People need to understand that Police are not the enemy. We serve the community. I worked my entire career in minority neighborhoods. "SERVING THE PUBLIC"
I would like to start out by saying that I am a retired Philadelphia Police Lieutenant and am not criticizing any police officers who have been involved in shootings that resulted in a black person's death. It is a tough job we do out there and we make life and death decisions in a split second. As of this writing there have been 105 Line of Duty Deaths in America this year and no one is talking about that. (Source: Officer Down Memorial Page)
My intension is to show how many times in “My personal police experience” that I chose not to shoot. These non shootings with police are being overlooked as Anti-Police Sentiment is on the rise in America.
Not all Police encounters with black men end in their death.
I will be as brief as possible.
While assigned as a Patrol Sergeant with the 22nd District Philadelphia, PD., I responded to a call “Man With A Knife”. Description was an older black male. I was outside the house when I heard a blood curdling scream coming from within the house. I ran in as the older black male was going up the hallway toward his daughter and a toddler armed with two butcher knives - one in each hand. I drew my gun and yelled “Freeze MF’er”. He stopped and turned toward me. He was between me and his daughter and the toddler. Both knives raised above his head. I instructed him to put the knives down while pointing my side arm at him. As I stood in that narrow hallway with one of my men I took out my mace. Gun in my right hand and mace in my left hand. At that time, my officer started to put his pistol away and I told him to keep it trained on the knife wielding man as this wasn’t over yet.
When he saw the mace he grinned at me. Then he charged me. I sprayed the mace into his chest which stopped him but had no effect so I raised it to his eyes. I drove him back into a room and closed the door and whisked the daughter and child out of the house.
Once outside, I called for stakeout with shields. He taunted us from the front door with the knives as I emptied several more cans of mace on him with no effect. Finally with the shields he was able to be taken into custody without harming him.
I could have legally shot him when he charged the daughter and child. I could have shot him when he charged me. I truly believed I had control of the situation and everything worked out. As it turned out, he was a mental patient and institutionalized for 20 years and they released him. Why? I don’t know. Obviously he wasn’t well.
The black community was out on the street and watched the entire event. After it was over. A young black male came out of the crowd that had gathered. He shook my hand and said to me, “ I heard what you did. Thank you for not shooting my Grandfather”.
I could have shot him but chose not to. It turned out ok. At the time, I felt I had everything under control.
Police make life and death decisions everyday. More decisions result in a life being saved rather than death to a citizen or life being taken.
It not easy to shoot someone but sometimes it has to be done, and that decision has to be made by the policeman involved in the incident. He evaluates the threat and the threat level and then takes the appropriate action necessary to stop the threat.
Police are “NOT” required to retreat. Police are authorized to use lethal force when a life is threatened. An escaping felon “IS” a threat to society. Attacking a Police Officer “IS” a Felony. If a suspect will attack a Police Office he is not afraid to do the same to a private citizen.
While on patrol with my partner and working plain clothes assigned to the Anti Crime Team in the Philadelphia Police Dept., we responded to a “Holdup In Progress” - suspect fleeing in a vehicle with two black men west on Godfrey Ave. We responded east on Godfrey and saw the vehicle coming toward us. When we made the U-turn to follow the suspect vehicle, in our old, two tone Chevy with vinyl top, (and I make this point to show we were not in a Police Car), the passenger opened up on us with a six inch 357 magnum. We put out info that we were in pursuit of that suspect vehicle. We were fired at during the entire pursuit. They fired 23 rounds in our direction and later striking our car and a marked unit that joined the pursuit. I, and the uniformed office, returned fire.
After they crashed into a parked car with teenagers sitting in it, I ran to the shooters side of the suspect vehicle. He was dazed as his head had hit the windshield during the crash. Uniformed Officers pulled the driver out, who turned out to be an escapee from a local prison. He was un-armed.
As I ran to the passenger side of the car, the suspect, armed with a six inch .357 Magnum in his right hand, started to turn toward me. I grabbed the gun out of his hand. He then came up with a second six inch .357 Magnum. Simultaneously, I struck him in the face with my gun and took that gun as my partner shot him from the other side.
My partner did the right thing. I took a chance. Probably foolish. I should and could have legally shot him as soon as I saw him. He was a fleeing felon and shot at us during the entire pursuit. I let him live. He is paralyzed from the shooting but settled with the city for “One Million Dollars”.
I have several other cases I have been personally involved in where I chose to let the person live. That was my decision and based on my circumstances. All incidents are different and require a judgement call. We as Policemen have families we want to go home to after a tour of duty. I am sure there are thousands of other policemen who have their stories to share.
I, and many policemen have saved black peoples lives throughout their careers We don’t hear about that now do we?
Lt. Gene Terinoni
Philadelphia, Police Department, Retired