will be afraid to walk the streets, or go on the tube, or carry anything in their hands."

The man the London police chased down and executed point blank with five shots had nothing to do with the terrorist bombings. I'm sure the real terrorists are delighted when things like this happen. Now everyone can be afraid of the terrorists and the police. More fear, more dispersed. What a shame!

UPDATE: I have a more positive outlook the next day.

25 comments:

John Jenkins said...

This represents the worst choice possible for a law enforcement official. You have a guy in your sights whom you believe might be a suicide bomber who could kill X people. If you kill him and you're wrong, it's a tragedy and you've committed a grave error. If you fail to act and he blows people up, it's terrible and you've committed a grave error. What's a police officer to do?

Ann Althouse said...

John: I'm willing to defend the police as having done the right thing.

You know, there are always some people wearing heavy coats in the summer. These people are crazy, but they do walk the streets. They probably aren't too good at behaving rationally when confronted by the police.

It's really a shame.

I heard Michael Medved on the radio yesterday praising some Israeli citizen who once shot someone in a store who looked suspicious. It turned out the guy really was a suicide bomber. Medved concluded that more citizens with guns would make us safer. Seemed to me that Medved was failing to consider a few factors that didn't fit into his equation.

Brendan said...

There could have been a number of factors: was the victim a foreigner? Did he understand English? Were the cops uniformed or in plain clothes? Did he see a bunch of men with guns drawn and simply start running? Did he make a sudden movement when they had him pinned down? Assuming he understood English, did he follow instructions?

Matt Barr said...

I'm not sure I agree that terrorists are delighted when this kind of thing happens. Police shooting people they think might be bombers and asking questions later? I think that would be troubling.

Ann Althouse said...

Matt: I think the terrorists would love to drive a wedge between the government and the people. If some terrorists actually get shot down in the process, well, what difference does it make? More martyrs.

Robert said...

Ann, this doesn't drive a wedge between the people and the government. The people that would be susceptible to such a wedge are people who are already opposed to the government.

The guy came out of a house known to be in use by the bomber's terrorist cell. When approached by police, he fled. So they brought him down.

Other than that it's a shame they weren't able to take him alive for interrogation, what's the problem?

Ernst Blofeld said...

I think there were other extenuating circumstances--the victim came out of an internet cafe that was under surveillance in connection with the bombings.

On a slightly related theme, during the Russian theater hostage event some of the Chechan terrorists were wired as suicide bombers. The Russians gassed the theater and knocked everyone out, then stormed it. The suicide bombers were seated among the hostages and they were simply shot. That was probably a good plan, and probably even legally defensible in the US. The SWAT team couldn't be sure when the suicide bombers would regain motor control, and all it took for them to detonate was the press of a button. It would take an explosives specialist some time to figure out how to safely defuse the bombs. So they just put a bullet into their head.

John Jenkins said...

That was probably a good plan, and probably even legally defensible in the US. The D.A. that brought those charges had better be planning to move to Berkeley. In any event, the defense of necessity would I think have protected those officers in that situation.

I'm willing to defend the police in either situation. It looks like people on the front line having to make a snap decision. I hope their brass doesn't hang them out to dry.

The Mojician said...

If there were no such things as suicide bombers then the police wouldn't have had to shoot the guy. They did what they needed to do.

C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

The tragedy of the train rider who took a few in the head and chest is boiled down to three facts:

A) Don’t look like a suspect (dress like you’re not carrying a bomb in a train!)
B) Don’t run from the police
C) Don’t hang-out at a house where bad guys live

This man who was shot may be innocent, but that does not mean he should not have been treated as a suspect. And that is exactly what Scotland Yard did, and rightfully so. This guy was tagged as a probable baddie since he was in the same house as other known bad guys. And in these days of heightened tensions, this guy could have been the Pope and still should have been ‘Hooked and Booked’ if he ran from the Bobbies or came waltzing out of a known safe house for terrorists!

Oh Well – Terrorist 52 / Good Guys 1

Ann Althouse said...

Isn't this what Tasers are for?

Ernst Blofeld said...

Tasers are intended to stop someone, not necessarily completely immobilize them. Some suicide bombs are designed to be detonated by fairly simple operations, such as the attacker raising his arms above his head. The problem is that almost any degree of motor control is too much if you really do have a suicide bomber.

Also, the taser needs skin contact. It seems that the victim was wearing a heavy coat, and a real suicide bomber would probably have an explosive vest on under that.

John Jenkins said...

Ann, I think a taser would have been too risky, in that it is shorter ranged than a handgun and the bomber, had it been a bomber, will be able to detonate the explosive before the police can close to taser range (approximately 15 feet according to Taser's website).

Moreover, the bulky clothing might limitthe effectiveness of the taser. If the devce is electronically triggered, the taser might actually detonate it. I'm not sure whether that could happen, not knowing exactly how the taser works, but it seems plausible.

Maybe if you could sneak up behind the guy, Tasers would work, but for general interdiction it probably won't.

(Anyone know if Taser causes twitches that might detonate a device if the trigger were held in the hand?)

Robert said...

Tasers have a maximum range of 30 feet (and that's pushing it). The suspect was also wearing a bulky jacket. That could cause a taser to not function, and also could mean that the man was carrying explosives. You really don't want to shoot electricity at a guy wearing explosives; bullets, ironically, would be much safer.

C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

If the police in England can't carry guns, are they allowed to carry tasers? You're right, though. If the Brits had tasers, he might still be alive. I posted a bit about tasers on my site in realtion to the Atlanta Courthouse shootings several months ago. I suspect, however, that the outcry against tasers would be deafening in England. Why? Here in the US the outrage against tasers is greater than guns from all the victims right's groups.

Robert said...

Mountjoy, Scotland Yard has had tasers since around 2002 I believe.

C R Mountjoy - GDF said...

Thanks...I did not realize they had. Oh Well!

Lars said...

Police may receive shoot-to-kill orders

Scotsman, July 15, 05

http://news.scotsman.com/uk.cfm?id=1398572005

Goesh said...

- guy with a coat in warm weather, at the time the bombs had gone off, running, ordered to stop, refuses and he gets blown away - the cops had to make an instant decision - did he have a bomb and was he running to a crowd to detonate? Did they think he was reaching inside the coat to a switch to detonate? How wrong and liable the cops would have been had he run into a crowd and killed a dozen or so. One can imagine the howls of rage and protest and the litigation had they not shot him. The only shame here is the double standard police are held to.

Michael said...

Isn't this what Tasers are for?

So where would they aim? His chest? Where the bomb is (potentially) strapped?

Some explosives are more stable than others (C4 is very stable and TATP is very unstable), but I think an electric shock generally sets them off.

I don't know much about explosives, but I have no desire to stick a bunch of high-voltage live wires into them, even from 30ft away :-)

Ann Althouse said...

So I guess this is not what Tasers are for...

Again, note: I'm not condemning the police.

Robert said...

Ann, this is in fact what tasers are for, its just that they aren't much good yet.

Tasers are the first step on a long road that leads to Star Trek. Cops (well, good cops) would love to have a safe "phaser" that they could just use to stun people. It would make stopping fights a thousand times safer. Riot control becomes a breeze. And yeah, they could sure use something like that in a case where someone could be dangerous, but it isn't for sure known that they are - which is just a terrible position for the law enforcement guys to be in.

I know that you're not blaming the cops.

Richard said...

Is it not fair to say that if you're a 20-something Arab-looking (Brazilian's can have that special look) male wearing heavy clothing in July, you should avoid at all costs running away from the police in a London subway the day after a terror attack?

I think this was Darwinian.

lindsey said...

I want to know why he ran. Given the recent terror attacks, only a fool or someone hiding something would run.

Michael said...

I guess the London police thought tasers would be an okay choice against another suspected bomber (albeit under very different circumstances)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0%2C2933%2C163769%2C00.html

Also: I never thought you were blaming the police