Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Anxiety Index : Is it a Police State Yet?

The federal cops just killed someone as he was trying to board a plane in Miami.
Read about it here. The flight was from Medillin, Colombia. Think he might not have been a white American?

4 comments:

Jen said...

I guess it's a case of don't cry "fire" in the moviehouse, or point a toy gun that looks real at a police officer. In this case don't cry "I've got a bomb" (when in actuality you don't) in an airplane and run away from the air marshall. Only a psychotic would do such a thing. Oh, wait, he was psychotic (bipolar or something similar).

So, what's an air marshall to do? Run after the guy, hoping that he really doesn't have a bomb, and if he does and it blows up everyone within reach to smithereens, then what?

But, how do we stop the air marshalls from killing a person that cries wolf, especially when wolves these days are essentially wearing grandma's clothes?

cramer said...

yeah let's shoot all the crazies

jen is falling for the official story, which doesn't make any sense - if the guy had really had a bomb he would have blown up the plane in the air. why didn't any witnesses hear him talking about a bomb, and why didn't the air marshalls hear his wife screaming? what a load of BS

reb said...

Funny about the toy gun comment. I remember when a kid got shot in Minneapolis when he was carrying a pellet gun, or so the cops said.
I'm sure that air marshalls have training that allows them to figure out what to do to contain or restrain a suspect who is fleeing - especially, as cramer points out, if his wife is hollering at them that the man is mentally ill and doesn't have a bomb. The argument that he's a suicide bomber doesn't make sense to me either. Why not blow up in the air, then?
The incident that this reminds me of most is the police shooting in Britain of Jean Charles de Menezes. The story was originally that he looked suspicious, might be wearing a "suicide vest" later? It turned out that the cops story of how the killing happened was completely fabricated.

Anonymous said...

I was an investigator in the law office that defended the toy gun kid. As far as we were ever able to tell, there was no toy gun, just a lot of contradictory statements from witnesses & cops. (And a bullet in a tree that didn't line up w/ where the officer who fired said he was.)

The comparison to the de Menezes case is apt: instant media consensus that the officers faced a imminent threat & acted appropriately, followed by questions...questions.... But in that case the questions led to apoligies first from the head of the police, then from the head of the government. Don't bet on that here.

As for Jen's question (echoing the unanimous opinion in the media) - there's a basic logical flaw. The formulation is that the FAMS guys are "damned if they do [shoot a person who isn't a threat] and damed if they don't [i.e. fail to shoot someone who is a threat]." But that's not the proper way to formulate the problem. The options in play here were shooting a man who had been exhibiting distressed behavior for an hour before boarding & who turned out after fact not to have had a bomb, versus not shooting THAT SAME MAN UNDER THOSE SAME CIRCUMSTANCES.
Looked at that way, the air marshals IN THIS CASE could have been, not damned if they didn't, but praised if they didn't - by holding their fire, they proved that their threat assessment & shoot/don't shoot training worked.

It's a wonder (not really) that the media consensus formed up as fast & hard as it did, that no one wondered aloud, "Gee, next time i'm having a really, really bad hair day in the airport, am i gonna get shot for it?"