Questions have been raised over the New York police department’s handling of a shooting near the Empire State Building after armed officers injured nine passers-by as they pursued a gunman who had just shot dead his former boss.
One of those injured by police told the Guardian that officers appeared to fire “randomly” as they confronted Jeffrey Johnson, 58, minutes after a workplace dispute escalated into a chaotic shootout in one of the busiest parts of Manhattan.
Reports suggest that while Johnson drew his gun when he was confronted by officers, he did not fire; all those injured appear to have been shot by police. The New York police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, said officers had no choice but to act as they did: police discharged 14 rounds and the gunman died at the scene.
Robert Asika was among those wounded, shot in the elbow from a distance of around eight feet by one of the two police officers who confronted Johnson. He accused police of “shooting randomly”, and said he saw at least two others hit by police bullets.
“If you’re gonna aim try and aim perfectly. If you wanna aim at the target, you got to know what you’re doing because it’s the street,” Asika said. “I could have been dead right now. I could have been dead.”
Yes, he could’ve been. What probably happened was that an officer fired without thinking and immediately escalated a situation that might’ve been resolved without gunfire. After the police overreactions in connection to the Occupy Wall Street protests, this adds fuel to the question, “WTF is wrong with the NYPD these days?”
But it also offers a real world lesson in the way exchanges of gunfire actually pan out. The right likes to pretend that every mass shooting could’ve been stopped by one armed and clear-eyed citizen, cloaked in Second Amendment Glory. This argument is most often put forward by rightwing pundits who’ve probably never lifted a gun in their lives.
When you fire a gun at a target, you need to ask yourself these questions: what is the target, where is the target, is the target in the open, what’s behind the target? If you can’t answer any of those question, you do not fire. When you miss a target, the bullet doesn’t just evaporate. Depending on the the type of ammunition and weapon, that bullet could literally go for miles. And in a street fight situation, you will miss. As we can see demonstrated here, it’s guaranteed.
And we can also see that unless you can answer those questions before you start firing, bystanders will be shot. And that may mean getting shot at and not being able to return fire. Police are (supposedly) trained to assess the situation quickly, but some boneheaded NRA member with a concealed carry permit is not. NYPD fucked up big time here, but this is pretty much what you’d have to expect from a concealed carry nut “defending” his fellow citizens. All they’d do is make things that much worse.