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A very sad incident

I am not going to attempt a detailed analysis of the shooting of Erik Scott in Las Vegas because it has already been done. I would suggest you read it and then listen to what our own police experts have to say.

I do have opinions of my own on the general situation. I bet we will find some person of coastal liberal persuasion at Costco soiled their knickers at the sight of a perfectly legal weapon and made an hysterical and totally misleading call to 911. With nothing but the terror-stricken voice of an idiot to go on, the 911 operator primed the responding police for a deadly response. Then, to top it off, the responding officers were incompetent.

The officers should be sent to remedial training. But the real guilt seems to me elsewhere: I sincerely wish the person from Costco who initiated the fatal chain of events could be charged with manslaughter.

I will now wait for our more than competent police commentators to chime in…

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17 comments to A very sad incident

  • Ken

    Well, I’m inclined towards your thoughts Dale but I thought “drugs” of any type preclued (sp) CCL’s?

  • Jacob

    The behavior of the police in this case is absolutely criminally scandalous. 1. They refuse to release the recording of that 911 call. 2. Seems they got hold of, and possibly destroyed, the disks of security cameras that recorded the incident.
    For that alone some police officers must go to jail.

  • This happened in Nevada, part of the Old West. People of “coastal liberal persuasion” may come there to gamble, but they don’t come there to work at Costco.

  • llamas

    I agree, this is a dreadful story.

    With the usual caveat that we don’t know the whole story, and based solely upon media reports, I would say the following:

    There is plenty of blame to go round here. Everybody made mistakes, some perhaps reasonable based on what was known at the time, some perhaps not.

    Including Mr Scott, I am sorry to say.

    According the published reports, which are not contradicted, he allowed his concealed weapon to be seen. That is precisely why it is a Concealed Weapons License, and why the issuing process makes it clear that it’s your job to keep it out of sight – because the sight of a weapon that the carrier is obviously intending to conceal raises justifiable suspicions. It is that mistake which set the train of events in motion that ended in this tragedy. It is easy to be wise after the event – but Mr Scott must have known the rules (in this state, at least, you have to sign to say that you read & understand the rules) and it was his responsibility to keep his gun under wraps. Note that I do NOT say that this single mistake makes all that follows his fault alone – but it was the factor that started it all rolling. He should have been more careful, he must have known that he was required to be more careful.

    According to further published reports, WANC, when confronted by officers with guns drawn, Mr Scott reached for his weapon, saying that he was going to disarm himself. Bad, bad mistake. Reach for the sky, and stay reached until the handcuffs lock again. If you’re holding it, drop it as though it were on fire. If you’re not holding it, don’t make anyone think that you’re going to try to.

    And before everyone lights off about how he was entirely innocent, and had done nothing wrong, and there was no reason for him to be detained at gunpoint – I agree with you.

    Now.

    Because we know now what was really going on. The officers at the time did not know that at all, and may well have been grieviously misinformed – but that (alone) is not their fault.

    Now, to the general discussion.

    It seems to me that, in a shall-issue state where there are more than 100,000 CCW holders, the possibility – indeed the high probability – that this was a licensed, legal CCW should have at least occurred to the Costco security staff, and it should certainly have been in the minds of the officers as the likely default scenario.

    Confronting the suspect in the middle of an uncontrolled evacuation in the lobby of a busy store reads to me like really poor procedure. If he is a crazed gunman, let him proceed to his car and get in it – where you have him contained, out in the parking lot, with far-fewer citizens, and far more hardware to absorb stray rounds. It reads to me as though the Costco hobbit yelled out ‘There he is!’ and then the game was on. The officers should (it seems to me) have taken a much-more circumspect approach to locating and identifying their suspect. It all has a very Keystone-Kops quality to it.

    I think we are seeing that many police agencies are very slow to react to the changes that have taken place in CCW the last decade. After 50 or 100 years of an institutional, bred-in-the-bone reaction that any person with a gun is by-default a Very Bad Guy, they are very slow to come around to the idea that there are now hundreds of thousands of people carrying cobncealed weapons who are not bad guys at all. There are really far too many reports of CCW holders being roughed up, abused, arrested, detained and then released without charge, simply because the officer could not get his mind around the idea that the gun and its carrier were all perfectly legal. I think there may be something of that mindset at play here – once the words ‘man with a gun’ were uttered, the default condition kicked in and the officers seem to have been very unlikely to even consider the possibility that this was not a armed criminal but an armed, innocent citizen. Until the default mindset alters, I think we will see more like this, hopefully not this bad. Nevada has had opan-carry forever but CCW only for the last 10 or 15 years, and especially in metropolitan areas, I think there is s strong residual mindset that says anyone carrying a gun is presumed to be a bad guy and dangerous. I also know that there are coppers who dislike the CCW laws, don’t agree with them, and will give CCW holders a hard way to go on very little provocation and sometimes none at all.

    Sunfish, what say you?

    llater,

    llamas

  • “the sight of a weapon that the carrier is obviously intending to conceal raises justifiable suspicions”

    What’s the rationale behind concealed carrying? Why not openly carry?

  • llamas

    @ Rob Fisher:

    ‘What’s the rationale behind concealed carrying? Why not openly carry?’

    I think there are two main rationales for concealed-carry.

    1. Open-carry advertizes the presence of a gun and makes it relatively easy to steal. It may have a provocative and inflammatory effect on a tense situation, which the carrier may seek to avoid.

    2. Open-carry makes it plain who is armed – and who is not. It pre-selects victims for criminals. Concealed-carry, by contrast, leaves the question of who is and who isn’t armed completely obscure until the very instant when the use of deadly force may be justified. In that sense, it has a salutory deterrent effect on criminals (you don’t know if your victim is armed until it comes down to cases) as well as a herd effect (when any possible victim may be armed, you may decide not to seek any victim).

    I actually have no problem with open-carry and do so occasionally. However, open-carry tends to attract unwelcome police attention (see above) which is not always brought with strict concern for the legal rights of the carrier. Since my state has CCW, I carry concealed virtually all the time, and it is my preference, since I am a shy and retiring cove as a general rule and I hate to draw any attention to myself. If open-carry were common and unremarkable here (as it is in a few places in the US) I would do so more often.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish

    I’m disinclined to trust the link posted by Dale, for reasons that I won’t get too deep into in a public forum. That being said…

    According to further published reports, WANC, when confronted by officers with guns drawn, Mr Scott reached for his weapon, saying that he was going to disarm himself. Bad, bad mistake.

    This.

    If you are armed, lawfully or otherwise, and confronted by police at gunpoint, DO NOT REACH FOR YOUR &$(&^$(*$# WEAPON! DO NOT REACH FOR ANYTHING THAT A TWITCHY OVERCAFFEINATED 22-YEAR-OLD PROBBIE MIGHT THINK IS A WEAPON!

    There are instructors who tell their students to yell something about disarming and take their guns out and put them on the floor. If any of you, dear readers, have ever taken a class from such an instructor, I respectfully suggest that you call him up and say “You’re a f***ing retard and I want my money back.”

    What we teach here, the procedure to be followed by our own people when working plainclothes or off-duty and confronted by uniformed officers, is to freeze. Don’t move at all until directed to move. If you have multiple officers both yelling and they’re yelling different things, don’t do anything at all. Just stay frozen until they figure it out. We tell our people “don’t disarm, don’t re-holster, don’t reach for your tin and ID, don’t do anything. And expect to probably be handcuffed yourself.”

    Had that happen to me once. Without getting into how the incident happened, I was on my own time and in my own clothes and in another city when the fact that I was armed became an issue. Yes, I was put into the position called “felony prone” and handcuffed. I enjoyed it about as much then as I did when we practice on each other in in-service. There are legitimate reasons why that’s done, and those reasons have nothing to do with the on-dutys playing head games or being on a power trip. By going along for the moment, one can avoid having shots fired and thus allow the situation to be un-f***ed.

    Does NV have a training requirement for licensing? If so, does it address this? CO’s training requirement is worthless: some classroom hours conducted by a a room-temperature IQ with an NRA instructor’s certificate. As long as the instructor’s certificate is current, then the hours and curriculum are irrelevant and neither testing nor live fire are required. This pushes our training requirement into the land of “Why bother?” IMHO[1]

    If he is a crazed gunman, let him proceed to his car and get in it – where you have him contained,

    You know better than that. If he’s a “crazed gunman” or there’s some other sign that violence is imminent, then sitting and waiting is not often the best option. And if he’s not, then why are we even having this discussion?

    As for the Costco cameras…has anybody aside from some dipshit commenter on Confederate Yankee claimed that the police seized the recording?

    Does anybody remember a thread back in 2006 or 2007, about someone getting pulled over in Utah and throwing a tantrum about it? Remember the dash-cam video included in the link? The video that was missing a few minutes that were less-than-flattering to the driver? That’s why 911 tapes are not often released to the public in matters where litigation may be pending: any douchebag with an agenda can edit them and muddy the waters. (Oddly, the same thing happened with a video back in the early 1990’s…)

    I’d give real money to hear the 911 tapes and to see the MDT screen. I’d hate to comment on the incident itself without it.

    [1] Why indeed? Insert Sunfish’s Rant About The NRA #23 here.

  • Jerry

    ‘This happened in Nevada, part of the Old West. People of “coastal liberal persuasion” may come there to gamble, but they don’t come there to work at Costco.’

    Dead Wrong.

    If you think coastal liberals aren’t PERMANENTLY MOVING to ‘the old west’ ( as well as other ‘fly over’ areas ) and being gainfully employed, you have been sadly misinformed.
    They are leaving the coasts IN DROVES because of taxes, crime, cost of living etc.
    Unfortunately, they are bringing their liberal mindsets with them. This includes many of the ideas that caused the areas they left to be so screwed up. Usually they NOW want to implement these same ‘screwed up’ ideas that made the place they left so miserable ’cause THIS time, the ideas will work !!!

    Don’t believe me ?

    Talk to NATIVES from Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and ESPECIALLY Arizona !!

  • Sunfish

    Well, I’m inclined towards your thoughts Dale but I thought “drugs” of any type preclued (sp) CCL’s?

    Maybe and maybe not.

    Under Federal law, it’s illegal for a “habitual user” of mind-altering drugs to possess a firearm. In most state’s, it’s illegal to possess while under the influence of such drugs. However, drug testing for a concealed-weapons license is uncommon enough that I’ve never heard of it being done.

    NYC, MA, and MD are the only places I know where license applicants are routinely questioned about prescribed use of psychiatric drugs not normally considered judgment-impairing. And now that I write this I’m not as sure of MA as I was a minute ago.

    Prior convictions for possession MAY be a problem for CCW licensing: felonies make one completely ineligible. Misdemeanor possession may or may not: Ohio is the only state I know of, off the top of my head, where a past conviction for simple MJ possession (a minor misdemeanor there as it is in most places in the US) would cause denial of a license.

  • Mike Lorrey

    A friend of mine in the Free State Project ran into some issues a few years at a Barnes and Noble where he was carrying his big scary revolver openly on his hip while shopping. A nervous nellie clerk called the cops who came and arrested him temporarily, until they determined he had a CCW. Once they let him go, he then lectured them about how you don’t need a CCW to carry openly in New Hampshire, that it is every mans right. They threatened to arrest him again, so he just wrote down their badge numbers and then all of us Free Staters descended on their Police Chief with a barrage of letters to his person, to the Manchester city council members, to the mayor, and to the Manchester Union Leader.
    All the Chief would admit to was “well, this seems like its a training issue we need to work on.”

  • Sunfish

    I will now wait for our more than competent police commentators to chime in…

    I can’t be that competent. If I were I’d be able to get past the smitebot.

  • Ken

    Thank you Sunfish.

  • llamas

    @ Sunfish –

    ‘If he is a crazed gunman, let him proceed to his car and get in it – where you have him contained,’
    You know better than that. If he’s a “crazed gunman” or there’s some other sign that violence is imminent, then sitting and waiting is not often the best option. And if he’s not, then why are we even having this discussion?

    You are right and you caught me being flip again. Like, when does that ever happen?

    What I should have said was this:

    Absent any evidence that he had been violent, or was likely to be violent, or had in fact done anything illegal or dangerous at all, maybe better to have let him proceed to his car and get in it, where he is isolated and contained – and not confront him in the midst of a throng of confused civilians.

    I was trying to riff on the apparent pants-wetting over-reaction of the Costco security muffins, but apparently I misfired.

    Everything else Sunfish said.

    (I’m going to trademark this slogan, so I can charge you all a royalty when you use it, and so become rich beyond the dreams of avarice).

    Now, some more thought.

    I carry concealed in Costco, every time I go there. It’s not posted, therefore I break no MI law by doing so. But I know their corporate policy is against CCW in their stores.

    It’s not hard to carry and stay concealed.

    But if it should ever happen that some security muppet at Costco thinks I’m carrying and calls me on it, I think my course would be

    a) deny it absolutely (they have no way to know, one way or the other) and say nothing else at all
    b) abandon my cart where it stands and walk out, preferably arm-in-arm with the muppet, and
    c) demand that some supervisory muppet meet me in the parking lot, or even off-property, to discuss what happened.

    What I wouldn’t do is either a) stick around as though nothing happened or b) argue cases with the muppet – if he was an attorney, he wouldn’t be working there. It seems that Mr Scott did both these things – again, published reports, usual caveats.

    With all due respect to what Sunfish says about the surveillance video (and we don’t know everything about that yet, as he notes), I am a little bit troubled by the fog of confusion – probably because of some other high-profile cases recently where both police and/or third-party video has not been handled – appropriately – by police.

    A man is dead and it behooves the police to not only do right, but to be seen to do right. Video evidence will not degrade and there’s no rush. Instead of siezing evidence, the process should be both open and transparent – a sub-poena for copies of video is easily gotten and can have all the safeguards required to make sure that nobody can fiddle with the evidence, for whatever reasons. This is hard to write because I am generally pro-police and I don’t like suggestions that evidence is deliberately tampered-with – but there’s no denying recent history, and the police need to step up and do these things in ways that restore public confidence. It doesn’t hurt the investigation or the interests of justice to bend over backwards to be seen to do this right. There have been too many videos with bits missing and cameras that didn’t work and cell-phone recordings that disappeared and public confidence in the security of such evidence has taken a hit as a result.

    I will quibble with Sunfish on one issue, and that is on the release of police video and 911 call tapes.

    Sure, these can be manipulated for effect, by all sorts of people – but not in court, they can’t. And that’s the only place that really counts. Saying they should be withheld because they might be used to place the police in a bad light is all very well, but that seems to place the image of the police before public accountability. That has a suspicious ring to it. Release it – all of it – and let the chips fall where they may. It will all come out right in court, and if it gives some bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at 5 fodder for silly reporting and her shot at a Pulitzer prize – this too shall pass. The police are quick enough to release dash-cam video and 911 tapes to the media when they show alleged criminals in a bad light.

    Right now, the case is being spun in the media based solely on eye-witness descriptions and some very terse official pronouncements. If the concern about releasing video and 911 calls is that it might ‘muddy the waters’ – well, how much muddier could it get?

    Usual caveats, usual caveats.

    llater,

    llamas

  • llamas

    Usual caveats, usual caveats.

    The contents of the 911 call are now being described during the second day of the inquest. If the description is true – and, having described it in public, it will be impossible for LVPD to avoid having to produce it at some future trial, whether civil or criminal, so only a complete idiot would lie about it – it tends to support the LVPD version of events.

    Witnesses are now coming forward whose stories tend to support the LVPD version of events, including specific claims that Scott was seen to expose, draw and hold his handgun when confronted by officers.

    Medical evidence shows that Scott was under the influence of a mixture of prescription drugs, all legally and properly prescribed to him, but including powerful pain medications in large doses as well as mood-altering medications. Scott reportedly suffered chronic pain as a result of service-related injuries.

    Allegation of prior violence or threats of violence, including at least one prior incident of drawing a handgun in public, have also been made.

    I make no judgement, merely report what is being said in and around the inquest.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sunfish

    Absent any evidence that he had been violent, or was likely to be violent, or had in fact done anything illegal or dangerous at all, maybe better to have let him proceed to his car and get in it, where he is isolated and contained – and not confront him in the midst of a throng of confused civilians.

    I was trying to riff on the apparent pants-wetting over-reaction of the Costco security muffins, but apparently I misfired.

    Had I heard the tone of your voice as you typed it, I’d have probably picked up on where you were going. However, as in my experience retail security people are never drama queens, the whole notion that they might have been in the case at hand passed me by.

    And yes, if the complaint is that a guy has a funny lump on his right kidney and took too many of the free tequila-lime shrimp samples and isn’t otherwise showing signs of violence, I’d much rather talk to him outside than inside. Having a crowd around rarely works to anybody’s benefit.

    I carry concealed in Costco, every time I go there. It’s not posted, therefore I break no MI law by doing so. But I know their corporate policy is against CCW in their stores.

    It’s not hard to carry and stay concealed.

    You’d think. I seem to manage it, somehow. I’m usually wearing a Sig P226, which is neither small nor dainty, and yet have been made precisely once in my career. It’s just not that difficult to manage unless one is trying to cause drama.

    Posted or not, a CCW licensee carrying in Costco does not violate any CO law. Postings here have no criminal legal significance, as far as we know[.1]

    With all due respect to what Sunfish says about the surveillance video (and we don’t know everything about that yet, as he notes), I am a little bit troubled by the fog of confusion – probably because of some other high-profile cases recently where both police and/or third-party video has not been handled – appropriately – by police.

    The complication: loss-prevention people are often, um, less than fully competent. Which means that the video could easily have been lost just by routine overwriting[2] before being collected. Or lost because the DVRs were not checked to make sure that they were running in the first place. Or whatever.

    And did the police seize the DVRs themselves? Or have an LP guy burn DVDs off of the DVRs?[3]

    I will quibble with Sunfish on one issue, and that is on the release of police video and 911 call tapes.

    Sure, these can be manipulated for effect, by all sorts of people – but not in court, they can’t. And that’s the only place that really counts. Saying they should be withheld because they might be used to place the police in a bad light is all very well, but that seems to place the image of the police before public accountability. That has a suspicious ring to it. Release it – all of it – and let the chips fall where they may. It will all come out right in court, and if it gives some bubble-headed bleach blonde who comes on at 5 fodder for silly reporting and her shot at a Pulitzer prize – this too shall pass. The police are quick enough to release dash-cam video and 911 tapes to the media when they show alleged criminals in a bad light.

    On one level, you’re right. On another, ponder the early-1990’s case I hinted at. The full unaltered video was shown in the first criminal trial -thus the acquittal- but that didn’t prevent the riots or the utter circus of the civil rights trial.

    Right now, the case is being spun in the media based solely on eye-witness descriptions and some very terse official pronouncements. If the concern about releasing video and 911 calls is that it might ‘muddy the waters’ – well, how much muddier could it get?

    A high-profile shooting with eyewitlesses going to the press? No potential for a circus there. Sensational BS spouted by axe grinders and the bleached blonde who comes before the guy who tells me how badly the Donkeys screwed up will get halfway around the world before an accurate picture brushes its teeth, or whatever Sir Winston’s actual words were.

    [1] Not tested in court, yet. Signs on private businesses are not described anywhere in statute. The best guidance we’ve gotten has been that, if someone is told to leave a store and refuses then it’s misd. trespassing, just like it would have been if nobody was armed. Which requires the muppet to confront an armed shopper first, as a “Bringing guns in here constitutes trespassing” sign should probably be written on the churro wrappers for all of the value it will likely have. But this hasn’t actually come up in my experience.

    [2] Assuming that it wasn’t recorded over because it was on VHS, or because the DVR automatically overwrites after 72 hours because that’s the default setting and nobody thought to change it, or whatever- I place no bets here.

    [3] Very easily done with most commercial DVR systems, but I don’t know if an OIS meant having to maintain custody history of the originals or not.

  • Sunfish

    Liveblog of the coroner’s inquest, Day One(Link)

    And Day 2 of the inquest…(Link)

    At least, now we know where the video went: there was none because Costco’s system was inop. So, Jacob, who goes to jail for that?

    Interestingly, Scott’s father claims to have over a dozen “eyewitnesses” in his pocket who he claims will refute the police account. However, he’s refused to name them or produce them for the inquest. Likewise, Scott’s girlfriend refused to testify. According to daddy, a quasi-judicial investigatory body with subpoena power overseen by a single elected official is too “one-sided” for him and the truth will come out with the 1983 suit.

    Not that I’d accuse him of trying to play the ghetto lottery, but you’ll forgive me if I do think it really loudly.

  • llamas

    Yes, this one’s going to Bizarro-World by way of Conspiracy Theory Drive. The level of goofiness at some of the wackier places on the Intertubes is pretty astounding.

    LSS, the 911 tape refutes all of the claims that Scott was shot without warning or immediately following a warning – the witnesses who claimed that just didn’t see or hear the whole exchange. Mutiple eye-witnesses saw him either draw his weapon (maybe in a holster, maybe not) or make motions as though he was drawing a weapon. He was carrying two pistols. Multiple witnesses described his bizarre behaviours in the store, including cursing at staff, refusing to leave when asked, staggering around and so forth – all consistent with the very high levels of narcotics and mood-altering drugs in his system.

    And it still may not be a justified shooting – but at least we have most of the irrational nonsense out of the way. I sympathise with his father and his family, but I really don’t know what they’re trying to prove. with all this nonsense.

    llater,

    llamas