Thursday, February 23, 2017

Protests After Video of Officer Discharging Firearm Surfaces

       Yesterday I posted about a video of an off-duty Anaheim police officer who apparently suffered a negligent discharge while attempting to arrest a Latino teenager and threatened by a group of other teens. According to news reports, "hundreds" of protesters had protested outside the officer's home. It is apparently being spun as a "get off my lawn" incident where the officer got out of hand. Even The Truth About Guns has tacitly accepted this narrative in an article discussing what the officer could have done differently.

       Just in reviewing the video of the incident, however, it is clear that this was not simply the case of an irate homeowner (who happens to be a police officer) getting overly aggressive with delinquents. While you can't hear what the officer is saying in the video (at least, I couldn't), the 14-year old he was trying to arrest was very audible at points and pretty much tells you the story through his various denials. At one instance, for example, the teen is screaming about not knowing if the officer was a police officer or not, which tells us that the officer had identified himself as a police officer. At another point, the 14-year old is screeching that he hadn't threatened to shoot the officer, but that he had threatened to sue the officer. Given the foregoing, it is clear that the teen had threatened the officer (at least the officer believed it had been a threat), which justified detaining the teen. By the time the video begins, it also apparent the teen had already been fighting with the officer. And, having been attacked by several of the teens and being rapidly surrounded, the officer, in my opinion, was justified in drawing his firearm.

       The different accounts appear to agree that the root of what happened was that the officer had become fed up with teens crossing his lawn on their way to or from school and had confronted the teens about it. The TTAG author, Nick Leghorn, raises the "castle doctrine," but that doctrine, or related laws, is not applicable here. In most jurisdictions, a landowner may use reasonable force to eject a trespasser from their property if, after being directed to leave, the trespasser refuses to do so. In this case, at least one of the trespassers obviously escalated the level of force.

       Leghorn also suggests that a fence would probably have been an easier solution. And it probably would have: "good fences make for good neighbors," and all that. Unfortunately, there are things called "Homeowner's Associations" with covenants and restrictions (C&Rs), most of which prohibit construction of fences around front lawns. So, it is likely that a fence was not an option.

       The real problem, though, is the complete lack of respect shown by the teens for private property, probably aggravated by the fact that most of them were clearly r-selected individuals with no concept of any real restrictions on their behavior and who did not expect to ever face any consequences for their actions.

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