Friendly fire isn't

Mistakes are human. At least, so goes the conventional wisdom. But here's a story I found via my blogfather which just makes my blood boil:

Two officers of the Beaumont Police Department found one such danger when they entered a yard while responding to a call, and were surprised by a large rottwieler. Feeling threatened, they fired five rounds at the dog, killing it. There is only one problem. They were at the wrong house…

....The shooting took place Friday about 2 p.m., when a child in the house next door to Vanderford's mistakenly set off a silent panic alarm in the purse of the child's mother, Acosta said.

A responding officer went to Vanderford's house, thinking he heard that address over the radio instead of Vanderford's neighbor, Acosta said.

The two officers saw a garage door open in the back yard and an alarm placard on the house and assumed they had the right house, Acosta said. When they went around the back of the house, the dog came out of the garage and was 5 feet away when the first officer fired his weapon.

"Having no time to react, he didn't have time to retrieve the pepper spray, he felt the dog was rather large and too close, the officers reacted with their firearms," he said.

If some cops came into my yard and shot my dog, I would want to get even any way I could. Police tend not to apologize in these situations, because they feel they were just "doing their job."

Well, what about the dog? Wasn't he just doing his job too?

Mistakes like this can be intolerable, and can create lifelong rage. It's been more than 30 years since it happened, but I've never forgiven the cops who held guns (two pistols and a shotgun) to my head, made me lie on the ground and called me names, simply because they thought I was with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had robbed a nearby bank. (I wasn't with the SLA; I was in my own backyard and had no idea a bank had been robbed.)

At least I was alive! People have been killed because of such mistakes.

Armed self defense is not always a good idea when dealing with police, because if you lose, you're dead, and you'll look guilty as hell. The problem is complicated further in the case of undercover raids; if your house is raided erroneously and you're not a drug dealer, you'll think you're being attacked by a gang of criminals, and..... well, it's not exactly a comedy of errors.

There needs to be accountability, yet often there isn't. Sometimes, the only remedy is to hire a guy like Johnnie Cochran. And I say this as someone who isn't anti-police (I've had many good friends who are cops), although I am anti-Big Brother. The laws and the legal system are out of control, and when that happens, those charged with enforcement can get caught up in it. When there's no remedy for such sloppiness as raiding the wrong house, or storming a yard without a warrant because a baby alarm went off, we all suffer.

posted by Eric on 06.28.04 at 10:26 AM


Some of the finest people are police officers, putting their lives on the line every day to protect our lives and property. Some others, however, are just thugs who like the idea that their thuggery is in the name of the law itself.

Having worked in law enforcment myself now for nearly 30 years, I can tell you without hesitation that far too many cops are trigger happy. Shoot first is what is trained at the Academies and Firing Ranges even though the "for publication" policy is "Use of Force Continuum." The "Use of Force Continuum" requires the MINIMUM force necessary to protect the officer and the public. Our "dirty little secret" is, shoot to kill and make sure you can justify your actions by claiming that you were being subjected to deadly force.

Roy Gutfinski   ·  July 18, 2004 7:18 PM

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