On Monday (4 November 2013) a Boone, Iowa man reported that his pickup truck had been stolen. When he made his report of the theft, he identified the truck thief as his son, 19 year-old Tyler Comstock.
A short time later, the younger Comstock was dead in a hail of police gunfire.
According to published news reports, the stolen truck was spotted in the nearby city of Ames, Iowa by patrolling police officer, Adam McPherson. Comstock failed to pull over and surrender for McPherson and, instead, fled at a high rate of speed. Another, Ames PD, officer Tony Atilano, joined the pursuit.
About four minutes later, McPherson fired at least seven shots into the back of the pickup’s cab, two shots fatally wounded the teenager inside.
Less than ninety-six hours later, Story County Attorney Stephen Holmes dutifully provided Ames PD Chief Charles Cychosz with a letter stating that McPherson’s actions were justified and ‘reasonable’. The case will not go to a grand jury.
During the chase lasting just under five minutes, Comstock reportedly rammed police cars that were, likewise, attempting to ram him in an attempt to stop the pursuit. Speeds during the chase exceeded 70mph. The chase route tore through residential areas and portions of the Iowa State University campus.
During the pursuit, McPherson’s unnamed supervisor is heard on recorded police radio transmissions advising McPherson to terminate the pursuit because of danger to bystanders, police, and the suspect. [We never hear about the once-taught standard, ‘police duty to the accused’.]
McPherson did not acknowledge the supervisor’s command and continued his pursuit.
The supervisor, again, transmits to McPherson that it may be advisable to stop the chase by saying, “We know the suspect. We can probably back it off.”
McPherson, at this point, is exiting his patrol car, drawing his service weapon, and ordering Comstock to turn off the stolen truck’s engine.
Comstock either ignores the McPherson’s command, or cannot hear it over the roar of the damaged truck.
McPherson fires the fatal rounds into the back of the truck’s cab. Comstock dies at the scene of wounds resulting from McPherson’s gunfire.
Again, less than ninety-six hours after the shooting, McPherson’s actions are ruled to be justified and ‘reasonable’.
Shades of Trayvon Martin and the hypocrisy of the statist…
Phyne Dyning regularly scours news from all over and then lurks about in reader comment forums. Nearly all of the forum commentators who criticized George Zimmerman’s decision to ignore a police dispatcher’s advice not to follow Martin have given a pass on McPherson’s decision to ignore his commander.
Such is the strength of the pro-police mindset.
“Could have” trumps “reasonable”…
Much of the light-speed decision by Holmes to hastily no-bill McPherson in the incident is based on what Comstock ‘could have’ done…
…Comstock ‘could have’ continued his reckless driving even if police disengaged.
…Comstock ‘could have’ injured or killed pursuing officers, pedestrians, and bystanders.
…Comstock ‘could have’ proceeded on to commit further crimes.
And Comstock ‘could have’ produced a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rocket or weapons of mass destruction.
…Comstock ‘could have’ been arrested later for the theft of the truck, ticketed for the chase-related misconduct, gone to jail, paid some fines, been released from prison, rehabilitated himself, and he ‘could have’ gone on to university where he ‘could have’ obtained a doctorate, and he ‘could have’ subsequently cured diseased in his fellow man.
We’ll never know. Dead teenagers don’t do anything, except putrify in a grave.
All aboard the Police Forgiveness Train…full speed ahead!
According to published reports in the Des Moines Register, Ames Police Cmdr. Geoff Huff explained the need for a rush to find reasonableness in McPherson’s actions.
“…the county attorney’s decision and patrol car videos were released Thursday because dispatch audio was made public Tuesday by The Des Moines Register, Huff said. “That unfortunately forced our hand to move quicker than we normally would have,” Huff said.
Huff is referring to the audio where McPherson’s command officer states that continuing the pursuit is unwise and that it may be in the best interest of public safety for McPherson and Atilano to disengage from the pursuit.
The rush to find reasonableness in McPherson’s actions seemed to accelerate when the dead man’s family began asking if their loved one was murdered, or if his killing was necessary to protect public safety. The family, and others, have been very vocal in asking if the Comstock pursuit violated the well-documented police pursuit police of McPherson’s department. That policy, per news reports, specifically requires ending pursuit “when the suspect’s identity has been established to the point that later apprehension can be accomplished.”
In the Amerikan Police Soyuz, the ‘authorities’ have become unaccustomed to answering questions because, in any police state, “Vee are zee vons who ask zee kvestchuns.”
With Holmes’ decree safely in police files, no more questions will be permitted.
Newton’s First Law and the shooting…
At some point, most high school students become familiar with Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. His first law states…
“…A body in rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion, unless the body is compelled to change its state.”
If reported accounts are accurate, a police supervisor attempted to change the direction and magnitude of McPherson’s response to the fleeing Comstock.
Unfortunately, for Comstock and true to Newton, the magnitude of the supervisor’s force was insufficient to overcome the momentum that was building toward McPherson firing his weapon into the back of the cab in which Comstock was housed.
Was McPherson ‘caught up in the moment’? Or, did McPherson willfully ignore the recommendations of his commanding officer and subsequently bushwhack young Mr. Comstock from behind?
Shot in the back and you’re to blame, you give cops a bad name…
Again, according to published reports, McPherson discharged seven (initially reported to be six) rounds from his duty weapon into the rear of the Comstock vehicle’s cab.
According to police, McPherson exited his patrol car and began to approach Comstock’s vehicle. And, as he approached, McPherson commanded Comstock to turn off the truck’s engine.
Comstock allegedly ignored McPherson’s commands and began to rev the motor of his firmly stuck vehicle.
“Allegedly” is used because McPherson was approaching from behind and he was attempting to yell over the motor noise of the suspect vehicle.
Did Comstock hear McPherson’s commands? Did Comstock see McPherson as he approached with his service weapon drawn? Did McPherson give Comstock enough time to comply with his commands?
We’ll probably never know. Only one side was left standing and victors write history books.
There remain other questions:
Did police escalate the situation to a point where shooting Comstock dead was the only solution set?
This is a very important question.
In pre-police state America, police officers were barred from provoking suspects into greater breaches of the peace. In fact, in many jurisdictions, police officers could not levy a criminal charge of ‘disturbing the peace’ if the only peace disturbed was that of the police officer. [The rationale was that peace officers are required to have ‘reasonableness’ exceeding that of Ordinaries and it was also the police officer’s higher level of ‘reasonableness’ by which society permitted him an almost absolute ability to go about armed.]
Were McPherson’s actions provocative? Would Comstock have later surrendered quietly? Did McPherson set the stage for Comstock to be shot?
“Shot while trying to escape” became a stock, tongue-in-cheek characteristic of old, totalitarian regimes. Shooting fleeing suspects was historically banned (or at least held to be unsportsmanlike), even among police, unless there existed circumstances that would lead a reasonable man to believe, unless deadly force was used, the fleeing suspect would assault another person with deadly force.
Had Comstock succeeded in getting his hopelessly stuck (and severely damaged) vehicle moving again but the pursuit terminated, would he have continued driving in a reckless and aggressive manner? It is important to note that Comstock was not driving recklessly prior to the pursuit. It was only after police engaged him that Comstock began his pattern of reckless and aggressive driving. Further, there is no evidence that Comstock was attempting to elude officers with the intent to commit further crimes.
None of those questions or possibilities will be posed to a grand jury.
Another important factor is the police assertion that McPherson’s actions were justified because of the populated location where the chase took place.
Was it wise for McPherson to wildly discharge (seven shots in about 3 seconds) from his service weapon in a populated area?
So many questions…so little time…
In a mere ninety-six hours after the shooting an official, paid from the same pocket as the officer who shot and killed a 19 year-old man, eliminated the possibility that the Comstock family and the community in which they live would be able to get answers to so many questions.
That is not the American way.
We must not do away with the messiness of a trial by executing suspects during their apprehension. We must not bar the path to justice, by allowing the prosecutorial mechanism to investigate itself.
This case should have proceeded to a grand jury where there would have been at least a chance for justice for everyone involved.
Otherwise, we are only a few steps short of having police investigators set down confessions before an accused and stating, “Just sign it. We’ll tell you what you’re guilty of at a later date.”
Or, we will end up with a lot of citizens ‘shot while trying to escape’.