Anaheim Police shot a fleeing man twice, the second a fatal wound to the head, at around 4:00 p.m. Saturday, near La Palma Ave. where Acacia St. turns into N. Anna Dr., in North Central Anaheim not far from the intersection of the 57 and 91.
We don’t yet know much. What we do know begins with police chasing three men down N. Anna Dr.; one report says that they were standing near a vehicle and ran when police patrolling the neighborhood tried to contact them. Two of them would escape; the third was brought down in an apartment courtyard with one shot, then when he reportedly did not put his hands behind his back was fatally shot in the head. KTLA news reported that a crowd in the neighborhood threw rocks and bottles at officers investigating the incident. Officers pushed back the crowd, then left.
We know that angry residents reassembled at about 8:00 p.m., after which police returned to the scene. An altercation followed in which around 100 protesters refused to disperse (what other provocations they may have allegedly committed are not clear.) Police ended up shooting rubber bullets and/or beanbags into the crowd, hitting women and children, and video shows them unleashing at least one police dog who attacked a mother pushing a stroller. After police left, residents pushed a dumpster into the intersection and reportedly lit its contents on fire, which police later extinguished.
The video of the clash between police and protesters shown on tonight’s 11:00 news is apparently not yet on the internet as of 12:30 a.m. Sunday.
So what do we make of this?
Unless a fleeing suspect is reasonably believed to have a weapon — and it’s not yet clear here why the fleeing men rose to the level of being suspects at all — deadly force is supposed to be limited to people caught committing felonies. Frankly, events like this make it pretty clear why young men would flee from the police even if they doing were doing nothing illegal; for two of them, fleeing seems to have worked out. If there’s no felony, police are not supposed to shoot someone at all, let alone in the head.
Now maybe these men were hardened criminals in the middle of a carjacking; we don’t have the information to know. But if their flight was simply a response to justified fear of the police, and if police had nothing more to pursue them for than their non-compliance with orders to stop, then the shooting seems completely unjustified. One can understand why nearby residents would get highly pissed. In that sort of situation, a small portion of a crowd may sometimes throw rocks and bottles — which I don’t excuse but which is not hard to understand. In those circumstances, the right thing to do is for police to do more or less what they did — and get out of the area.
Even if residents were ignorant of damning facts about the person shot (and I have no idea), the police coming back at 8:00 is puzzling. If residents think that someone was shot without cause, it should not surprise anyone when they loudly protest and grieve. In such a situation, I would think that the police should leave again, leave time for tempers to cool and mediators to operate.
It’s very hard to fathom why police would decide that the better course of action was to fire less-than-lethal concussive weapons at a crowd of (based on videos) seemed to be mostly women and children. It may be even harder to understand why they would release the dogs — especially at a mother pushing a stroller.
I admit right up front that I may be missing some salient facts that justify this massive police response. But so far what this seems like to me is that the police placed a high premium on quelling the protest of residents against their shooting — and it’s not clear why they had to be in such a hurry for the crowd to disperse. It’s not clear that they properly weighed just how horrifying this use of rubber bullets and police dogs would be. I don’t think that North Central Anaheim got easier to govern after the events of Saturday night. I’m betting that it just got harder to govern — and for no really good reason.
The investigation of the events should be transparent and rapid. We’re in for a hot summer and this sort of thing will reoccur. It’s very important for police to be able to reduce the likelihood of events like this, where even protesters of good faith may be dragged into scenes of horror.