Don’t think that the outrage over the beating of a retired elementary school teacher taught the New Orleans Police anything.

Three days ago, on December 27, police shot a mental patient, Anthony Hayes, 38, with a history of public disturbances or confrontations with law enforcement.  Hayes, who was described by relatives as suffering from schizophrenia, was shot at least nine times surrounded by 18 police officers after he allegedly lunged at a lieutenant as he brandished a 3-inch hunting knife.

Hayes had become unhinged after his credit card was refused at a local Walgreens.  He punched out an employee, after which the police were called and initially tried to calm him.

At least three witnesses videotaped Hayes’ confrontation with the cops–but not the actual killing itself, which occurred on the picturesque St. Charles Avenue.
New Police Superintendent Warren Riley met for two hours yesterday with New Orleans ministers who were alternately concerned and outraged at the shooting.  He emerged to say that he would support the convening of an independent review board to investigate the shooting, although his previous comments supported and justified the actions of the cops involved.

The ministers wanted to know why Hayes, whose history was already known to the police, had not been restrained by other means or wounded in the legs.  

Riley said earlier in earlier reports that there hadn’t been time:

Patrol officers don’t carry stun guns or beanbag guns, and there was no time to bring in a SWAT team, which might have had such equipment, he said.

“It happened within three minutes. SWAT couldn’t have made it there in that time,” Riley said. “And it’s not a situation where normally SWAT would have been called.”

The city’s police officers are trained to treat knife attacks as deadly force, not to disarm such assailants with hand-to-hand combat, Riley said Tuesday. “All tactical training clearly illustrates that a person with a knife within 21 feet is very lethal,” Riley said.

But it looks really bad anyway, because of the NOPD’s previous corrupt practices, including a marked propensity to shoot or hit first for any reason.  A propensity that was graphically proved by the Associated Press by the police beating of Robert Davis in the French Quarter.

Few people know that on November 11, that there had been another incident in which an unidentified man tried to climb into the cab of a moving garbage truck.  After a cop came to assist the garbage man, the man grabbed a knife that was clipped to the policeman’s front pocket. When the man ignored repeated commands to drop the knife, the cop shot him.

Ministers who had said before Thursday’s meeting that police should have aimed at Hayes’ legs, to stop him rather than kill him, said afterward that they understood why the officers hadn’t done so. “The reason a lot of police do not shoot at legs is that the bullet might travel through and hit someone else,” said the Rev. Marie Galatas.

I don’t buy this. Aren’t these guys supposed to be good shots, and at that range?

[Galatas] and [Rev. Norwood Thompson Jr. a member of the board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)] said they both still want a change in policy, so that officers are not trained to shoot only to kill.

Sometimes, I think, it just does not take using nonlethal weapons either.  Sometimes it takes nonlethal thinking.  Eighteen guys to subdue one man? It’s not that the guy is on angel dust.  Forgive me; I’ve never had something like this happen to me, nor have I witnessed such a thing.  But it makes me think about how Native Americans saw the frequent use of guns by soldiers or settlers as an indicator of how they allowed the gun to use them through their fear.

There have got to be better ways.

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