“He/She Was Such a Good-Hearted Person”

Last week, a former fire fighter from a neighboring town was shot dead by a local police officer. The officer was responding to a 911 call that reported a man severely beating a child. When the officer approached, the man shouted something and raised a gun, aiming it directly at the officer. The officer fired twice.The man died on the way to the hospital.

The news story in the local paper had a headline that read, “Victim Had the Greatest Heart” or words to that effect, and went on to quote friends and relatives about how the victim was such a good person and how it was all such a tragic mistake. What was never mentioned was that the victim was indeed a very good person – when he was sober. What was not mentioned was that the dead man had a history of violent actions and arrests when he was intoxicated, and there was absolutely no doubt that the dead man had been carrying a loaded weapon.

Several of the other incidents that made headlines this past year featured similar cases, such as a young man who robbed a convenience store and attacked a policeman, and was shot by the officer, but whose family insisted he was a good-hearted young man. Or the young woman who tried to run down police officers on foot with her car. She had been previously arrested for various problems, including another high speed chase, but her family insisted she was a good girl. Or the St. Paul man who tried to run down two police officers with his SUV. Family said he was good hearted, despite the fact that he had a court-ordered restraining order because of violent actions. Or the Denver man with a felony record who was driving a stolen car and was shot when he tried to run down two police officers, also described by family as “good-hearted.”

I’m sorry. Good hearted people don’t beat up others. They don’t steal goods, money, or cars. They don’t try to run down police or shoot at them. And, if one of these so-called “good-hearted” individuals gets shot by police officers who are threatened with weapons or vehicular force, the officers shouldn’t be vilified. Yes, it’s always regrettable when a police officer has to use a weapon, especially when the results can be lethal… but in a nation with 300 million firearms, like it or not, there are going to be cases where people who break the laws and attack police in one way or another are going to be shot.

Just don’t tell the world that people who’ve perpetrated violence, robbery, and assault are good-hearted. That’s not helping anyone, especially those unfortunate unarmed individuals with no criminal record and no acts of violence who are truly good-hearted and still get shot, by either police or criminals.

10 thoughts on ““He/She Was Such a Good-Hearted Person””

  1. Cam L says:

    Thank-you for writing that today.

    I read your books because of how they are written, I come to your webpage at least once a week because of you being so open with your thoughts.

    When some authors discuss some up coming award and how many books they have nominated and to vote for them or other authors must go on a curse laden rant to discuss how they feel on any given day about some random topic, I truly appreciate when we get the above from you.


    1. Thank you. I try not to get locked into ill-considered or reflexive positions. I don’t know that I always succeed, but I do try.

  2. Jaideep V says:

    I will second the comment by Cam L. I have never posted before in the comments, but I do appreciate the thought provoking posts (and books). While I do not agree with everything (and indeed this should not be a requirement in a rational, democratic, society, it still seems necessary to say this today in our vitiated environment), it always does lead to a broadening of my thoughts. Thanks.

  3. Joe says:

    Although this is not your point, even in a nation with 300 million firearms, police officers are too eager to draw/use their weapons.

    There are other nations with high gun ownership. Finland and Switzerland come to mind. In those countries, even accounting for population differences, the death rate is not anywhere near to the USA’s 3 people killed a day.

    The problem is a vicious cycle: if citizens believe they will be shot by police officers, they are more likely to shoot police officers, which makes the police officers more likely to be scared of the citizens, and more likely to shoot the citizens.

    Fixing vicious cycles is hard. Convicting police officers might dissuade the most vicious ones, but it won’t prevent murders committed by those who truly fear for their lives even though the situation may not have warranted it.

    Perhaps we need a weapon jamming technology preventing either side from shooting. Something like this exists for missiles we sell to other countries. Changing the weapon stock might be achieved by prohibiting sales of bullets that are currently used, and providing a no-questions-asked exchange program for newer guns with square bullets (or whatever).

    Once the threat from guns is eliminated, train the police in martial arts like the Japanese do, so they can deal with knives and the like.

    1. Ryan Jackson says:

      You’re unfortunately being unrealistic. Missiles can be jammed because the entire launcher involves sophisticated computers. Guns involve machined parts that move without any electronic or signaled influence. It’s also not hard to modify or take such apart even if new tech was introduced.

      Best solution to the issue, aside from better background checks and care in sale, is education. Yes, we have a huge death by gun issue in the states. And most are accidents or stupidity, not police or actual criminal violence. Gun education, in terms of how to fire, what the weapon does, and how to care and check a weapon would be far more useful than any attempt to “Control”

      As for the last. Speaking from decades of experience and practice, No unarmed art fully compensates for weapons. Nor do your suggestions or others made actually remove firearms from criminal elements. Police need to remain armed and if there is a situation where a baton or taser cannot dissolve a violent situation then use of a firearm is an unfortunate necessity.

  4. Lezli Robyn says:

    Hello Lee!

    Fascinating blog. On a tangent, in Australia we have not had massacres since we really tightened our gun control. I basically think that it is a law that makes it harder for TEENS to get access to weapons, but of course more hardened criminals always have ways. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

    But how to stop lethal confrontations between cops and armed citizens? It’s a tricky situation, because it’s already a triggered situation, pun intended.

  5. Jeff says:

    Good reflections on terrible events. It is regrettable that the paper didn’t say the man was intoxicated, but once he pointed a gun at a police officer, what else could the officer do? Guns and alcohol don’t mix!

  6. Re' says:

    It appears that for many people in these violent death situations their friends and relatives forget the bad behavior, the crimes and the ugliness of these people the minute they are dead. I have always been amazed at how wonderful everyone is after they die…every teenager who dies in a traffic accident or misadventure, every man or woman who is killed during an attempt at some criminal activity…all seem to be misunderstood people who just needed more help from the authorities or their families. There seems to be no call for accountability of their actions.

  7. D Archerd says:

    As part of my U.S. Coast Guard Reserve training at one point, I was required to undergo a “shoot / don’t shoot” course normally given to police. I was given a weapon that shot harmless plastic stoppers at a screen on which was shown a series of scenarios and I was graded on whether I appropriately drew my weapon or left it holstered and whether I fired it or held my fire, depending on the scenario. It was a truly eye-opening experience, one that I believe every citizen should be required to undergo, but especially our teenagers. Once you appreciate just how little time a police officer has to correctly evaluate a situation and decide to shoot or not, it tends to make one a whole lot more cautious when dealing with a police encounter, i.e. stay very polite, keep your hands in sight, move very slowly, and always explain what you’re doing if you have to move, i.e. “I’m reaching for my wallet.”

    I know that’s hard to keep in mind when you’re stressed, and even harder to do when you’re continually subjected to what feels like harassment by the police because you were injudicious in the selection of your ethnicity. But nevertheless, I think requiring teenagers to go through that training would give some perspective of what it’s like on the other side of the law enforcement fence.

  8. Wine Guy says:

    “Good hearted person” is like saying “He was so devoted to his family.”

    Those are statements made by friends and family of the perpetrator who either have turned a blind eye to that person’s actions or don’t actually know what they are talking about. Neither one excuses felony behavior.

    IA 15-year old boy knows that he shouldn’t be stealing grandma’s vicodin, the 55-year old woman knows smoking is bad for her, and the otherwise model husband who is abusive when drunk knows they are in the wrong.

    1st offense: excusable with restitution (fine, jail time, etc),
    2nd offense: full weight of the law.
    3rd offense: habitual offender and extra penalties.
    It is one of the few things I liked about California before they started weakening the law.

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