By Steve Pomper
Sometimes even when cops intend to do things right, cops are human, and things can still go wrong. We recently saw this happen when former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter pulled her gun instead of Taser. This mistake resulted in a First-Degree Manslaughter charge, trial, and conviction.
Even after this conviction, all evidence and commonsense still points toward Potter having made a dreadful, but honest mistake. A juror recently spoke out, saying the jury thought Potter was a good person, even a good cop, but made a mistake. However, the jury somehow thought a mistake was a crime and voted to convict her.
Even legendary, liberal Democrat Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz says the conviction was—well, a mistake. Professor Dershowitz said Potter’s conviction was a “double injustice with dangerous implications for policing in America.” He’s also appalled the judge denied her bail on appeal.
In an opinion piece in The Hill, Dershowitz asserted the over 20-year, decorated veteran “simply did not commit a crime.” He continued, “Under American law, honest mistakes are not crimes—even if they result in tragic deaths.”
In other instances, the officer does not make a mistake, does everything according to training, policy, and the law, but things still go bad—very bad. This seems to be the case for a police officer in Los Angeles. The officer fired at the suspect, but one bullet missed and tragically killed a 14-year-old girl who was out of sight, hiding.
This is one of the saddest stories you will ever hear. The victim’s family will mourn their loss for the rest of their lives. And, contrary to what cop-haters believe, so will the officer. No cop wants to kill anyone, especially an innocent kid, not by mistake, but unintentionally while properly performing his duty.
On December 23, 2021, LAPD Officer William Jones, a 10-year veteran, responded to a priority call. As reported by the New York Daily News, via Police1.com, several conflicting calls came in to 911. In a video released by the LAPD to the L.A. Times, Capt. Stacy Spell described callers reporting a suspect armed with a deadly weapon incident in progress at a Burlington Coat Factory.
Reportedly, 911 had received conflicting calls about a violent suspect armed either with a bike lock, a chain, or, as L.A. police union spokesman Tom Saggau told NBC News, some callers reported “he’s got a gun and he’s shooting.” If the latter report is true, that turns the incident into an active shooter situation.
As Saggau also said, “You can have conflicting witnesses calling 911, and the officers have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario was gun, shooting in a store, that’s an active shooter protocol immediately.” Reportedly, the 42-year-old Officer Jones had very recently taken part in a “mass casualty active shooter training.”
Active shooter training, which I attended during my career, teaches officers to respond to and end a mass casualty shooting as rapidly as possible. Police cannot treat a person actively shooting people the same (negotiations) as a hostage taker who is not currently shooting. A use of force expert, Capt. Greg Meyer, LAPD (Ret.), told the L.A. Times, “That means ‘going hard and fast, basically.”
Officers located one of the victims who was bleeding just before confronting and shooting the suspect. When officers conducted a search for other possible suspects, they located a woman and her daughter in a dressing room. Ironically, the pair were apparently hiding from the suspect.
The investigation revealed one of the rounds Officer Jones fired at the suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, ricocheted off the floor and penetrated a wall. On the other side of that wall was a dressing room occupied by Soledad Peralta and her daughter Valentina. Valentina was struck and killed by that bullet. Lopez was also shot and died of his wounds.
KABC-TV reported, not surprisingly, “several advocacy groups are calling for Williams [sic][Jones] to be arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter.” Where is their anger at the suspect for causing the incident?
One 911 caller, a store employee, says, “I have a hostile customer in my store attacking customers.” Loud banging can be heard in the background. This may have caused some callers to 911 to believe the suspect had a firearm.
Store surveillance video shows the suspect, armed with a heavy-duty, large gauge bike lock, attacking and striking several women. After striking and grabbing a third victim, he drags her away, out of camera view toward the dressing rooms, and police describe the suspect as continuing to strike the victim in the head with the bike lock.
Capt. Spell also described the active shooter team of officers, eventually led by Ofc. Jones, armed with a rifle, searching the store for the suspect. They locate a bloodied victim and then the suspect. Reportedly, still believing he may have a firearm, Jones fires, striking Lopez. LAFD medics responded to treat Lopez who succumbed to his wounds.
This story is sad, but as sad as it is, there was no way Ofc. Jones could have possibly known what was on the other side of the wall behind the suspect. Unfortunately, it was an occupied dressing room. At the scene, in that moment, without seeing any actual people behind the suspect, stopping that suspect was the officer’s only job.
Unreasonable cop critics expect police to perform perfectly all the time. The problem is the critics use a false definition of perfect. While officer training attempts to mitigate the unknowns, it cannot make every unknown, known. Cops cannot see through walls. Even if the officer could, according to the investigation, the round had ricocheted off the floor before passing through the wall.
For those who wish to see the officer charged with involuntary manslaughter, describe where the officer was negligent or reckless. You may not like his training or how he conducted himself based on the training, but, as far as we know, he performed as trained. The only other option was for the officers to let the thug who’d already violently assaulted at least three women simply get away.
Oh, wait… that is what cop-critics, and too many prosecutors, such as L.A.’s George Gascon, have been advocating for, right? But that’s what happens when a court convicts a police officer for making an honest mistake. Will the next thing be to convict police officers for not being able to see through walls?