Approximately three years ago, three siblings, including one sister and two brothers, made national headlines when they embarked on a cross-country crime spree that ended in a car chase and shootout with police in Colorado. In addition to two handguns, the siblings were armed with an AK-47. During their final encounter with the police, the sister, Lee Dougherty, pointed a gun at police officers. In response, she was shot once in the leg leaving her effectively immobilized.
First, I should note that I am happy that no one was killed during the shootout. Because the one police officer shot her once in the leg, the criminal justice system and members of the general citizenry were allowed the opportunity to learn all of the facts pertaining to their actions. Upon learning the facts, the criminal justice system was permitted to act in a manner that was proportionate to the actions of the siblings. Recent developments in the case of the Dougherty siblings reveal that they have each received lengthy prison terms to hold them accountable for their multi-state crime excursion.
I must admit that I was surprised to learn that Lee Dougherty was shot once in the leg upon pointing her gun at a group of police officers. The police involved shooting deaths of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Michael Brown, to name a few, have revealed that police officers fired multiple times while aiming at their torso – or what is commonly referred to as “center mass.”
When members of the public have speculated or questioned the use of force, members of the law enforcement community have often responded that police officers are not trained to shoot to wound. Instead, they are authorized to use deadly force when they feel their life is at risk. In fact, a recent Huffington Post article sharing statements made by John Firman, director of research, programs, and professional services at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting indicated that shooting at a person’s limb is impractical. He continued to state that officers usually have to make split-second decisions in terms of firing their respective weapons.
Of course, one could argue that the shootings of Amadou Diallou, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, and Lee Dougherty took place in varying jurisdictions, and therefore, the outcomes of the aforementioned were the result of different police practices in different locales. Yet, studies have revealed that, in comparison to non-minorities, men of color are more likely to be the victims of deadly force. As such, one must contemplate why unarmed men of color are more likely to be the victims of deadly force? Again, I was happy to see that the lives of the Dougherty siblings were spared. However, it would be great if the lives of persons of color were also spared in the same respect.