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The first forty-five were mistakes, the forty-sixth an accident

[ 189 ] February 11, 2013 |

The headline at the LA Times reads “Torrance neighborhood edgy after mistaken shootings,” and the phrase “mistaken shootings” refers to the fact that there have been multiple incidents in which Los Angeles and Torrance police officers have opened fired on people who don’t remotely resemble proud cop-killer Christopher Jordan Dorner: two Latina women delivering papers for the Times and a white man sneaking in a morning surf. But calling these incidents “mistaken shootings” downplays both the extent of the mistake and the severity of the shootings. Consider the state of the truck driven by the Times employees:

I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: the fact that two members of the LAPD put at least forty-six bullets in the back of that truck or that the barrage only wounded the two women in the truck. Not that I wish them further injury, mind you, only that I’m uncomfortable with the level of incompetence such “marksmanship” seems to suggest, because the police are out in terrible force and they are angry. If you live where I do, you don’t need to watch the news conferences or know that over 50 members of the force (and their families) are in protective custody to notice, and feel unsettled by, the heightened police presence in Riverside and Orange and LA counties. I literally can’t go to the doughnut store without having to stand behind four grumpy sleep-deprived cops.* I understand why the 15 and 91 were crawling with police vehicles last Thursday, as Dorner shot the officers in Corona a few miles from my apartment, but given that the search is now centered around Big Bear, I’m not sure why the continued police presence is necessary.

Especially when, since the “mistaken shootings” that happened last week, people who drive pickup trucks of any make and model are being encouraged to find alternative means of transportation until Dorner is dead or custody.** Because you never know when an angry sleep-addled cop who can barely hit the back of an SUV will open fire on you because of who you could be, but clearly aren’t. Having a standing army of incompetent shots occupy a few counties may not be the best way to calm civilian nerves. This strikes me as generally true, but even more so when the only stated targets are cops and the only victims unrelated to law enforcement personnel have been shot, mistakenly, by law enforcement personnel.

*By which I mean, when I went to the doughnut store this  morning, I had to stand behind four grumpy sleep-deprived cops.

**This despite the fact that the burnt husk of the truck in question was located on Saturday night.


Comments (189)

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  1. Ken Houghton says:

    Just a reminder: of those “41 Shots” at Amadou Diallo’s American Skin, only 19 of them landed on the victim body.*

    And that was at a closer distance.

    *Can’t call him a victim since some upstate idiots acquitted the cops involved in the shootings–one of those moments that makes one think Ed Koch might have been correct in his Playboy interview.

  2. Todd says:

    Cue the new NRA campaign calling for an armed guard in every newspaper delivery vehicle.

  3. Pathman says:

    “Christopher Jordan Dorner” Ah, trying to get the three name meme going? I’m surprised it hasn’t taken off yet.

    • SEK says:

      As a three-namer myself, clearly I don’t want to be associated with this man. That’s just what they’re calling him.

      • Pathman says:

        I’m not blaming you. I’m just pointing it out. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

        • Froley says:

          I think they do it to try and cut down on mistaken identity — it’s not the John Bartholomew Smith I work with that committed mopery, but some guy named John Hezekiah Smith. Still I don’t know how effective it is because a lot of people don’t know their friends’/acquaintances’ middle name.

    • Djur says:

      Police reports usually give the full legal name of the suspect, and newspapers tend to repeat whatever the police give them.

      It’s a good thing, anyway, because it somewhat reduces the likelihood of someone with the same last and first name being harassed.

    • Jon Hendry says:

      It’s useful to distinguish this guy from other people named Christopher Dorner.

      When Casey Anthony was acquitted, other people named Casey Anthony were being threatened.

      Idiots will still do that sort of thing, but it doesn’t hurt to make a distinction by using a middle name.

  4. Total says:

    It does really put into perspective what would happen if there were armed guards in every school. Jesus wept.

  5. John Protevi says:

    On the incompetence of almost all humans, even very well-trained ones, at close-range violence, see Randall Collins, Violence: A Micro-Sociological Theory. It will change the way you think.

    • Matt_L says:

      Under normal conditions, its really hard to hit something more than 10 feet away with a handgun. Its almost impossible to hit anything 50 feet away except at the range and with lots of practice. Now imagine being sleep deprived, jittery from too much caffeine and doughnuts, plus being freaked out by somebody gunning down cops. In that context, its kind of understandable why they missed. And thank god they did.

      There is that Russian Proverb: “Fools shoot and God directs the bullets.”

  6. Michael H Schneider says:

    “**This despite the fact that the burnt husk of the truck in question was located on Saturday night.”

    Considering that pickup trucks have been disproportionally involved in serious crimes recently, it is only logical that police devote extra resources to investigating pickup trucks. Besides, if you didn’t want to be profiled, you shouldn’t have been born a pickup truck.

  7. Hogan says:

    LAPD to LA residents: “That’s for nothing, so watch it.”

  8. jibeaux says:

    It’s common to use all three names for high-profile suspects like this. It can possibly help some helpless sap out there who’s going “IT’s A DIFFERENT CHRISTOPHER DORNER, OK?” With Sirhan Sirhan, I don’t know if he lacked a third name or if they just considered the existence of other Sirhan Sirhans to be a risk worth taking.

  9. SP says:

    over 50 members of the force (and their families) are in protective custody
    Isn’t this the plot of one of the Lethal Weapons?

  10. Joshua says:

    Grey SUV, blue pickup truck, what’s the difference?

    • Keaaukane says:

      If I were about to buy a pickup truck, I would go with the Tacoma. It’s almost bulletproof! Hit at least 35 times, and only one passenger wounded? THAT is a Super Bowl commercial I’d watch.

      • cpinva says:

        the body work on that bad boy is going to be a budget buster. seriously, 46 rounds, by two cops? they both had to have reloaded once each, and one of them twice. and these two bozo’s still only managed to wound one of the women? thankfully, their complete ineptitude kept them from killing either one of these poor ladies, but still!

        what the world is getting right now is the full blown “LAPD Experience”: brutality, arrogance and incompetence, on a grand scale. if anyone seriously thought that force had changed, with a change in chiefs, this should put that notion in its grave.

        • bang says:

          It is actually worse than you think. They cops apparently sprayed the neighborhood with another 40 stray rounds or so hitting houses and parked cars.

          • max says:

            Maybe they just really hate newspapers.

            A couple of years ago some kind got freaked out and pulled away from a cop car and drove home (parked the truck in front. The cops started shooting. Kid dropped to the floorboard. He had no gun. They put 77 rounds in his truck.

            [‘Why are people surprised that spree killers who obviously want to get their faces on TV opt to carry as much ammo as possible.’]

  11. JL says:

    A few months ago I was chatting with one of the cops at my university, who take the same training and have the same marksmanship standards as our state police. I asked him about the marksmanship standards. If I’d been drinking anything I would have spat it all over the table at his answer. I could probably pass their marksmanship test, and I’m a not-very-experienced and not-particularly-good shot. IIRC, it involved firing 10 rounds (though I might be misremembering the number) at a stationary human-sized target at each of three different close-range distances, and 70% of the shots had to hit the target, and you had to be able to do this in both daytime and nighttime lighting.

  12. LeeEsq says:

    This is why I always roll my eyes when the pro-gun side argues that if more people are armed than a good person with a gun can prevent a bad person with a gun from doing harm. People who are theoretically well-trained in the use of guns often panic in the best of circumstances. Why should amateurs whose only training takes place in the most controlled conditions do better?

    • JL says:

      In fairness, a lot of cops are not actually trained very well in the use of guns (they should be, but that’s a different matter), and a lot of amateurs are far better trained and are far better shots.

      None of which means I agree with the anti-gun-control side’s argument here.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        In fairness, a lot of cops are not actually trained very well in the use of guns

        I’m totally missing the fairness part of that statement or thought.

        Fair to who, when, why?

        • Jeremy says:

          It connects with the statement after the parentheses, that there exist amateurs who are better trained and better shots. So basically, being a cop does not mean you’re a good shot, and being an amateur does not mean you’re a bad shot.

          But as JL also says, this doesn’t mean anything for the anti-gun-control argument.

        • JL says:

          Yeah, the fairness part was supposed to be fairness to amateurs, plenty of whom are better shots and get more training and practice in shooting than their local cops. Sorry for being unclear.

          Which, at least to me, means that we should train cops to be competent with their guns and make sure that they get adequate practice to maintain their skills, not that we should have amateurs trying to do cops’ jobs.

          • Cody says:

            If we did that though, bond vigilantes will come ruin the US economy and government forever.

            Though, if we had better trained cops we would defend against vigilantes better.

    • cpinva says:

      this may actually have a microscopic grain of truth to it.

      “This is why I always roll my eyes when the pro-gun side argues that if more people are armed than a good person with a gun can prevent a bad person with a gun from doing harm.”

      unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), there are only a very few people who would actually qualify as a “good person with a gun”, and most of them aren’t going to be there when they’re needed. what you’d actually end up with, are lots of good people, who are really bad with guns, blazing away at each other, while the perp escapes out of a side door.

      that wouldn’t sound quite as positive, in NRA commercials.

    • Glenn says:

      Ah, but don’t you see, since people are such bad shots, you need more of them shooting in the general vicinity in order to up the odds that at least one of the bullets actually hits the bad guy.

  13. Lacking Moral Fiber aka Useless Muthfucka frmly Nemesis says:

    I believe Dormer is black, so along with all pick em up trucks being relegated to the curb, perhaps all black males in So Cal should consider doing the same. Its only a matter of time until a few dozen are gunned down in honest to goodness cases of mistaken identity.

    • cpinva says:

      i thought that was a given, since before rodney king.

      “I believe Dormer is black, so along with all pick em up trucks being relegated to the curb, perhaps all black males in So Cal should consider doing the same.”

  14. montag2 says:

    Robin Williams’ old joke about the LAPD throwing you out of the car and putting you on the ground at gunpoint for having a non-functioning left speaker seems still relevant today….

    But, the lawyer for the two women delivering papers described the assault as “street justice,” and, frankly, that was sort of belaboring the obvious.

  15. Mondfledermaus says:

    Since the Sandy Hook massacre, I been insisting that high capacity magazines should be banned. And that includes cops too. Give them wheel guns so that at least they have to worry about running out of ammo before they start shooting like maniacs.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      This incident shows that they actually need higher capacity magazines – assuming they actually want to hit something they think they are aiming at.

    • Tyto says:

      Didn’t police training guru Hamilton Jordan champion this view some years back? Something along the lines of “if you can’t solve the problem with six shots, you should quietly retire.”

      • max says:

        Something along the lines of “if you can’t solve the problem with six shots, you should quietly retire.”

        If you have a revolver and a speedloader with extra rounds and you can’t deal with just about everything you’re going to run into, either 1) you should have run away because whatever it was, was so difficult to deal with that no one individual could make a difference or 2) you can’t shoot.

        As near as I can tell, having large clips simply makes people (including cops) willing to burn ammo, which is a problem if you’re nervous and used to burning ammo, because surprise, no ammo left.

        [‘With the infantry, on the other hand, the theory is that there are bunch of them together and we want them to burn ammo, so they just randomly kill the other guys. Wall of fire.’]

        • Mark D'ski says:

          max, you are right, the requirements of a military action are different from what we require of a police action. refering to a previous comment, who wants to live in Fallujah?!

    • Jaycubed says:

      A couple of decades ago in L.A. there was an incident where numerous L.A.P.D cops were exchanging gunfire with one armed suspect. The cops were all armed with hi-capacity semi-auto handguns as was the shooter. Hundreds of rounds were exchanged without a single hit. Finally another officer (an L.A. Co. Sheriff’s Deputy if I remember correctly) arrived with his six shot revolver, fired one round and incapacitated the suspect.

      The technique used by most of the cops, and the suspect, is called Spray & Pray. It remains the most common way for police officers to use their firearms. It is why so many police officers shoot their fellow officers and innocent bystanders.

      The legal standard that allows police officers to use deadly force is “fear for my life”. In other words, being a coward gives a cop the legal right to gun down anyone. The victim doesn’t need to be armed or actually threatening, the cop just has to feel threatened and he can kill another human being with impunity.

      • sparks says:

        Well, if he gets an unarmed civilian who he can’t plant a gun on fast enough, he just gets paid time off and maybe a disciplinary hearing.

      • cpinva says:

        interestingly, that’s a basic combat technique, since the introduction of automatic weapons, at the infantryman level, in forces the world over.

        “The technique used by most of the cops, and the suspect, is called Spray & Pray.”

        you aren’t aiming at a specific target, you are just throwing out as much lead as you can, in a particular direction, hoping to hit something. while this might be a somewhat effective approach in a military setting, it’s a disaster waiting to happen, in a civilian one.

        • expatchad says:

          Begging your pardon, bnut it hasn’t been WAITING for quite some time.

        • BigHank53 says:

          The current ratio in Afghanistan is something along the lines of 75,000 rounds expended per casualty.

          • max says:

            I expect the Taliban’s ratio would be way worse.

            (The video of the guy heading downhill to try and draw fire was interesting because it was obvious the Taliban guys were using AK’s and they were so far away that they might as well have been trying to hit him with golf balls.)

            [‘It was still slightly crazy to run downhill like that. But understandable in the circumstances.’]

        • ironic irony says:

          A tactic used in Iraq by both sides as well. That’s one reason why the insurgents used AKs- you could put a wall of lead up very quickly.

  16. simple mind says:

    I don’t suppose that having a license plate different from Dorner’s gave these trigger happy Keystone Kops the slightest pause for thought.

  17. Jim Lynch says:

    Geez, SEK, you sound downright irritated that cops are on edge in LA.

    • The Dark Avenger says:

      There’s a difference between being on edge and riddling a vehicle with bullets when the occupants don’t match the description of the wanted perp.

      Isn’t there.

  18. 'stina says:

    I’m guessing that if they do find him, Dormer isn’t gonna make it to trial.

  19. Froley says:

    My CafePress “I’m Not Dorner” t-shirts are rolling off the line now.

  20. Steve S. says:

    Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a bigger “mistake” here than that of the identification? That even if you did find Dorner, but he was armed only with newspapers or a surfboard, you couldn’t just shoot him?

  21. McKingford says:

    The irony of all this is that the LAPD seems intent on proving that Dorner was right all along (however unjustified in his reaction)…

  22. c u n d gulag says:

    The LAPD is going about this the wrong way.

    The only way to stop a former good guy with a gun, is with a former bad guy with a gun.

    Too bad John Allen Muhammad was executed.

    Maybe they can get Lee Boyd Malvo trained-up quick, and send him to LA!

  23. Winchester says:

    That’s felonious; you don’t fire without a positively-identified lawful target. And two women don’t look like the ex-officer man.

    Through their own actions, LAPD has proved beyond reasonable doubt that they will assault and attempt to kill people without lawful cause or purpose.

    There are two innocent people who weren’t involved in any way, nor were they driving his vehicle, nor were they even of the same gender as Dorner. They were shot by trigger-happy copsg.

    These are the actions of cornered rabid animals who are incapable of reason and judgment.

    And yet they are the very same people who allege that you should trust them to keep you safe and who insist that you don’t need full-capacity magazines and weapons suitable for your own self-defense — against all murderous assailants including them.

    And consider what happens if they try to come take guns, and a few dozen in a given area decide they’re not going to comply. Multiply the number of innocent civilians shot by hundreds and consider how many more vigilantes will be created by those very feral-apes-in-blue shooting people without cause — and getting away with it without themselves being arrested, indicted, tried and imprisoned.

    This is how the nation descends into a “dirty, unconventional civil war” folks.

  24. Lefty68 says:

    I’m not fond of the labeling of this event as “terrorism,” but Dorner does have this in common with Al Qaeda: he has provoked his enemy to commit a self-destructive overreaction.

  25. Oscar Goldman says:

    You cropped the photo from the article. Noticeably absent from your cropped photo is the “CRIME STOPPERS” bumper sticker on the squad car in the foreground. Priceless.

  26. herr doktor bimler says:

    I was wondering how long before the NRA arms traders seize on the LA situation as an opportunity to promote personal arsenals… your only way of defending yourself from the police.

  27. […] it exactly that, and so I reproduce for you the term verbatim. More on the discursive embarrassment here. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

  28. dporpentine says:

    Everyone routinely considers any kind of traffic violence an “accident,” so why not call these “mistakes”?

  29. socraticsilence says:

    One of these someones going to shoot back and apply the expanded catle doctrine as a defense.

    • Just Dropping By says:

      The “expanded cat[t]le doctrine” allows you to lynch someone whom you suspect of rustling any piece of your personal property, whereas the original cattle doctrine is limited to lynching people rustling your livestock.

      • Hogan says:

        See also Nelson, W., in the case of Yellow-Haired Lady v. Red-Headed Stranger: “You can’t hang a man for killing a woman who was trying to steal his horse.”

        • The Dark Avenger says:

          They used to have the “Hot pursuit” law in Texas, legally defined as 3 days horseback riding time so that if you caught up to the perp within 72 hours, you could shoot him(it was usually a him) and take your property back.

  30. socraticsilence says:


  31. heckblazer says:

    I can see the shooting as a plausible case of misidentification based on the details I’ve read. The cops in Torrance reportedly were on a protection detail for someone named in the manifesto, and since Dorner had already been in a firefight with cops from a different protective detail earlier that morning, thinking he might show up made sense. The Torrance shooting happened at 5 am. Under streetlights the blue truck would have looked black and it would have been hard to see the driver clearly. Since the two women were delivering papers the truck was also moving slowly and starting and stopping frequently instead of driving normally. Finally, the cops reportedly opened fire specifically in response to the truck’s high beams turning on. That was interpreted as Dorner trying to blind the cops just before opening fire on them.

    Naturally, this may turn out not be an accurate reconstruction, and the LAPD isn’t exactly disinterested in what it says happened.

    (For some reason I keep wanting to spell “Dorner” as “Dornan”; guess I’m mixing up my Southern California crazy people.)

    • Mike F. says:

      So in response to the high beams coming on they shot the living shit out of the back of the truck?

      • heckblazer says:

        I’m assuming here that they opened fire as the truck approached and continued as it passed, but that is an assumption and I have no idea which way the bullets going through the windshield were travelling.
        I would add that finding the misidentification of the truck understandable does not mean the subsequent use of force was proper. I find the allegations of “street justice” perfectly plausible.

    • commie atheist says:

      Naturally, this may turn out not be an accurate reconstruction, and the LAPD isn’t exactly disinterested in what it says happened.

      Um, yeah. There’s accurate reconstructions, and then there’s positioning oneself for the expected lawsuit.

    • montag2 says:

      Oh, lord, that’s all this situation needs is for B-1 Bob to weigh in with his opinions….

    • Richard says:

      One other factor is that the truck was supposedly driving in the middle of the street (because the driver was tossing newspapers to both sides of the street). Still, and even given the fact that it would have been dark at 5 am except for streetlights, this doesn’t look like sufficient cause to start shooting. The occupants of the truck have said that no warnings were given to them and I haven’t heard the LAPD yet say that warnings were given. I can see the cops being jumpy because of the attacks by this guy (and especially since his first victim was the daughter of a cop and her fiancee) but that certainly doesn’t justify shooting at the truck.

    • g says:

      You don’t think the newspapers being left in each driveway with every stop might have given the cops a clue?

    • cpinva says:

      this would certainly explain all the bullet holes, in the rear end of the vehicle.

      “Finally, the cops reportedly opened fire specifically in response to the truck’s high beams turning on. That was interpreted as Dorner trying to blind the cops just before opening fire”

      those two cops are actually retired, formerly world-class gymnasts, able to hurl themselves over the top of the truck, landing right behind it, and unloading their weapons straight into the back of it. yes, it’s all beginning to make sense now, except for the parts that don’t.

      • heckblazer says:

        I fail to see the necessity of gymnastics when they could dodge to the side. I’m also not terribly confident about statements about precise bullet trajectories derived from news photos.

  32. Socraticsilence says:

    Given the misidentification issue I hope for his safety LL Cool J is taking a sabbatical from his TV show.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Doesn’t LL Cool J still have a TV show that involves him (notably, he is an athletic young-ish Black man) racing around LA in a black SUV, heavily armed?

      I hope for his safety the whole thing is filmed in a back lot of the studio someplace … if the cops riddled a blue pickup driven by an old Hispanic lady, they’d probably call in an airstrike on LL Cool J’s SUV.

      • cpinva says:

        if their air wing is anywhere near as incompetent as their ground forces, i’m not sure mr. cool j has much to worry about.

        “if the cops riddled a blue pickup driven by an old Hispanic lady, they’d probably call in an airstrike on LL Cool J’s SUV.”

        • max says:

          if their air wing is anywhere near as incompetent as their ground forces, i’m not sure mr. cool j has much to worry about.

          Yeah, but Hollywood & Vine would be right to worry.

          [‘That’s what their ‘maps to the stars’ suggested.’]

    • Jon Hendry says:

      CBS News last night reported on Dorner, then moved to a story about the snowstorm and cut to a reporter in Boston. Who looked very much like Dorner at first. (Black, similar head shape and skin tone. Wider nose, though.)

  33. g says:

    Isn’t there supposed to be such a thing as “Rules of Engagement” in law enforcement? Aren’t you supposed to shoot at someone only under certain circumstances?

    I’m pretty sure that “That might be him in that truck” doesn’t meet the threshold.

    • expatchad says:

      We’re talking SoCal here….

    • heckblazer says:

      From the 2010 Use of Force Annual Report:
      “Firearms shall not be discharged at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle…Any deviations from the provisions of this policy shall be examined rigorously on a case-by-case basis.”

      • LosGatosCA says:

        I’m thinking that ‘examining rigorously’ means that it gets the Joe Paterno treatment, normally reserved for child molesters. it’s so thorough.

        And also, too, ‘case by case’ means whenever the hell we feel like it.

        • heckblazer says:

          I cut out a good bit brevity, but in context “case by case” reads to me as “you better have a goddamn good reason”. FWIW, the final decision on a “categorical use of force” like this one is made by the civilian Board of Police Commissioners, and it is required for there to (eventually) be a publicly available summary of the case. The ones that are online only go up to 2010.

          • firefall says:

            You’re meant to read it as ‘you better have a goddamn good reason’ – thats why that verbiage is there. It’s effect on the commissioners will be negligible compared to their perennial desire to sweep everything under the carpet

  34. Aidian says:

    You know, this sort of thing will come back to bite cops eventually. It only takes a few of these scenes, with the police inevitably labelled as legit shootings, before police lose all credibility. I’ve pretty much gotten to the point where I’ll believe any random scumbag over a cop. This won’t help next time I wind up getting stuck with jury duty.

  35. Simple mInd says:

    Don’t hire no cops without streetsmartz

  36. parked says:

    Hey SEK do you drive a bluish gray Nissan pick up?
    If not, you can go fuck yourself.

    granted my Frontier is older, smaller, has only two doors
    and looks nothing like a Nissan Titan but it does resemble that truck more than the light blue Toyota Tacoma the police shot up.

  37. chris says:

    Only Imperial Stormtroopers could be so precise.

  38. maurinsky says:

    They clearly have no intention of bringing in Dornan alive.

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