We will, of course, await all the facts before passing judgment on Tuesday night’s shootout at Memorial University.
People who have a cop fetish will undoubtedly object to “shootout” as crass sensationalism, and say “gunshot” is the proper word.
Let’s settle on cop-speak: “discharge of a firearm.”
The RCMP has been called in — “tasked” — to investigate an RNC officer’s discharging of his/her firearm during the incident.
Surely one of the first questions the RCMP investigators will ask the RNC officers involved is, “Was the suspect armed?”
“Yes. He had an SUV.”
Consistent with news reports, the RCMP will likely find there was no shootout.
Another fact to be ascertained is whether there was the possibility
or likelihood of a shootout, i.e., whether the suspect had a gun, firearm or discharging device, and whether the RNC officers saw it and noticed that it was pointed in their direction.
Let’s guess no. If it had been otherwise, the RNC would have said so. After all, a cop firing on a suspect in the early evening on a university campus requires some explanation.
Afterwards, RNC Police Chief Robert Johnston said at a news conference that the officers “felt threatened.”
The suspect was in an SUV at the time. Presumably, he was driving toward the officers. Fast. Recklessly. Perhaps with malicious intent. Certainly, he was not discharging his duties as a model citizen, although we await the RCMP’s report to say for sure.
Some members of the public probably want more details. Does RNC policy allow, or encourage, officers to shoot at fleeing suspects? If said fleeing suspect is trying to run over an RNC officer with an SUV, should the officer shoot first and then jump out of the way, or just jump out of the way?
If a fleeing suspect were a known serial killer, a cop shot would be understandable. But the suspect at MUN was seen breaking into vehicles.
He surely posed less of a danger to the public than did a bullet whizzing across a parking lot.
Perhaps the trigger-tugging RNC officer is in for a reprimand once all is said and done. For it to be otherwise, the RNC will have to convince the public that it is OK for its officers to shoot at fleeing thieves.
It could have been worse. Naturally, everyone’s first thought is that someone, the proverbial innocent bystander, could have been hurt or killed, either by a ricochet or direct hit.
And there’s something else to consider. All jokes aside about the RNC’s shooting accuracy, the incident would have been worse than it was if the officer had hit and killed the suspect.
We couldn’t say justice had been done.
Decent citizens would not be glad that a dirtbag with an extensive criminal record had paid for his misdeeds. The principle of the punishment fitting the crime applies not only in the courts, but also on the streets — or, in this case, on the parking lots.
And we can only wonder whether the officer, when the adrenaline stopped pumping, would experience a horrendous amount of remorse and regret. Issuing a death sentence for thievery is not normal, unless you’re in Victorian England.
The last time I used the word “dirtbag” in a column, I received a letter from an angry local lawyer. His clients are not “dirtbags,” he informed me in decidedly uncourtly language.
The counsellor missed the nuance.
Seeing the news reports about the thefts, robberies, drug taking, drug dealing, fights, beatings, break-ins and so on of these young guys — yes, these dirtbags — and the prison sentences they receive while in their 20s or 30s, you can’t help but think, “What a tragic waste of their life.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.