Gun or Taser?
That was a choice two police officers had to make in what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are calling an apparent “suicide-by-cop” attempt Tuesday night in northern Charlotte.Police say the suicidal man, Fred Daye, claimed he was schizophrenic and told 911 dispatchers that he'd gone off his medication. When officers got there, Daye told the officers he wanted to die and that he wanted the officers to pull the trigger.
Officers told Daye to show his hands, but at some point, he reached into his jacket
What happened next will likely be mulled over by police officers and the general public for weeks, though officers point out that situations like this are almost always a split-second decision.
One officer shot his Taser at Daye and another fired his department-issued shotgun. The shotgun round struck Daye's left elbow, police said, but it's unclear whether he was struck by the pellet or the wadding from the round. Doctors described the man's injury as a "flesh wound."
Police are still investigating whether officers responded appropriately. “Those and other matters are being examined during these parallel investigations," CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said. "We’re going to investigate this incident thoroughly before making any of those determinations.”
But, in a close reading of the police account, an officer could make a case for pulling either weapon. The police department has a use of force continuum, and officers are trained to respond with the appropriate amount of force for any given situation -- everything from verbal commands to firing a police-issued weapon.
CMPD's directives provide some insight into what an officer should do when faced with a threat. Often, using a particular type of force is not an "either-or" proposition. In fact, police say, an officer's professional presence and verbal commands are uses of force that are always present, even when other force is applied.
And one particular use of force, or weapon, can be used to de-escalate several types of conflicts. Pepper spray, for example, can be used to combat defensive resistance (like when a person won't move from a blocked sidewalk) or aggravated aggression (like when a suspect approaches an officer with a knife).
In a previous case where law enforcement officers applied different uses of force, one officer was fired. In 2008, Brian Howie was shot after he was confronted by officers at a gas station on Central Avenue. An officer reported he suspected Howie had been drinking and tried to hide drugs in his car, so the officer called for backup. Howie was also shocked with a Taser during the incident.
Jenny Curlee, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer who shot Howie, was fired after a review board found the shooting was unjustified. -- Cleve R. Wootson Jr.