Police officers have been under intense scrutiny in the last few months as every confrontation that ends in violence against a suspect is immediately attributed to abject racism.
Even people who generally support law enforcement are sometimes skeptical of a police shooting like the recent incident in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where an officer shot suspect Jacob Blake seven times in the back after he repeatedly ignored police commands and reached into his vehicle.
But body camera footage originally shared on the Daytona Beach, Florida, Police Department’s Facebook page provides a glimpse into why officers must shoot to kill (however many bullets it takes) and just how little time they have to make a life-or-death decision.
The incident unfolded Saturday as two Daytona Beach officers and a Holly Hill, Florida, officer were responding to a tip that Michael A. Harris, wanted in Daytona Beach for attempted murder, was hiding out in an apartment complex in Holly Hill, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
When police were allowed into the premises by an unidentified female outside the home, the officer whose body camera provided the vantage point immediately ordered, “Police department, show me your hands” to Harris, who fled into a back bedroom and partially shut the door.
The officer repeated the command as he followed behind and kicked open the door while continuing to order the suspect to show his hands.
In the split second when Harris became visible again through the open door, footage showed a quick flash escape the muzzle of the suspect’s gun along with popping sounds of shots fired.
The officer was struck in the chest and cried out as he immediately fell to the ground while the other officer returned fire.
He was down but not out, however, as he returned fire along with the other officer until Harris was shot dead.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic images and language that some viewers will find offensive.
Although it is a tragedy that Harris had to die, the good news is that his was the only life ended in the ordeal.
Daytona Beach police Chief Craig Capri said in a news conference Sunday that the Daytona Beach officer was saved by his bulletproof vest, although his chest was still injured from the impact, while his colleague was hospitalized for neck injuries after he tripped and fell while running around the building.
The Holly Hill cop was unharmed, as was another woman who was inside the home at the time of the crossfire.
“The suspect had warrants out for attempted murder, he was a violent, violent felon and he didn’t think twice earlier about pulling guns on an innocent victim, so he showed no remorse when he pulled guns on police officers,” Capri said.
“Our officers did an excellent, outstanding job,” he continued. “They did what they were supposed to do: Go home at the end of their shift alive, and that’s what they did.”
Capri said that they never want to kill a suspect but Harris left them no other options.
“The suspect fired at officers first, and we defended ourselves,” he said. “If you pull a gun on a police officer and shoot a police officer, you’re going to get killed. Simple as that.”
Police have been denigrated in the media and by “several radical groups” because of a few bad cops, Capri said, but he was still “proud to be a police officer.”
The officers involved in the incident are on paid administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates, as is protocol.
Besides just being a harrowing glimpse into the dangerous job of a police officer, the body camera footage showed how events unfold in a split second, leaving no time for hesitation or ridiculous “de-escalation” techniques.
In the moment when the door swung open and Harris fired at the cop, there was no chance to call in a social worker or calmly discuss the possible consequences of his actions.
There was no indication that the officer cared one iota about the man’s race, and he was likely concerned more about the pain in his chest from Harris’ bullet.
It was kill or be killed, and because Harris had just fired at officers, he was a clear and present danger who needed to be neutralized with deadly force.
Of course there are bad cops, just like any other profession, because humans are broken and sinful, but the vast majority of men and women in law enforcement are just out there trying to get the bad guys off the streets and live to tell the tale.
That heroic police officer literally took a bullet that day and was afforded the privilege of coming home to his family only because of the bulletproof vest he was wearing and not because of anything the defund the police crowd would endorse.
Police officers faced with the kind of danger that requires immediate, decisive action shouldn’t have to worry about whether acting in self-defense will set off riots because of cynical media narrative-crafting.
This confrontation is exactly what officers face and fear, knowing they can be dragged into a fight for their life at any time.
Thank God they do it anyway.
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