A fatal police shooting in Los Angeles yesterday could touch off a new round of protests and riots in a summer-long national urban meltdown. A vehicle-code stop on a bicycle escalated quickly into an assault on officers, resulting in the shooting death of Dijon Kizzee in south LA. The sheriff’s office explained that Kizzee had a weapon and had initiated an assault on the officers, but Black Lives Matter LA called for immediate demonstrations — and they materialized quickly, albeit peaceful thus far:
Cell phone video captured the man running from deputies moments before he was fatally shot. Witnesses could be heard in that video yelling out at the deputies involved. One woman, who didn’t want to be identified, said she knew the man and saw the whole thing.
“He had a towel and he had his clothes and his pants couldn’t even stay up, so that’s what made him slow down so they had enough to get him,” she said. “They didn’t have to shoot him more than 5 times, they could have shot him one time in the leg.
“What’s the use of having the prison system if y’all are just gonna kill us,” the woman said through tears. “What are y’all here for? Who are you protecting?”
One side note: The “shoot them in the leg” idea is about as idiotic as it gets. Police aim for center mass because (a) they’re only supposed to shoot to stop a threat to the lives of officers and others, and (b) it’s the best practice to keep a bullet from hitting someone else other than the target. Besides, a leg shooting can be just as fatal to a human being, especially in the upper leg. Penetrate the femoral artery and a person can bleed out within a couple of minutes.
How did a vehicle-code stop on a bicycle turn into a fatal police shooting? The LA Sheriff’s Department told the media that the suspect initiated a physical confrontation, and then dropped a gun during the melee:
“Our suspect was holding some items of clothing in his hands, punched one of the officers in the face and then dropped the items in his hands,” Lt. Brandon Dean said. “The deputies noticed that inside the clothing items that he dropped was a black semiautomatic handgun, at which time a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
Investigators said a handgun was recovered at the scene.
Speculatively, the sudden appearance of one handgun doesn’t mean that the suspect didn’t have another. Having assaulted one of the deputies and then dropping the handgun, one presumes every deputy drew their weapons and ordered Kizzee to stop. The body cams will tell the full story, presumably, but this is an unfortunate part of the risk in traffic stops of any kind. People act irrationally, especially those already breaking the law, and law enforcement officers are particularly vulnerable in these situations because of it.
We shouldn’t just assume that the deputies acted properly, but at the same time we shouldn’t assume they didn’t, either. That is why we have investigations into all police shootings, and one reason why law enforcement agencies now routinely wear body cams. Why not wait for the evidence before calling for protests and demanding street action? The answer to that question is: Because the people who organize street action aren’t interested in justice, at least not how it is commonly defined. They want to impose their own vision of justice, not just on police but on everyone else. Assumptions are therefore much more valuable to them than evidence and rational investigation.