By Wayne William Cipriano
You could call me a motorcycle freak. I have never been in the motorcycle business but as an over-indulgent enthusiast I once owned nine motorcycles at the same time. I still own three. So when a local television station’s news program advertised a story about an attempted motorcycle (m/c) high-jacking, with film taken from a helicopter, I was enthralled.
I understood I would probably have to wait through the depressingly routine series of stories that always seem to populate the local news: pickup wrecks, trailer fires, trusted persons sexually abusing children, same-o, same-o. And, of course, the m/c story being the only one of even marginal interest to me, was dead last.
Believing that the story would be quick and difficult to comprehend, I taped it. And, as I expected, it was very short and very confusing. The local news anchor did not understand exactly what had happened and so only added to the confusion with her narrative. The entire story lasted only sixty seconds and so, once again, I learned what a waste local television news remains.
However, watching the tape I made of the story several times I noted something very interesting, very gratifying, and something that was completely ignored by the news reader. The person attempting the car –– or more accurately the m/c-jacking exited a pickup and pulled the rider off his m/c. The “jacker” was not able to do so very quickly, and while this was happening two police vehicles arrived and two police approached while the fight for the m/c was ending.
I heard that the erstwhile m/c jacker had been fleeing the police as a suspected felon (I did not hear what crime was involved) and I guess he felt his escape would be more effective on a m/c rather than in a pickup truck. To whatever felonies for which he was being pursued by the police, we can add two others that took place while I watched: assault and battery and attempted auto (m/c) theft.
Now, it goes without saying that I do not know squat about the law. Still, I am pretty sure this guy was in very deep trouble with the heat and they had just arrived when the putative jacker gave up his theft of the m/c, returned to his truck, and sped away driving over and seriously damaging the m/c he had just tried to steal (adding felonious property damage?). As the jacker was escaping, a police person with drawn service weapon was standing on each side of the truck.
They Did Not Shoot!
They could have. They had identified the guy and his pickup truck as the one they were chasing. They had no doubt seen the attempted m/c theft and the assault. They were right there, within ten feet, and they did not fire at the fleeing suspect nor at the truck.
Both of these police persons demonstrated the training, experience, judgment, and restraint that reflects most positively on themselves as professionals, their department, and the community they serve that sets the parameters of their actions.
Why do I say this? Let us consider two potential situations that could have followed the discharge of those police service weapons. The first, accurate shooting: all the bullets fired find their intended mark; the driver of the truck is shot and incapacitated. The truck becomes an unguided two-ton missile moving down a two-way semi-residential street, perhaps at speed, endangering everything and everyone in its way.
The second situation, inaccurate shooting: Some (or all) of the bullets miss their targets and pass through the light sheet metal and glass of the truck to travel “down range.” The police on opposite sides of the truck are in danger, everything and everyone within several hundred feet of the target vehicle are likewise in danger of being shot –– completely innocent, unrelated, simply unlucky things and persons.
Shoot the tires of the truck? Even in the most favorable of conditions, hitting a small moving target with a handgun, even close up, is difficult. Add to that difficulty the adrenaline-produced arterial-pounding that a car chase and potential gunfight manifests in the target-holding ability of even the most well-trained shooter and you understand how hard making an accurate pistol shot becomes. In addition, even a bullet that penetrates a tire has sufficient velocity to travel (ricochet?) down range and constitute a continuing secondary danger to anything and anyone.
And, one other consideration that was no doubt paramount in the minds of the police refusing to fire at the fleeing truck but might be missed by the rest of us is passengers in the truck who may be uninvolved in any criminal behavior –– a small child in the back of the cab, hitchhiker, an innocent pal, girl or boy friend, family member, etc.
These two police persons are to be commended for their restraint and their dedication to the ethics of their profession. We should all be deeply impressed by their absolutely correct behavior.