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.