Patt Morrison for September 14, 2010

Why can’t they just shoot them in the legs? Questioning police tactics in fatal shootings

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles Police officers patrol near protesters demonstrating against the Police shooting of Guatemalan immigrant Manuel Jaminez on Sept. 8, 2010 in Los Angeles.

When LAPD officers arrived on the scene in Westlake last week they were confronted by a loud, aggressive, seemingly crazy man with a knife, and reports of that man threatening other people in the vicinity. The situation ended very badly for that man, Guatemalan day laborer Manuel Jamines, who was shot dead by the officers after they feared for their own safety and the safety of people in the area. There has been a lot of second guessing in the aftermath of that shooting, about how the police officers perceived a drunk man with a knife in a wide open space as a threat, and why the officers couldn’t use less-than-lethal force to deal with Mr. Jamines. At the very least if the officers were determined to use their weapons, asked critics of the LAPD, why couldn’t they just shoot Mr. Jamines in the legs? What are the options for law enforcement who are dealing with intoxicated or mentally unstable suspects in potentially dangerous scenarios—can cops be trained to shoot for the legs?


Geoffrey P. Alpert, Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina and co-author of Managing Accountability Systems for Police Conduct: Internal Affairs and External Oversights

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