If you have a gun in your house, thinking that you might some day pull it out to protect yourself, there’s a very real chance that Aurora police will shoot you dead.
That’s the logical takeaway from a report by Adams County District Attorney Dave Young as he determined this week that Aurora Police Officer Drew Limbaugh acted properly when he mistakenly shot 73-year-old Gary Black to death in his own living room. He shot Black seconds after he killed a crazed intruder intent on murdering his grandson in the middle of the night.
Police and Young agree that if there’s blame here, it’s loaded onto the chaos created when a bad guy breaks into your home in the middle of the night and threatens your life.
After Young released his hey-no-problem report on the bizarre July shooting, Aurora police released stunning cop-body-cam video in an effort to support Young’s claims.
I don’t think it does for a couple of big reasons.
First, in the middle of the insanity of hysterical and weird people pouring out of the house, guns going off inside, a broken down door and an old guy stumbling into the dark living room with a gun and flashlight, cops standing out in the dark never once said they were cops. They just yelled, “drop the gun.”
It’s pretty easy to imagine, and actually clear to see, that Black was either dazed or injured after having just wrestled and then shot a naked crazy man trying to kill his grandson. He has no idea where the hell the cops are at this point. The voices outside his house, just beyond the broken down front door, could have been the crazy guy’s partners in crime, yelling about guns, for all Black knew.
If cops not identifying themselves as cops isn’t a procedural problem — with their guns out, getting ready to kill someone — then we all have a serious quandary.
Young and Aurora police are dead wrong on that matter, and they know it. But that’s up to an inevitable lawsuit to sort out down the road.
That all-but-certain lawsuit is the only thing Aurora residents have to hope for in cleaning up this and other Aurora police department dilemmas. That’s because there is no independent oversight structure in Aurora. None. Zip.
Cops don’t like them, even though they offer credibility to claims like Young’s.
That’s more than just too bad. That’s because Aurora and its police department have an unwritten policy: When cops get sued for wrongly injuring or killing someone, they just write big, fat check instead of pouring over the mess in court. They tend to get sued a lot these days for being accused of wrongly killing and injuring people.
The end result is that police change nothing because they’re the only ones who review what they do.
Which brings us back to what happens if you’re foolish enough to keep a gun in your house.
I’ll remind you that after decades of research, it is indisputable that you are wildly more likely to be injured or killed by a gun if you keep one in your house.
The biggest odds are that you’ll maim or kill yourself, research shows. But even if that doesn’t happen, the likelihood of your being shot to death is greatly increased by just keeping that gun in the house.
This mirrors the reality that more guns means more gun-deaths everywhere. States with higher gun ownership have more gun deaths. Same for cities. Same for your house. Any gun nut who tries to tell you differently is shooting blanks.
And if you live in Aurora, you’ll run a very real risk of having cops shoot you to death in your own house if they find you staggering around the living room, in the middle of the night, unable or unwilling to drop your gun. It doesn’t matter that you may have just pulled the trigger to save your own skin, and that there are possibly one or 20 other people in the house trying to kill you. What matters is that when the cops arrive to save the day, in the heat of total insanity — which is the result of crazy people and guns in your house in the middle of the night — cops are going to shoot you dead when they see the gun in your hand you forgot to drop.
Bummer for you.
I can’t disagree with all this. It’s easy to watch the video today and second-guess why the cops didn’t know more about who was inside the house and what was going on. But having worked with cops for a long time, it’s very likely nobody really knew what the hell was happening when they called 911. Panicking people make big mistakes trying to tell dispatchers what’s going on. Dispatchers can only relay what they know, and cops rolling up on a shooting scene are taught to run to make the bad guys quit killing people.
It may have made no difference whether cops identified themselves when they were yelling at Black to drop his gun, because it’s likely he could hear or understand them.
Given what the cops knew, seconds after they heard gunfire inside, Young’s assessment of Limbaugh’s decision to shoot Black makes sense.
But Young’s second mistake is that he doesn’t address the additional problem that police have here. Limbaugh had shot dead another suspect just a month before the lethal Black shooting.
In watching the videos, it sure looks like Limbaugh was in a location to make the shot. We’ll never know, however, if another cop had been standing in the same place, whether he, or she, too, would have fired at Black when Limbaugh did.
It’s easy to argue, however, that if Black, having just shone the flashlight on the cops outside his house in the dark, had realized they were cops, he might have dropped the gun. If another cop had waited one, maybe two more seconds, Black might have been telling this wild story for the rest of his life.
He didn’t. And no savvy person can blame Limbaugh for firing when he did.
But if he hadn’t been there? State Rep. Rhonda Fields is so concerned about turning cops who shoot people back onto active duty less than a month after they shoot someone else that she’s considering a legislative bill next year to examine it.
So it means just one thing. If you have a gun at home, and an unthinkable home invasion comes your way, and you call police in a panic, you better hope you can shoot the intruder and pull it together and stash the gun before the cops bust in to save your ass.
We’ll all be dying to find out what happens next time.
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