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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  January 11, 2009
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Topic category:  Other/General

It didn’t have to happen.

Senseless. That’s about the only way to describe this one.

Miles Murphy, 22, died in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day.

By all accounts, Mr. Murphy - an honor student at UW - was a decent, well-liked, and bright young man. The kind we need more of in this screwed up world of ours.

Mr. Murphy also collected and wore WWII memorabilia and had been out earlier in the evening, dressed as a German soldier, firing blanks from a rifle of the type used by the German infantry in WWII.

Granted, that was dumb, but how many of us have done something every bit as dumb at that age - especially on New Year’s Eve?

The thing is, we got away with it. Luck was with us. God took pity and sent us safely on our way.

Unfortunately, this time, it all went wrong.

This time, someone reported the disturbance and, according to reports, when officers arrived at the stairway leading down to Mr. Murphy’s basement apartment, he came out carrying the rifle with a bayonet affixed.

Officers ordered him to put the rifle down.

At first, he apparently began lowering the rifle but, then, he pointed it at the officers who immediately opened fire in response to the threat.

Miles Murphy is now dead. His parents are grieving, two police officers will likely have nightmares about the whole event for the rest of their lives, and no one will ever know what Mr. Murphy was thinking in that stairwell.

Which is why we all need to take a step back and digest a few things.

The first is intuitively obvious. Whenever a police officer says something, it’s important to listen.

“Drop the rifle” isn’t difficult to understand.

Granted, most of us will never hear those words but if, for any reason, we did, it’d be best to do exactly that.

Even were we not not carrying a rifle, it’d be good to drop one - or whatever it is we’re holding that’s making the officers nervous.

Do that one, simple thing and the situation changes from dire and dangerous to heated but manageable... and we can sort out the misunderstanding later.

However, at that instant, all that we should care about is making it extremely obvious to the officers that we are not a threat to them or to anyone else.

The reason for this is that whenever officers respond to situations where “shots fired” have been reported, you can bet that they are now in a frame of mind that we citizens seldom, if ever, get to experience. The “pucker factor” is up and the adrenaline is flowing.

Too, whereas we get to retreat from danger, their job is to ride toward it.

Their gear is designed, as best as possible, to protect them. Their training is designed, as best as possible, to prepare them. Still, such calls never follow any hard rules and bullets fired can penetrate armor or hit an uncovered part of the body.

Officers also know that almost anything (bottles, pipes, hammers, knives, whatever) can be lethal if they allow someone to get within striking range and that truly bad things can happen faster than you can read these last nine words.

Thus, it’s necessary to understand that, when facing a possibly lethal situation, in the back of their minds is the thought that this call might be the last thing they experience on this earth.

Woven into all of this is also the fact that they are like us. They go to work every day with the innate desire to return home in one piece.

Therefore, when they’re suddenly confronted with an apparently deadly threat, they’re going to respond - and there’s no such thing at that time as shooting to wound. You shoot to the center of mass and you keep shooting until the threat is down.

Having said all of this, I’ll come back to my original point.

When faced with police officers saying “Drop the rifle” or anything similar, the absolute best thing to do is just that.

Because, at that moment, they don’t know who you are. They don’t know that you might be a bright, talented, well-liked young man with the world in front of him.

All they know is that they need to react.

And that can be the start of a tragedy.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2009 by Larry Simoneaux
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