Sunday, January 15, 2006

"A good kid"?

That left me scratching my head. The boy brought a weapon to school and was threatening other people, but he was "a good kid"?
Student Shot by Police Pronounced Dead

LONGWOOD, Fla. - Family and friends mourning the loss of a troubled teenager prepared a candlelight vigil Sunday to remember the boy, who died two days after being shot by deputies at his middle school.

Christopher Penley, 15, was officially pronounced dead at 4:57 a.m., the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said in a statement posted on its Web site.

The boy had been described as clinically brain dead Saturday and was kept alive so his organs could be harvested for donation, said Mark Nation, a lawyer for Penley's parents.

"It's just unbelievable to me that he's gone," said Bucky Hurt, a family friend who had been with the boy's father, Ralph Penley, at the hospital. "It's very, very devastating. Good kid too — it's a tragedy."

The evening vigil was planned at nearby Landmark Community church to remember Christopher.

Friends and neighbors described the teenager as emotionally troubled, saying he had been bullied at school and had run away from home several times.

On Friday, he was at school with a pellet gun that closely resembled a 9mm handgun when another boy scuffled with him for control of the gun inside a classroom. Christopher was later cornered by sheriff's deputies and a SWAT team in a school bathroom, authorities said.

Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said the boy was suicidal and couldn't be talked into surrendering the weapon. The teenager was shot after he raised the gun at a deputy, Eslinger said.

No one else at the 1,100-student school in suburban Orlando was injured.

Eslinger said it wasn't until after the incident that authorities realized the weapon was only a pellet gun.

But the family's lawyer said Saturday that Ralph Penley had told authorities during the standoff that his son had a pellet gun. Nation said police wouldn't let the father inside when he arrived at the school.

"If Christopher was alive and (Ralph Penley) was able to go into the school, he would've been able to talk him out of it," Nation said. "He did everything he could to avoid this situation."
Having been the victim of overzealous law enforcement, I'm not one to defend police no matter what. However, as Jefferson said, "let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

Hindsight tends to be perfect, but like with decisions in the free market, we can only go by information in the here and now. It's easy for the family to claim they knew what was going through the student's mind, particularly when their greatest concern is for their son, not for the 1100 lives he appears to be threatening. Police would be completely stupid to take the word of a family member that an armed suspect is carrying only a pellet gun. When police were burdened with the more pressing issue of over a thousand lives in danger, they couldn't put much stock in the claims of a father who could well say anything to prevent the use of lethal force on his son (while having no regard for anyone else's life), let alone trust the father to act as negotiator.

In a hostage situation like this where every indicator shows a suicidal person likely to kill others, the only answer is to shoot the suspect on sight. There's a simple way around it: don't go around brandishing weapons, else people are likely to call the police, who will then (and should) shoot you for to protect the public.

Earlier news accounts stated that the red markings on the gun (indicating it was a pellet gun) had been painted over. Even so, adrenaline-driven situations tend to deprive one of the calm ability, as well as time, required to make such a fine distinction. When fairly young, I was shot by a teenage punk who got a hold of an air rifle, with which he fired lead pellets at my sister and me from across the street. The gun looked like any standard rifle until you examined it closely.

From the AP, here's a photo of the gun:

The accompanying caption: Special Agent Danny Banks, with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, holds a pellet gun used by a 15-year-old student to threaten classmates and hold sheriff's deputies at bay at Milwee Middle School in Seminole County, Fla., Friday, Jan. 13, 2006. Members of a SWAT team from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office shot and wounded the student, who brandished the weapon that appeared to be a 9mm handgun, but was actually a pellet pistol modified to look like an actual firearm. (AP Photo/Brian Myrick)

Some thoughts from around the blogosphere:

A bunch of liberals at TalkLeft deride the "gun nut nation" and don't seem to understand that the kid wasn't just leaning against a wall, holding an obvious toy gun. When the kid gave everyone every reason to believe it was real, shoving it in one person's back, what do they expect the police to do? Had the gun been real and had the student gunned down 10 people, liberals would be blaming American "gun culture" (without which the U.S. wouldn't even exist)for causing the tragedy, i.e. the liberal mindset of blaming everyone but the perpetrator. And, lastly, we shouldn't be surprised that another moonbat thinks the pellet gun manufacturer should be held criminally liable.

A Better Wife clearly doesn't understand what the student was doing, or what the police did: "They did not shoot to stop this child from harming anyone. They shot to kill." Actually, as Notorious JMG points out, "the officer fired on the boy. Even so, the shot he took was not one meant to be fatal." To be fair, the shot was to the head, but I still cannot blame the officer.

Romach: "When someone points a gun at you, threatening you, and you feel you life is in danger, you shoot. Especially when you have the training to recognize what a gun is, and how to use one. I'm sorry the boy died, it seems obvious that there were other problems, be they family or social. But failings of friends or family doesn't place the blame at the feet of the officer. His life was in danger. He shot. As he should have."

Dianne: "They never know what kind of situation their walking into until they are there. Yes, maybe the kid should have just been wounded but there is always that what if factor. And yes, the kid probably could have been rehabilitated and maybe not. How many of those cops had families that would have not a husband, father and bread winner??? Something to consider."


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