A retired police officer who witnessed community chaos first-hand after a police-involved shooting in Missouri is imploring Americans to know the facts on recent cases in North Carolina and Oklahoma before drawing conclusions or engaging in violence.
Jeffrey Roorda is a retired police officer and a former four-term state lawmaker in Missouri. He witnessed the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, first-hand and wrote a book about it. His forthcoming work is “The War on Police: How the Ferguson Effect Is Making America Unsafe.”
He says Americans need to focus on the facts rather than the raw emotion in these cases.
“We’re in this era now where facts don’t matter. We’ve seen that not just in Charlotte, but in cities where people have gone berserk and acted the way we saw in those first night protests in Charlotte,” said Roorda.
Looking at Keith Lamont Scott case in Charlotte, Roorda says the Charlotte police account of Scott’s actions means the deadly police fire was warranted. Chief Kerr Putney told reporters that officers witnessed Scott brandished a gun and refused to drop it after being repeatedly ordered by police to do so.
“You tell the guy to drop the gun, drop the gun, drop the gun and now you’re in this tenuous standoff. The moment he makes any movement that appears to be raising the gun. It’s absolutely a deadly force situation,” said Roorda.
For those wondering why officers couldn’t just wound Scott, Roorda offers a window into how police train for these situations.
“This isn’t like re-runs of ‘Barnaby Jones’ where he shoots the gun out of the guy’s hand every time. That’s not real life,” said Roorda.
“It’s hard to hit to hit appendages when you’re shooting at a piece of paper that is stationary. When a guy is moving around when you’re in a high-stress situation of a standoff with an armed subject, the training – and this officer followed his training – is to fire center mass. That’s the hardest part of miss. It is the area of a person’s body where it is most likely to stop their action and end the threat,” said Roorda.
Roorda says the Crutcher case in Tulsa is far more complicated. That’s where Officer Betty Shelby has been charged with first-degree manslaughter following video showing her shooting Crutcher while his hands were raised. Through her attorney, Shelby says Crutcher refused to obey verbal commands.
Roorda says that in itself is not enough justification to shoot.
“You don’t shoot somebody just because they’re not listening to you. You shoot them because they are presenting what you perceive to be a deadly threat,” he said.
“That case is a little harder. I’m not going to deny that the video is hard to watch and it’s harder to square up. My job is to defend cops but she may have overreacted. She may have panicked,” said Roorda.
But Roorda says other details of that case complicate the picture in the other direction. He says police got a call about a person whose car was stopped in the middle of the road and who was acting as if they were under the influence of something. He says that part of Tulsa is known for the prevalence of PCP and the drug was found in Crutcher’s car, which was running and not stalled.
He says dealing with subjects while on mind-altering substances is a major challenge for police.
“Those folks are very dangerous. I don’t know how many of your listeners have ever had to fight a guy who is on PCP or meth but it ain’t fun,” said Roorda.
And he says Crutcher’s alleged noncompliance with Shelby’s commands may have led to the officer perceiving an imminent threat.
“He’s walking away from her at one point. That’s when the video picks up with his hands up. He’s still not listening. He’s still not dropping to his knees as she’s ordering him to do. He gets back to the car. He reaches in the car and she perceives that as a threat that he’s going to produce a weapon,” said Roorda.
Even if Shelby did overreact, Roorda does not believe she belongs in prison.
“Is that really a crime? Is that a chargeable felony that’s going to end this officer’s career and put her behind bars. I don’t know that squares up with our values as a country,” said Roorda.
Roorda implores the media to report all the facts of these high-profile cases and not pick and choose which details help their side.
“The media has to report all the information they have. They can’t pick and choose things that fit or don’t in their narrative. That’s for the far left and the far right,” said Roorda.