Did Keith Scott in Charlotte Point Gun at Officers? – Question May Be Irrelevant
Study With Trained Officers Shows Reaction Time Justifies Police Shooting First

Although Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney is now expressing concern over whether video tapes show whether Keith Lamont Scott was actually pointing a gun at an officer when an officer first fired, that question may be irrelevant as well as misleading in light of a recent study.

That study shows that, because of delays caused by reaction time, officers should not wait until a subject holding a gun actually points it at someone, and that shooting before that happens meets the reasonable test the U.S. Supreme Court has established, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

Banzhaf has taught the law of self defense for more than 40 years, provided legal analysis to justify the self defense shootings of New York’s “subway shooter” Bernhard Goetz, DC’s “jacuzzi shooter” Carl Rowan as well as others, and correctly predicted the outcomes of many recent police killing cases, as well as the Zimmerman verdict.

Keith Scott i black lives matter photo

Not Keith Scott

Photo by The Center for Interfaith Relations

Putney recently said that: “what I can tell you that I saw…the video does not give me absolute definitive visual evidence that would confirm that a person is pointing a gun.”

But a very careful study shows that even well trained police officers, if they wait until a suspect they are holding at gunpoint actually begins to point his weapon, will usually be shot and perhaps even killed before they can fire their own already-drawn weapons.

The study’s findings “serve to illustrate the extreme danger that armed suspects present to police officers. . . . Even when a police officer has his or her gun aimed at [an armed] suspect and the suspect is not aiming at the officer, the officer is still in extreme danger,” the study reported.

The study concludes that “the reasonableness standard [set forth by Graham v. Connor] is based on what a well-trained, prudent officer would do in a given situation. . . . Our results show that even well-trained officers . . . with their guns aimed at a suspect cannot reasonably be expected” to react faster than a suspect can raise his or her gun and fire.

Moreover, although the study does not emphasize this additional aspect, an officer’s life would be in danger even if he somehow managed to get off the first shot before the subject was able to shoot.

Even the best placed shot to the chest, which is where the officers are trained to shoot, would normally not kill the suspect in time to prevent him from getting off his own shot.

That, for example, is why snipers in situations where hostages are being held at gunpoint, are trained to avoid shooting if possible, and to use precisely-aimed head shots if necessary.

Indeed, most shots by the police would not take effect quickly enough to totally incapacitate a suspect so as to prevent him from first firing one or even more shots, says Banzhaf.

He notes many recorded instances where both suspects and police officers, although shot several times, have nevertheless been able to subsequently fire their own weapons.

In summary, says Banzhaf, if Scott in fact had a handgun, and if he refused to drop it as ordered, shooting him before he is able to aim that weapon at anyone – e.g., even if his hands are by his sides – would seem to be both reasonable and necessary to assure officer safety, thus meeting the reasonableness standard established by the Supreme Court.

At the vert least, it may be difficult – as required in a criminal case like Keith Scott shooting  – to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that shooting before a suspect aimed a gun which he has been repeatedly ordered to drop is unreasonable, suggests Banzhaf.