Thursday, April 24, 2008

Did Kelton Trice still have the gun when he was shot? Updated

Update:
The police have just issued a statement about the shooting that throws all my speculation into a cocked hat. Read about it here. I wonder if this blog spurred the statement. Anyway, I have been wrong before and will be again. I guess I read too much into the police silence on this issue and gave too much creedence to what the family had to say. Mea culpa.

Does a policeman have the right to shoot and kill someone who has just shot at him/her even if the shooter no longer has a gun? This may turn out to be the crucial question to ask about the recent death of a young man in East Moline, Kelton Trice. I only became aware that this was an issue after hearing about a conversation my wife had with a member of the Kelton's extended family. As far as I am aware none of the media accounts of the incident have even hinted that Trice may have thrown away the gun after he fired two times at East Moline Police Sgt. Tom Peterson and before Peterson returned fire. See here, here, here and here.

Did you notice that the police consistently say that the shooting was justified because Kelton Trice shot at them and not because he was armed and posed a danger to the officer and the public? I had thought there was something missing in the descriptions of the shooting I was reading in the newspaper and seeing on the tv news but could not put my finger on what that was. After hearing that Trice apparently threw away the gun as he ran, after shooting the officer but before he was shot, I began to make some sense of what the police were saying and what they were not saying.

There are investigations being conducted into the death and we should wait to hear their results before presuming to pass judgment on this particular police action. We do not know whether Sgt. Peterson knew that Trice no longer had a gun. But we can discuss the general question of whether the police are justified in shooting someone who has shot at them even if that person is no longer armed. As far as I know the police have never justified the shooting of Kelton Trice on the basis that he was armed and an imminent danger to the police officer and the public.

40 comments:

QuadCityImages said...

I'd be careful who you listen to. Are you suggesting that he got back up after being shot and chased him down and shot him? That's more of a movie thing.

There are 40 different stories from the "witnesses," so I'm curious why this one is any more likely than any of the others.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
Huh? I thought that it was clearly established that Sgt. Peterson was shot twice (but not seriously injured because of his bullet-proof vest) and that he then shot Kelton Trice 4 times. Other officers only arrived on the scene (shortly) after the shooting. Are you questioning that?

QuadCityImages said...

I'm saying I suspect it was near-simultaneously. Getting shot in the vest is like getting hit with a cement block. All the inertia that usually causes a bullet to kill you is instead "spread out" over about a 6" circle. I'd be surprised if he then chased anyone down.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
I think you need to go back and read the news accounts a little more closely. I believe you will find that the police describe the situation as I said: Trice fired at the officer in front of his grandmother's house and kept running. Sgt. Peterson shot him in the alley some distance away. No other officers were on the scene until after the shooting was over. They said two guns were recovered, Peterson's and a non-police gun which they believed to be the gun that Trice used to shoot Peterson. They did not say where they recovered the guns.

tom said...

I realize that this is all hypothetical, but you are asking the officer to be omniscient about the presence of ANOTHER weapon, which is unreasonable. He is going to serve a warrant on a armed robbery suspect, which can be assumed to be a somewhat dangerous person. The suspect then fires at him, hitting him at least twice, proving him to be extremely dangerous. If the suspect then throws/drops the gun, assuming the officer even sees this, how can he take the risk that this person does not have second gun. The first one could have been discarded simply because it jammed or was empty. The only way that the officer possibly could be criticized for this is the suspect dropped the gun and then clearly surrendered.

Dave Barrett said...

tom,
You need to read the post a little more carefully. I specifically said that we do not know whether Sgt. Peterson knew Trice was unarmed when he was shot. I am not passing judgement on this particular shooting.

But since the police have been saying that the shooting was justified because Trice first shot at the police we can legitimately discuss that. Is that enough justification by itself? Of will it require that Sgt. Peterson had reason to think that Trice was still armed to justify it?

tom said...

Dave,
Re-read your own post. You most definitely are attempting to pass judgment on the Trice shooting. Your original post states that what the police knew may to turn out to be the crucial question to ask with regard to it. My argument is that trying to discern what they "knew" is a waste of time.

Of course the police are not entitled to shoot a suspect simply in retribution for the suspect having previously fired at police. To take the snippets that our local media gives us and assume that this is the sole justification for the Trice shooting is overly simplistic.

A knowledge standard is impossible to impose on police. How can the police "know" (OK, maybe if the suspect is naked and was just searched) in 99.9% of the situations that someone does not have a gun. The Trice case is not one of those .1% situations.

Certainly the fact that a suspect just dropped/threw a gun away does not impart that knowledge. Not to metion that a suspect is in the process of fleeing around his residence and could have other weapons planted on the premises or available in the neighbor. Please give examples with Trice or other situations how the police could "know" a person was unarmed. Absent employing Kreskin on the police force, it cannot be done.

In fact, if you use a knowledge standard, it simply makes it easier for the police to lie. They can testify what they "knew" and it is difficult to get inside their brain and show that they didn't. You can argue that it was unreasonable for the police to think that way, and that is is why an objective standard (did the police act reasonably given the facts) is the only thing that can be used.

Dave Barrett said...

tom,
I guess you are saying that someone having shot at the police is not sufficient justification for the police shooting the shooter, but the police must be given wide latitude in arguing that they have to assume that someone who was seen to have been shooting recently is still armed and dangerous. Is that what you are saying? If so, I agree.
I imagine that at some point the police will make that argument. I wonder why they have not yet done so.

tom said...

I will agree with that. Using the facts of this Trice case as an example: (1) past history of convictions for violence (admittedly not all that violent), (2) probable cause for arrest in armed robbery--while he didn't shoot anyone, less than a week earlier there was p.c. to believe he had pulled a gun on someone, 3) he in fact starts shooting a police officer (assuming he shot first) and becomes an immediate threat to the police and others in a residential neighborhood. Unless he stops fleeing and clearly holds up his hands or otherwise demonstrates he is no longer a threat (runs into a post and knocks himself unconscious), the police have to be able to fire to defend themselves.
I guess I don't expect the police to be able to then immediately articulate a philosophical justification that will satisfy the entire blogosphere. :)
I can see that the justification for this shooting likely exists if the police version of the facts is somewhat near what actually happened.

I am sure that there are situations where the police may have shot or injured an unarmed suspect who previously shot one of their brethern. Don't believe those situations necessarily are justified (still might be if the person posed enough risk) and doubt that is what we have here.

Dave Barrett said...

tom,
I agree that from what we know of the case the shooting of Kelton Trice by the police was probably justified. But there is a lot of anger among Kelton's many friends and family. The idea of an unarmed man being shot in the back is difficult to take if you know and like the man who was shot. Adding to the anger is the widespread idea among the friends and family that the only evidence that the police had that Kelton was involved in the armed robber for which they were trying to arrest him was the testimony of one man who was believed to be an angry at Kelton and lying to try to get Kelton in trouble.
Also adding to the anger was that after the shooting the police handcuffed Kelton and did not try to give him medical assistance for 15 minutes. Admittedly he was shot through heart and that probably did not matter but that image of him being put into handcuffs when he was lying there mortally wounded and with no gun nearby has created a lot of anger.

QuadCityImages said...

Don't forget that he had 2 guns in the robbery video.

I hadn't read the thing about the shootings taking place in different places. If Kelton was running away, how did he get shot in the chest?

Cops are more than reluctant to shoot someone. The previous day when the cop was shot at he didn't even return fire, probably because he didn't want to go through all the crap that this officer is being put through.

QuadCityImages said...

Also, none of us posting saw any of this. Dave is taking the word of witnesses who are clearly biased towards Kelton (and have already been caught in some lies) and I'm taking the word of cops who are biased towards their own comrades. None of us know for sure what happened.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
"..I'm taking the word of cops..."
What cops have said that Trice had the gun in his hand when he was shot?
What cops have said that Trice was standing in the same spot when he shot at the polices as he was when he was shot by the police? What cops have said that Trice was not shot in the back as he ran away? I have seen no such statements from the cops. If you look at the news stories they have been very careful in what they said and especially in what they have not said.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
"...he had 2 guns in the video.." Now you are making things up. There is no video showing Kelton Trice participating in the armed robbery. The only evidence they had that he was involved, the evidence they used to get the arrest warrant, was the word of one man -- a man that Kelton's friends and family say was lying to get Kelton in trouble.

QuadCityImages said...

I believe the autopsy said he was shot in the chest, buts its becoming clear whose side you're on, so I won't try and convince you.

br_johnson said...

Maggie Trice said she received a phone call and was told the police were shooting at her grandson. She heard a shot fired then went to the door and saw a second shot fired.

“I saw the shooting,” she said. “I was begging for the police don’t shoot my child.”

Trice said her grandson was shot at least twice and doctors told her one bullet hit his heart.

“I think he was on the ground when they shot him the second time,” she said.

Grandma saw the shooting...heard two shots. My guess is that the other two wounds came from a second shooter...perhaps from the grassy knoll.

Socialist Christian Hippie said...

What I find fascinating is:

1. The gun hasn't (as far as I've heard) been linked to the dead man.

2. I am rather amazed that a cop after getting hit twice in a bullet proof vest still could hit a subject four times in the kill zone (all four shots were clustered around the heart, no?)

Why is so little info, and conflicting info, at that, being released?

There are questions here, and if the police were more forthcoming, perhaps they could be answered.

You shoot at a cop, hey, I am a pacifist and all, but you're asking for problems.

Too little information that is then filled in by eyewitnesses is asking for trouble. The longer the police hold onto the info they have, the more questions that will arise.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
I stand corrected. It sounds like only one or two shots were in his back as he ran away unarmed. Two more shots, probably including the fatal one to the heart, were fired down at him as he lay on the ground and the policeman stood over him.
Then they put handcuffs on him and let him lay there for 15 minutes until he was dead.

QuadCityImages said...

I never anywhere read that the autopsy said he was shot laying down. Where is this stated?

Dave Barrett said...

"Where is that stated?"

A few comments above. The grandmother saw the final two shots--Trice was on the ground and the policeman was standing over him firing down.

QuadCityImages said...

The autopsy would have shown if he had been shot while laying on the ground.

Of course, I suppose you think this is all a big coverup conspiracy, so the autopsy wouldn't matter...

In my opinion, many of the witnesses saw what the wanted to see, or are flat out lying about much of it.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
I will gladly let the readers decide which of us is ignoring evidence in order to believe what we want to believe

br_johnson said...

Actually I was pointing out what I consider an inconsistant (sp?) eyewitness account.

Grandma:
She heard a shot fired then went to the door and saw a second shot fired.

“I saw the shooting,” she said.

“I think he was on the ground when they shot him the second time,” she said.


db...what is your source for the shots entering from the back.

On April 18, 2008, the autopsy results have been released by Coroner Sharon Anderson. Coroner Anderson indicated that Mr. Trice died as a result of a through and through gunshot wound to the left lateral chest. Evidence was found of three other non-fatal gunshot wounds all with entry on Mr. Trice's front left lateral side.


Trice's cousin is quoted in Dispatch:

"When I got there (at the shooting), I seen my cousin fall and the officer kept runnin' up and shootin' him," Mr. Williams said.

Did he fall by tripping or by being shot? (not shot or shot number 1)

"After he fell, he (officer) kept shooting him. Pow! Pow! Pow!" Mr. Williams said. "Then, they put him in handcuffs.

So Pow Pow Pow is 3 (more) shots so db following your logic: Shot #1 was the fatal shot that went through and through...Trice then fell face up and the officer stood over him and pumped 3 more shots into his chest?

Seems like there were several eyewitnesses who say Trice never fired at the officer...claim to have witnessed the shooting but can not say that someone else shot the officer.

Dave Barrett said...

br_johnson,
Yeah, obviously the eyewitnesses quoted in the paper were not consistent with each other. Some of them claimed that Kelton Trice did not shoot at all. The police have not said much except that the only officer who was on the scene while the shooting was going on was Sgt. Peterson.
The police said that they recovered the gun that Kelton Trice used to shoot Sgt. Peterson but they did not say where the gun was when they recovered it. The police have said that Kelton Trice was shot becase he shot at the police. They did not say that he was shot because he had a gun and was a danger to the police and public.
At least some of Kelton Trice's extended family now conceeds that he did shoot Sgt. Peterson but that he threw the gun away after shooting and before he was shot.
It seemed to me from all that evidence that Kelton Trice was running away from Sgt. Peterson when he was shot. If the autopsy showed all the shots were to his left side rather than his back then he must have half turned back toward Sgt. Peterson (perhaps turning to run down the alley, I don't know) when he was first shot.
I don't see any reason to believe from what we know that the two men, Sgt. Peterson and Kelton Trice, were facing each other and shooting simultaneously. Since the police were anxious to counter the claim that Kelton Trice did not shoot at all and did not even have a gun they would certainly would have emphasized how they had kicked the gun away before handcuffing him if in fact they had.
Since there will probably not be a trial we may never know exactly what happened.

QuadCityImages said...

If there's no evidence either way (although I disagree) why do you assume they weren't face to face shooting each other? I would say the fact that they were both shot in the chest lends itself to this. The only thing I can think of that suggests otherwise is the ever-changing witness accounts of people who are biased towards Kelton. These are the same people that said on the news, "He was only trying to get away from the police," as though that's a perfectly natural and understandable thing.

It just seems like you're giving a lot more benefit of the doubt to Trice than you are the trained police officer.

KyngStudd said...

Well.. according to a very reliable source of mine, and there is no doubt at all that this is a reliable source, the only non-police gun they found was in Trice's home...think on that one.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
Once again I ask you when did a police officer say that Sgt. Peterson and Kelton Trice shot at each other at the same time standing face to face? I have heard no such statement. If fact, the absence of such a statement, when the police were obviously very interested in convincing the public that Kelton had had a gun and shot at Sgt. Peterson, speaks very loudly to me.

Dave Barrett said...

kyngstudd,
I don't know if you are being serious or not, but assuming you are: As far as I know the police have never said where they recovered the non-police gun they say they think is the one that shot Sgt. Petereson. I am claiming that they found it no where near where Kelton Trice was shot. If someone knowledgeable says they found it inside the Trice home then that confirms what I have been saying, that Kelton Trice was shot after he had shot at Sgt. Peterson, ditched the gun and ran down to the alley unarmed.

sickofit said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
br_johnson said...

db-

Sounds like nobody here at this thread knows anything definitive including me. We are only taking bits and pieces of fuzzy information and trying to come up with a solution that makes sense to all or to a majority at least. I think no one person alive today knows all of what happened where, when and how.

Let's look at your original question:

"Does a policeman have the right to shoot and kill someone who has just shot at him/her even if the shooter no longer has a gun?"

I would say that the answer is YES, sometimes. This is not a game of "tag"...I tag you and then yell "no tag backs"...seems unreasonable.

If Trice shot the officer twice...you must call Trice the shooter if you believe the claim that the gun was found inside Grandma's house...then ran back outside and came face to face with the man he just shot...the officer in a split second has to decide is this shooter still armed? Is he going to shoot me again? I would bet you lunch at the ICP that the officer took all 4 shots face to face in less than 2 seconds. There is no instant replay here. Trice has no reasonable expectation that he is now safe from return fire because he ditched the gun...the office has no way of knowing if the man that just shot him is now unarmed.

In response to your original question think of this - what did the officer know and when did he know it. He knows he was just shot twice...he probably has a good idea who shot him...it was daylight...the shooter was probably very close at the time of the shooting...hard to think an untrained (or trained for that matter) person could hit someone with a pistol at any distance and the person hit not be able to identify the shooter...

So let me be offer my opinion here:

A documented gang banger (no one denies that do they) who up to this time had chosen a life of crime, was in control of the situation at the park...could have gave up at the park...took his chances with the justice system being able to prove him guilty...decided to flee...shot an officer twice...brought the battle home to Grandma's...gave up control of the situation to a better trained better equipped law enforcement officer...Kelton Trice may very well had been a good guy but nobody can deny he had a history of making bad choices, far beyond the choices of what the average person of any social-economic background may have made...Kelton made his last few decisions incorrectly...escalated the scenario by his own actions to a point he could no longer control... resulting in his own death.

And now some would shift the blame to the police officer? Seems unreasonable to me.

Dave Barrett said...

I think we can agree that the only justification for the police shooting down someone is if that person is an immediate danger to others. Even if they know someone did something terrible, like try to kill a policeman, this is not justification for killing the person. Punishment should be meted out by the courts. Therefore it is troubling if the police shoot someone and offer as a justification only that the person had shot at a policeman. Most of the public assumed that that was shorthand for "because he had just shot at a policeman and still had a gun we had to kill him." But what if people who were there dispute that the person who was killed was armed at the time he was shot? Shouldn't the police justify the shooting by explaining why they had to assume he was still armed if he wasn't?

The police have given no justification for the shooting other than Kelton Trice shot Sgt. Peterson. I find that a little troubling.

br_johnson said...

I think Trice was an immediate danger to others. Just moments before Trice tried to KILL a uniformed police officer. Cold blooded stone cold point blank shots to the heart of a human being who was doing his job. The officer was of no lethal danger to Trice.

Trice had no justification to attempt to end the life of another person. What could have been his justification, "I'm innocent of whatever you are accusing me of?" So bang bang leave me alone. I find that line of thinking more than troubling.

tjmcb2 said...

There are so many stories about this shooting,it's just a bad deal all the way around.From someone who lives in this neighborhood for the last ten yrs,I just can not believe the EM police sent 1 officer to serve a warrant on someone who was wanted for armed robbery.Someone who allegedy used 2 hand guns during that robbery.It's a tough neighborhood I can tell you that,and very rarely do you see 1 officer or squad answering a call.They say the officer had no backup.I'm not buying it.And if he didn't,that shows the intellegence of the EMPD.As far as the shooting goes I believe the officer was justified.There is always going to be controversy surrounding a shooting like this.That is his job,no one wants to shoot someone but if their life or innocent bystanders lives are at stake you have to be able to.The young man was no angel,and he made some serious mistakes.This one cost him his life.

QuadCityImages said...

If the gun was actually found in Grandma's house, it also raises the possibilities of one of the bystanders who feel the police are the enemy may have hidden it there.

As far as the one officer thing, I read somewhere that Peterson and other officers were responding to the home, but Peterson saw him at the park, and gave chase. In hindsight of course, he should have waited for the other officers, but police don't have that benefit.

Also, there was one guy on the news that said they fired at each other at nearly the same time. He was also the only person I saw who said that Kelton had a gun. He also didn't hurt his credibility by saying he was trying to help Trice escape from the police.

TRUTH said...

Let me break this down for you....Trice's intent was to kill the Police Officer. He failed. Trice shot Officer Peterson 2 times, one in the chest and one above the abdomen. The chest shot being directly to the heart, punctured the skin.

I am sick and tired of people acting like there was no gun. For the record the gun was taken from the scene immediately right out of Trice's hand. That is a fact. I guess most people will figure that out when the report comes out showing gun powder all over Trice's hands. Then what will they say? What will the excuses be then?

Trice's intent was to Kill Officer Peterson, I don't know what part of that his family and others don't get. You shoot at a police officer you get what is coming to you.

Officer Peterson was shot by Trice 2 times, close proximity, Officer Peterson fires back to defend himself and others.....JUSTIFIED SHOOTING! Only 4 shots, normally it would be the whole clip (15 bullets)

Don't shoot at the police and there won't be any issues...if Trice wasn't killed he would be serving 50 years for attempting to kill and Officer.

Those are the facts...I can't wait until the whole report comes out so that all these stupid conspiracy theories go by the way side.

I am sick of the lies, distortions, and drama by the people that didn't even witness the crime.

TRUTH said...

P.s.

Don't believe everything you read in the media.

There is no truth to half of what they have printed.

br_johnson said...

db-

Looks like your theories are not gaining much traction here. I think most people, including me, made up their minds within hours of the shooting.

No clear convincing evidence has come forward to change my mind. I would welcome your current thoughts.

Is it possible the cop was a "maverick" and shot an innocent person? Sure. Is it probable? Not in my opinion.

I'm calling this one:

Police Officer 1
Vice Lord Thug 0

Game Over

Good Night

QuadCityImages said...

Today's Dispatch article answers many of the questions, and seems to answer them very close to the way I predicted.

http://qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=384314

Other cops were sent to arrest Kelton, but he ran from them and was found by Officer Peterson. Then they both fired at (and hit) each other in the alley. Kelton's gun was found next to him, 6 shell casings were found, 6 bullets between the 2 of them.

I normally agree with you on stuff Dave, but you've disappointed me by extending your "fight the man" Maverick style to taking the word of criminals over that of the police. And yes, I said criminals. When the people admitted ON TV that they were trying to help Kelton escape the police, they admitted to a crime.

Dave Barrett said...

qci,
Yes, you now have the statements from the police to support your view of the shooting. I wonder if the statement was a response to this blog.

I guess I read too much into the police silence on this issue until now and gave too much creedence to what the family was saying.

mea culpa

QuadCityImages said...

Hey, there was no evidence either way, so I wouldn't feel too bad.

The investigation left plenty of questions for people to speculate about, and this is probably the biggest local shooting to happen since the advent of QCTimes and QCOnline comments. I know they really fueled the fire and the rumor mill, in addition to the hate fest.

I feel like this event and the various controversies surrounding it were not at all helpful to racial harmony in the QC. Many African-Americans probably see this as just another white cop taking out a black kid, and many prejudiced whites see just what they wrongly imagine all black youth to be. If only this was a wake up call to both sides instead of a tinderbox.