Friday, July 22, 2005

Shoot to kill

The witness' account is vivid.

"I got into the ticket hall. I was approached by a policeman and London underground staff asked me if I needed counselling. I was basically saying, 'I've just seen a man shot dead'," Mark Whitby told News 24's Philip Hayton just minutes after the incident at Stockwell tube station in south London.

"As he got on to the train I looked at his face. He looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified and then as I say he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him.

"They couldn't have been no more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had a black automatic pistol in his left hand. He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him."

The dead guy may have been about to blow up the Tube. The guy may have been a scared South Asian fare jumper. Only time will tell. We don't know and won't for awhile.

But today's developments pushed me to think about what it might mean here in the US, if, as the BBC explains, "shoot to kill" becomes the norm in trying to stop terrorist bombings.

In the US, as shown in the National Rifle Association map above, all but 4 states allow some carrying of concealed weapons by permitted private citizens. The NRA touts these hidden guns as useful for self-defense.

Perhaps -- but how long will it be, if US police adopt the "shoot to kill the terrorist" policy, before some nutcase on public transportation decides the turbaned gentleman across the way looked at him suspiciously and blows the wog away? Given our resident social pathologies, testosterone poisoning and racism, it is going to happen. Remember Bernhard Goetz.

I do take some small encouragement from perusing the map: the states where the NRA considers the "right to carry" too restricted include most of those with developed public transportation.

UPDATE: Oh shit, Scotland Yard says the shooting was a mistake, a trajedy.

"We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday 22nd July 2005, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday 21st July 2005.

"For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

There's a part of me that sympathizes with the cops; they have a scary job to do. But someone is dead, gone forever.

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