Summary Judgement and Execution

Three days after the Dallas police sniper attack I have not yet encountered any thoughtful discussion of the recent Dallas sniper robot murder.

The suspect (though undoubtedly guilty of mass murder) was trapped in a garage and surrounded by what were likely dozens of Dallas police. All very personally angry and vengeful.

We are told (indirectly by murky police “sources”) that after negotiations “failed” the suspect was given an ultimatum: surrender or be killed.

I wonder what the legal rationale for that demand actually is?

“Surrender or die!”

This suspect wasn’t going anywhere. Had he made some attempt at escape or a suicidal charge, he would have been cut down by dozens of police rifle and pistol bullets. The Dallas police are a professional organization and as such, should not have been in any danger from further attack or even a suicidal charge by the suspect trapped in a parking garage.

Why not simply wait him out? He needed food, water and sleep. Those requirements mean that surrender or suicide would be inevitable.

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Why not use CS or tear gas? I’m sure the Dallas police had plenty of that available. This suspect had no protection from that.

Yes, the police were hot, tired, angry and vengeful (especially that). But those circumstances don’t preclude non-lethal efforts at capture.

As it stands the only motives we have are what the Dallas PD says they were, via conversations with the suspect. Were these recorded? Why have we not heard the details by now? Surely there were lots of recorded radio chatter and perhaps even cell phone texting/calls. Did the Dallas police legitimately want a peaceful outcome? Did someone higher up the order this suspect’s death to keep him from talking about his motives or possible accomplices?

While this suspect would have inevitably been killed by the State (in Texas, killing law enforcement guarantees you the needle), why wasn’t he captured and given a trial? Summary execution of suspects isn’t legal, is it?

What little I’ve read are brief news interviews with legal professors, most of whom parrot the police claim that this killing was for the “protection” of the officers. This isn’t credible since barricaded suspects who are surrounded can do no harm to anyone but themselves. He didn’t have explosives.

Instead, they sent in a robot with a bomb and detonated it. Unprecedented, even in militarized police America. 

What will happen the next time police send in a robot to “talk” to a suspect? Might this now trigger a suspect to attack, kill hostages,  or set off hidden explosives? Who will trust a police robot now?

“Well, we waited two hours, and that was enough” is hardly a legal doctrine for murder by law enforcement. Not when the public or police are not in danger.

Since robots may not always be available, will police in America start using grenades, bazookas, or small artillery to dispatch recalcitrant suspects in the future?

If a civilian family traps a red-handed murderer of family members in their garage, in a remote rural area where the police are hours away at night, does the family have the legal authority (post facto) to simply demand the suspect surrender or be killed? And then kill the suspect if they don’t give up after an hour or two? At the very least the grand jury would be empaneled for this.

What this appears to be is the classic (but oft-denied) double standard regarding law enforcement. If you hurt or kill them, you are literally “outlaw” and subject to immediate and fatal retaliation (by law enforcement) regardless. You have no rights. No surrender (unless granted) or trial. You are subject to police execution because they think you are guilty and your victim is one of “them”, not a “citizen.” In fact, this doesn’t happen often since few law enforcement personnel are willing to rely on this double standard themselves. But it is widely acknowledged to exist.

Is mere inconvenience to police, or accommodating the news cycle, a valid excuse for law enforcement murder of suspects? Even at the Waco massacre, the FBI waited over a week before their military assault, which killed dozens of children and women non-combatants. In Dallas, the wait was only a few hours. 

The despicable James Holmes, who murdered 20 people in a Denver-area movie theater, was also trapped by police but was allowed to surrender. They didn’t rush in and shoot him to pieces or blow him up. He was given a trial and found guilty. Of course, his victims were not law enforcement officers.

In our current legal system, convicted killers on death row are given multiple appeals, trials and numerous procedural details to use in avoiding execution by the State. Many sit for decades in prison and are eventually given the benefit of the doubt about receiving their ultimate punishment. But the Dallas police sniper received what can only be described as “cruel and usual punishment” without any legal due process whatsoever.  Has any cornered suspect ever been bombed by law enforcement like this in America? Due process is a guaranteed Constitutional right in the United States irrespective of obvious guilt or innocence.

Will a Dallas grand jury even be called to review the legality of this police murder? Has “failing to surrender to police” now been mysteriously added to the list of capital crimes?

I have no sympathy with the now dead sniper. But isn’t the reason for this tragedy the fact that too many times the police act as judge, jury and executioner, claiming self-defense as a rationale? (And as in Dallas, the suspects are often black.) Isn’t that behavior the problem, not the solution?

Does America solve this problem by ignoring legal due process? We are about to find out. 

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