With the introduction of body cameras, it seems like every week there is a new release of video depicting officer involved shootings.
This week was no exception.
On January 1, 2016, Officer Quincy Smith of the Estill, South Carolina, Police Department was responding to a call of a suspect snatching groceries from customers at a convenience market. He saw the suspect walking from the area and approached him in his vehicle. The suspect with a hand in his pocket continued walking refusing commands to stop. Smith drew his Taser and again ordered him to stop.
It was then the suspect pulled out a pistol and shot Smith four times. The shots broke his arm, severed a vein in his neck and passed through his torso.
The entire shooting was captured on Officer Smith’s eyeglass camera, which he purchased off Amazon.
The video was damming evidence in court.
The suspect Malcom Orr was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the attempted murder of a police officers. The video was released after his conviction this week.
It should be hard for anyone to watch.
I felt Officer Smith’s panic as he yelled into his radio, “Dispatch I’m hit, dispatch I’m hit!” (2:58 in the video). He goes on to describe his injuries, “My arms are broken, help me please,”
I got teary eyed when he calmly radioed, “Dispatch, please tell my family I love them.” He had no idea at that point if he was going to live to see them again.
Most of us find it hard to understand why someone would shoot a police officer for something as simple as petty theft, a non-violent crime.
In an interview with WJCL television Officer Smith reflected on the incident: “I didn’t draw my firearm because at the time I didn’t think it was warranted. He was just walking away. But unfortunately, I made a mistake and I drew my Taser and he got the upper hand on me.”
Incidents like this should make you question some of the recommendations regarding the escalation of force theories advocated by police critics. They argue a police officer should never draw their firearm until their life or the life of another is threatened.
Had Officer Smith had his firearm out, would the results have been different? In this case, the decision not to draw his firearm almost cost Officer Smith his life. You just never know what you’re going to encounter.
Estill, South Carolina is a small town of just more than 2000 people. They have seven police officers. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone. A town where things like this just shouldn’t happen.
Smith is still recovering from his wounds. He is hoping to return to work by the beginning of 2018.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.