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Old February 9, 2012, 01:41 PM   #1
BarryLee
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Self Defense Gone Wrong

I have included a link to a very unsettling story. Basically a tire store manager had agreed to deliver some wheels and tires to a customer’s home. As he followed the customer they pulled into a gas station where another man appeared and tried to rob him. The manager had a gun which he was licensed to carry and shot the robber.

Fearing for his life he then ran across the street as he was running an off duty Atlanta Police Officer saw the gun and ordered the man to the ground. Although he initially compiled after noting the officer’s personal vehicle and tattoos on his arms he began to resist and shots were exchanged. The officer was shot three times, but survived due to a bullet proof vest. The officer ejected the magazine from his weapon, so he could not return fire. Bystanders eventually helped subdue the suspect who continued to state that the man was not a policeman. The initial victim turned suspect was offered a plea bargain, but has decided to take his chances in court.

This is an excellent example of the need to have a clear understanding of what is going on during a defensive situation. I am sure the adrenaline was flowing and the guy was obviously in fear for his life. However, he ultimately shot a Police Officer placing himself in a very difficult position.

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/shoo...p-1339626.html
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Last edited by BarryLee; February 9, 2012 at 02:03 PM.
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Old February 9, 2012, 02:17 PM   #2
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The article states the officer was in full uniform at the time.

If that is indeed correct, I'd not have much hope for the fellow. I think the desire stated in the article to send a message to thugs that nobody can shoot a cop and get away with it is a bit much; innocent people should not be used to send a message. However, his innocence is in doubt since apparently his only factor for deciding the officer was another criminal was the tattoos... that's not a reasonable assumption.

I don't know what a good outcome would be, but my guess is that the fellow is likely to do time due to a bad decision made under stress.
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Old February 9, 2012, 02:25 PM   #3
BarryLee
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Quote:
The article states the officer was in full uniform at the time.
Yes, that is true, but one thing it does not state is exactly what type of uniform he was wearing. I have seen APD commonly wear polo shirts with embroidered badges and dark BDU style pants. Obviously I am just speculating, but I wonder if that might have contributed to the situation.
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Old February 9, 2012, 02:38 PM   #4
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This sounds like bad news bears for the civilian. I agree that just because he has tattoos doesn't make him not an LEO.

The flipside of the coin is those who are LEO's should consider this case as how important it is to maintain a professional image. If you've got tats try and cover them as well as you can without too much inconvenience or discomfort.

Sure it's really not a great way to determine if someone is good or bad but they do carry a little bit of a stigma with them, even today. As evidenced plain as can be in this incident.
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Old February 9, 2012, 02:51 PM   #5
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From the article:
Howard, the district attorney, said he believes that Thomas shot Roach out of anger, not error. “For whatever reason, his emotions got the best of him and he almost killed a good man,” Howard said.

------

So he thinks that Thomas shot the cop out of anger, but can't articulate why a man with a spotless record, who had just asked someone to call the police would be angry enough at a police officer to shoot him. I know we don't have all of the details yet, but I don't like hearing a DA make a leap like that.

This is going to be a mess. I feel sorry for the officer and the robbery victim. It's easy to see yourself in either of their positions. They are both very lucky to be alive. The officer will probably have some painful rehab or worse. The merchant is probably devastated by this will likely wind up in prison.
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Old February 9, 2012, 03:27 PM   #6
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Our new agency head went to a "no visible tattoo" policy. Forever, we had a uniform changeover from winter to summer so everyone would wear either short sleeves or long sleeves-depending on time of year. Because of this new policy, it also changed the changeover policy to where we can wear either shirt any time of the year. Many with tattoos only wear long sleeves and if not, they wear a body colored covering over their tattoos. I have no idea if our agency head had this type of story in mind in changing the policy but it now validates it in a way.
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Old February 9, 2012, 04:02 PM   #7
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[The flipside of the coin is those who are LEO's should consider this case as how important it is to maintain a professional image. If you've got tats try and cover them as well as you can without too much inconvenience or discomfort.]

Tats look more gang member like than a police officer. Not at all professional. When I see anyone with tats I see gang members, and prison inmates. I realize that is not the case with everyone, but they give me a bad impression.

As to the store manager, if the officer was in an official uniform the store manager is in the wrong, and will probably go to prison.

Jerry
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Old February 9, 2012, 04:32 PM   #8
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He may go to prison, but I don't think he is lying about not believing the officer to be an officer. I don't think he shot the cop because he was angry with the cop...at least not from reading the article.

When officers shoot civilians and other officers during such situations, it seems like the officers are rarely, if ever, charged. The situation gets boiled down to being fog of war, stress induced tunnel vision, flight or flight, trajedy. Some speaker for the city would go on and on about "this terrible trajedy" and explain that the job of a cop is very tough and very demanding with great life of death pressures, etc etc. etc. The city then pays off the victim or the victim's family and the officers remain on the job (often anyway).

Have cops ever shot other cops in broad daylight? Have cops ever shot the wrong non-leo person in broad daylight? Sure.

Thomas' attitude seems pretty crappy. He thinks they should let him off with an apology and then everyone can just get on with their lives. At the very least, he should be making full restitution to the city for Roach's medical care, wages (Roach's shifts had to be covered by somebody), damaged gear, etc.
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Old February 9, 2012, 05:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryLee
Yes, that is true, but one thing it does not state is exactly what type of uniform he was wearing. I have seen APD commonly wear polo shirts with embroidered badges and dark BDU style pants. Obviously I am just speculating, but I wonder if that might have contributed to the situation.
Many -- if not most -- departments are going to this style uniform for routine duty. The badge and name are embroidered so as not to give an adversary anything to grap hold of and use as a cutting edge. The winter shirt is a button front with long sleeves, the summer shirt may be button front or polo style.
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Old February 9, 2012, 08:02 PM   #10
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Atlanta apparently is still using the standard metal badges on typical duty uniforms.
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Old February 10, 2012, 03:29 AM   #11
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He may go to prison, but I don't think he is lying about not believing the officer to be an officer. I don't think he shot the cop because he was angry with the cop...at least not from reading the article.

When officers shoot civilians and other officers during such situations, it seems like the officers are rarely, if ever, charged. The situation gets boiled down to being fog of war, stress induced tunnel vision, flight or flight, trajedy. Some speaker for the city would go on and on about "this terrible trajedy" and explain that the job of a cop is very tough and very demanding with great life of death pressures, etc etc. etc. The city then pays off the victim or the victim's family and the officers remain on the job (often anyway).

Have cops ever shot other cops in broad daylight? Have cops ever shot the wrong non-leo person in broad daylight? Sure.

Thomas' attitude seems pretty crappy. He thinks they should let him off with an apology and then everyone can just get on with their lives. At the very least, he should be making full restitution to the city for Roach's medical care, wages (Roach's shifts had to be covered by somebody), damaged gear, etc.
Pretty much my thoughts on it.
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Old February 10, 2012, 07:34 PM   #12
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I was thinking that I'm really going to slam this guy until I read the entire story. The key is that this wasn't just a random robbery. They set him up and he knew it before ever encountering the police officer. I could see why he might think the officer was really part of the plot, especially when he saw the officer exit a non-police vehicle and sporting tattoos. No, you can't assume everyone wearing tattoos is a gang member but I can see how they added to this guy's concern. Having said all that, I would be very surprised if he walked out of the courtroom following trial. I'm not sure about Georgia law but there may be room to find him guilty of something less serious.
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Old February 10, 2012, 08:15 PM   #13
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This will be a tight one. I am not sure if he should go to jail or not. A lot will hinge on testimony. I will say it is unlikely he was thinking clearly at the time.
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Old February 10, 2012, 09:04 PM   #14
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Self Defense Gone Wrong

I think the civilian is in deep trouble. The court will say that he should not have had a gun if he could not think clearly under stress. I cannot think of a situation where you being robbed is not stressful. I am speaking from more than one experience! One cannot make a mistake when you are carrying a gun without severe consequences!
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Old February 11, 2012, 02:00 AM   #15
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This is a tough one.

If you read the articles about the case, the guy thought the officer was a fake not only because of his tattoos, but because he'd seen the officer exit a non-police vehicle - the officer's personally owned black Tahoe with tinted windows.

He then thought the knee in his back seemed uncharacteristic, since he'd been asking the diner owner to call the police, and he had put down his gun when asked to do so.

Combine those factors - non-police vehicle, tattoos, and rough handling, and it's not that hard to believe a reasonable person might think "fake cop."

I could very easily see a jury hanging up on this one, if the guy has a decent lawyer.
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Old February 11, 2012, 07:34 AM   #16
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I agree that this one is less than black & white.

Too many police departments have lowered or eliminated their standards of appearance for officers. The first to do this (to my knowledge) was the City of Berkeley California in the 70's. They began to allow officers to wear beards as long as they were "cropped close and neat in appearance". That led to a locally infamous shooting where a "detective" officer in plain clothes chasing a suspect entered a liquor store with his weapon drawn. The clerk saw the beard and the gun, fired and struck the officer in the collarbone. The officer shot the clerk and nicked his spleen. In the end, the clerk prevailed and the city paid out a huge sum for his medical coverage because "cops don't wear beards".

Today, tattoos seem to be a big rage with the younger generation. But they do not project a professional attitude and depending on the content of the artistry they can be offensive to some. If I were stopped by an officer in short sleeves who's forearms were covered in tattoos, I would also be apprehensive about his legitimacy and attitude.

I've noticed over the last 10 years or so the tendency of some departments to allow officers to dress less than professionally. I've seen them in one piece jumpsuits (blue or black), wearing non-standard belts or holsters; wearing polo shirts in white, blue, black, buff green or yellow and (on a woman officer) lavender. Most have the agency name embroidered below a sewn-on cloth star or shield. In one case, I'd say there was a deliberate attempt to confuse the public with a medium blue shirt with the agency name embroidered in bold red under the cloth badge. Try reading red type against a blue background - it make it hard to focus or read.

Combine some of these elements -- odd uniforms, tattoos and/or beards -- and it is understandable the public will be confused, anxious, leery and concerned about an officer's legitimacy. That perception is of direct importance to any case where a citizen who is not a criminal shoots a police officer. There is a reason it's called a uniform and when agencies allow officers to dress in a non-uniform manner, they invite public confusion over an officer's true identity and authority.
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Old February 11, 2012, 07:51 AM   #17
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Sounds a bit like the movie training day.Not that he was a bad cop or anything,just a black pov with tinted windows with a tatted up guy getting out.How many stories have we read about fake cops and home invasions,face cops and illegal stops.

I don't see any anger issues from the victim,scared heck yea but not anger.This case could go either way,but by the sound of the DA will make it out to be his fault no matter what and has already made up his mind.
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Old February 11, 2012, 09:15 AM   #18
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BillCA is absoltely right, and the argument he presents should be the foundation for Thomas' defense. A jury should have no problem identifying with Thomas in that regard.

Also, did you guys catch the language that Melvin (the initial civilian on scene who hit Roach with his car) used... he said "...don't you see that shirt?"

The language is peculiar. Melvin did not say "He's wearing a uniform", or "Look at his badge".

This would lead me to believe he most certainly wasn't in what we've come to consider a standard "beat-cop" blue shirt/pants with full belt kit, badge, and hat. He was probably wearing uniform pants and a dark collared shirt with embroidered badge. He almost certainly wasn't wearing a full utility belt.

I don't think it will be a big stretch to convince a jury that Thomas was still in fear of his life, and believed Roach to be a part of the crew that was robbing him.

Another aspect that might come into play is that Roach is also African American. If it had been a white man (even with tattoos) that got out of a tinted SUV and ordered Thomas to the ground, it might be harder to convine a jury that guy was part of the crew... but being a black man... we'll have to see.
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Old February 11, 2012, 09:47 AM   #19
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Interesting thoughts about the tattoos. Back in the 70s, a lot of guys who had been to Vietnam and who came be to police jobs or got jobs as police officers had tattoos. I rather thought it commonplace for cops to be inked.
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Old February 11, 2012, 05:16 PM   #20
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Self Defense Gone Wrong

I would rather be robbed than chance shoot a cop! Plain and simple. No one has touched on the fact that there are a lot of plain clothes detectives out there PLUS undercover officers that are supposed to "NOT LOOK LIKE A COP". Being in fear of your life is the one thing that could make or break this case.
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Old February 11, 2012, 07:15 PM   #21
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I would rather be robbed than chance shoot a cop!
Yes, but how do you know you are just going to be robbed? He shot the cop who had his gun out and undoubtedly made him in fear of his life.

Of course the other consideration is that there are instances of people being robbed by cops.
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Old February 11, 2012, 07:25 PM   #22
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I don't think it's any one thing, but rather the totality of the circumstances.

The combination of the officer's tattoos, his non-PD vehicle, and his apparent use of force on an initially compliant subject raise what I'd consider a reasonable doubt.

If the "uniform" was in fact a shirt with embroidered badge, that would add more reason for doubt. I could come up with one of those pretty easily, and I'm not a LEO.

The DA's argument that the shooting was the result of "anger" on the part of the shooter is simply stupid. If the DA wanted to argue that the shooter's fears were not rational, that would be less of an insult to the jury's intelligence. Why should the shooter be "angry" at a responding officer?

Based on reporting, so far, I'd expect a Not Guilty verdict, as I think the shooter had reason to doubt the authenticity of the officer, and I think the DA's approach is not sound.
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Old February 11, 2012, 09:38 PM   #23
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The victim was scared to death he was about to rendered helpless by one of the very people that robbed him.

Like others have said,having the badge out and the tats covered would have gone a long way in preventing this.

Just really sad.
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Old February 11, 2012, 09:52 PM   #24
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Hmm. It's a big mistake, but cops in stressful situations shoot fellow officers by mistake every year.

If this was an accident, hopefully he doesn't go to prison. It's possible that he didn't get a good look at cop when the officer got out of the vehicle. Someone had entered the robbery scene, gotten out of the vehicle and robbed him. He 's running away and someone steps out of another vehicle and approaches him. I can see how he could have assumed it was an accomplice. The guy had him face down on the ground and he didn't get a good look. It takes a lot of ifs to line up, but the story is plausible.
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Old February 11, 2012, 10:13 PM   #25
Double Naught Spy
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If the "uniform" was in fact a shirt with embroidered badge, that would add more reason for doubt. I could come up with one of those pretty easily, and I'm not a LEO.
I seem to recall a guy in the Dallas area several years ago wearing a jacket with "POLICE" on it and a ballistic vest who was armed and would respond to alarm calls on his rental properties dressed in that manner at night. His goal was to keep from getting shot by the cops, but apparently the cops weren't too pleased with his 'impersnation' of an officer until it was determined that he was not impersonating an officer as he never identified himself as such. The first amendment protected him on wearing the gear.

Right...and to be rather calloused about getting a uniform, the uniform does not represent legal identification of the wearer. I figure that sooner or later there will be some ruling about this sort of thing given that folks do get robbed by non-cops in cop uniforms. Anybody can identify themselves as a cop with a fake uniform and yelling claims of occupation, but those are not legal credentials and so why should any citizen believe the person dressed as a cop (as in this situation) is necessarily a cop?

I am not suggesting that folks not follow the commands of law enforcement or that they immediately disregard people in uniform as cops. I am just pointing out problems with the system by which people are expected to believe the cops are cops, especially when the people are in fear that those portrayed as cops aren't cops.
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