Stockton, CA -- Discharging a firearm in circumstances that endanger innocent persons or hostages, is prohibited by police departments.
So why on Earth would 32 cops chase down a car full of hostages, fire into that car killing a hostage, and even fire directly over their colleagues in the process?
The answer to that question, according to a detailed report released Monday by the Police Foundation, is because of a "lack of planning."
"In reviewing dispatch tapes and in response to interviews, the review team determined there was no planned response for when the suspect vehicle stopped," the report concluded. "This lack of planning, along with the number of officers involved, created a level of chaos that was difficult to manage and overcome."
Apparently officers killed the innocent woman because they hadn't planned on how to deal with an innocent woman between them and the bad guy.
On July 16, 2014, three suspects, armed with handguns and an AK-47, robbed a Bank of the West branch and took three women hostage before fleeing in a bank employee's SUV.
A lengthy and dangerous chase ensued which spanned three counties, 63 miles, and reached speeds in excess of 120 mph. During the chase, police and bank robbers exchanged fire.
By the time the chase came to a stop, 32 officers were amped up and ready to let loose, so they did. According to the report, some officers were so primed to start firing that they engaged in “sympathetic fire,” meaning they only fired their weapons because other officers were shooting. Complete lunacy.
In some cases, officers opened fire while colleagues were in front of them. The report highlighted an example during the final standoff, in which one officer lay prone on the ground and did not shoot while an officer next to him, standing, fired “round after round.”
“‘What’s your target?’ the prone officer yelled, thinking he was missing something,” the report stated.
“‘The car!’ responded the officer,” according to the report.
Prior to the melee, two of the hostages were able to jump out of the vehicle. Bank manager Kelly Huber, was shot by one of the suspects and either jumped or was pushed out of the vehicle. According to the report, hostage Stephanie Koussaya, a bank teller, realized police were shooting into the vehicle, and so she jumped out.
"When I saw the SWAT team and its vehicle, I knew it was going to go badly. I knew I had to get out," she said, according to the Police Foundation report. "My whole thing was, 'I wasn't going to die that day.' "
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But Misty Holt-Singh was not as lucky at Huber and Koussaya. She was not able to get out of the way prior to the hellfire. The cowardly bank robbers would use her as a human shield, and she would be hit at least 10 times by police bullets.
Two of the suspects and their hostage, Holt-Singh, were killed. Jaime Romas was found hiding under the body of the slain woman. He now stands charged with all three of their murders.
The report concluded that the fury of police bullets was "excessive" and "unnecessary." However, in spite of this conclusion, not one single officer involved in this incident has faced so much as a slap on the wrist. They were merely sent to receive additional training. Apparently none of the 32 officers knew that you aren't supposed to kill the hostages.
Sure, the police were not responsible for the three women to be taken hostage on that day. However, their actions, and their bullets led to the death of one of these women, who was a beloved mother and wife.
Could they not have let the bank robbers go to protect three innocent lives?
In criminal law, Blackstone’s formulation (also known as Blackstone’s ratio or the Blackstone ratio) is the principle that:
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”
Police officers, in this instance, were more concerned with catching a bad guy than they were with preserving innocence. This is a travesty and an indication of a grave underlying problem.
In authoritarian societies, the leadership and law enforcement apparatus holds the opposite view of Blackstone's ratio.
Bismarck, for example, is believed to have stated that “it is better that ten innocent men suffer than one guilty man escape.” Pol Pot made similar remarks.
Wolfgang Schäuble referenced this principle while saying that it is not applicable to the context of preventing terrorist attacks.
Alexander Volokh cites an apparent questioning of the principle, with the tale of a Chinese professor who responds, “Better for whom?”
Former American Vice President Dick Cheney said that his support of American use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” against suspected terrorists was unchanged by the fact that 25% of CIA detainees subject to that treatment were later proven to be innocent, including one who died of hypothermia in CIA custody.
“I’m more concerned with bad guys who got out and released than I am with a few that in fact were innocent.” Asked whether the 25% margin was too high, Cheney responded, “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective. . . . I’d do it again in a minute.”