Doctor questions BART shooting


Nice piece in the Bay Citizen by Rupa Marya, M.D., who treated Charles Hill, the man killed by BART police. She points to the essential problem -- BART cops don't seem to be able to deal with people who are agitated or mentally ill without shooting them:

While I had seen him agitated before and while I can't speak to all of his behavior, I never would have described him as threatening in such a way as to warrant the use of deadly force. We often have to deal with agitated and sometimes even violent patients in the hospital. Through teamwork, tools and training, we have not had to fatally wound our patients in order to subdue them.

I understand the police are there to protect us and react to the situation around them, but I wonder why the officer who shot Charles did not aim for the leg if he felt the need to use a gun, instead of his vital organs. I wonder if he possessed other training methods to subdue an agitated man with a knife or bottle.

I feel this situation quite deeply. It is hard to watch our civil servants (police) brutally handle a person and their body when I spend my time and energy as a civil servant (physician) honoring the dignity of that person, regardless of their race or social class, their beliefs or their affiliations.

I can tell you why the officer didn't shoot Hill in the leg. Cops are trained to to shoot to kill, and only to kill -- once a cop draws a gun and fires, he or she has already decided to use lethal force and is supposed to aim for center body mass and fire until the target is down. There are reasons for that -- shooting someone in the leg is hard, and if you miss and the person shoots back, you can get killed yourself. Also, if cops were allowed to shoot people in the legs to stop or slow them down, there'd be a lot more police shootings -- and sometimes the cops would miss the legs and kill somone who was only supposed to be disabled. Bottom line: Cops shouldn't be firing their weapons at all unless there's an immediate threat to their lives or the lives of others.

But therin lies the problem: Since the death of Idriss Stelley, San Francisco cops have been getting additional training in dealing with mentally ill people. It hasn't always worked, and it's not a perfect system, but at least there's been an effort. As Dr. Marya clearly knows, health-care workers in the city have to handle mentally ill people, sometimes agitated people, all the time --without killing them.

The BART cops who shot Hill handled the situation really badly

And I don't blame Dr. Marya for wanting to join the next protest.


Being attacked by an armed madman = a threat on one's life. Sorry.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

then her opinions about what went down is mere speculation. Every murderer that ever lived can conjure up someone who will say "he/she would never do that". So what? I'll bet his mother doesn't believe it either and that he was kind to animals.

A cop shoots to kill because they only shoot when they are in an immediate danger. You have to induce shock and lower blood pressure immediately. Or destroy the brain. That's the uncomfortable but necessary truth. Add in the "fog of war", the stress of the battlefield, mix in the constant threat that cops operate under, and the real story here is how little stuff like this happens.

When did BART cops ever shoot a passenger reading the paper and being quiet and inoffensive?

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

So Rupa, how would YOU have handled him? I'm sure your hospital has your staff control out-of-hand patients instead of the police, right? Oh wait, the hospital relies on law enforcement to protect them as well.

Posted by Nonanonanonfawkesyou on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 2:02 pm

"So Rupa, how would YOU have"=typical Troll lure from right wing

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

Oh look, an anon troll from the left. Oh hai! See what I did there? You are nothing but a broken tool used by people much more clever than you and the rest of the /b/-tard lemmings.

Go get a real cause ;)

Posted by vigilant on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

Wasn't she stating an opinion? Are we not allowed to ask or will the big, bad scary Anonymous tell us that we're not to have an opinion other than theirs? It's kind of funny how this group that is 'fighting for our rights' acts when someone doesn't agree with them. They use the same baiting and slimy discrediting that the very far right does.

You anons are throwing rocks in a glass house.

Posted by Well... on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

not when the question was already answered in the doctor's original statement, troll

Posted by vigilante on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

Troll? That's all you can come up with? Perhaps if you really had something to say, you'd be able to say it instead that hollow, tired and altogether poor retort.

Your movement has nothing to say and neither do you.

Posted by vigilant on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

The "How Would You Have" question is entirely legit.Hey, I don't get in the operating room and tell the doctor how to take out my kids' tonsils.

Posted by Daisy on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 10:02 pm


Police brutality increases in US
Cops in America are heavily armed and trained to be bullies, routinely hurting people. After a number of mistakes committed by SWAT teams breaking into the wrong home of citizens and constant confrontations with people, are police overstepping their boundaries? Former Reagan Administration advisor Paul Craig Roberts says people who are attracted to police forces are bullies and sociopaths.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 2:51 pm

Guest, I'd like to take issue with your comment about "being attacked by an armed madman." According to all the evidence, Hill was armed with a knife that he threw at the cops (and which clattered to the ground a long way away from the officer). He also may have thrown a bottle. A knife is a deadly weapon if the person attacking you is within a few feet of range -- or if that person is able to effectively throw the the knive. Trust me -- I own a set of carefully balanced throwing knives, and I've spent some time training with them (I actually started when I was in high school) and I can tell you that it's very difficult to throw even a balanced knife, under ideal circumstances. It's nearly impossible to throw a handle-heavy blade unless you're a real expert. Combine that with Hill being visibly intoxicated and the odds that the knife would be a dangerous weapon from any kind of distance are pretty low. And the video appears to show that the knife was already on the ground BEFORE the cop fired his weapon.

So you need to rethink that position.

Posted by tim on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

The flash of the gun comes as the knife ricochets off of the train, behind the officer. So no, it was not already on the ground; it was still moving. I'm sure any officer will ask a suspect whether or not they're an experienced knife-thrower or marksmen. You people are a riot...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

this guy wasn't someone like you who has spent hours practicing throwing knives? They couldn't know that - all they knew was that the guy initiated a potentially deadly attack.

Oh, and of course the knife was "on the ground" BEFORE they shot him. The cops would have had no need to defend themselves BEFORE he threw the knife. They responded immediately AFTER the attack, since they did not know what other weapons he had on him, and he had already telegraphed murderous intent. You don't wait for a guy to shoot at you a second time.

Now maybe the guy was drunk, mentally ill, whatever. And with the benefit of calm hindsight, perhaps the threat was less than it seemed at the time. But can ANYONE doubt that at the time, those cops genuinely believed that they were in mortal danger? And so acted entirely appropriately.

Crazy guys with weapons are a threat to law-abiding citizens. BART cops deal with those threats - they've never shot an innocent traveller, only those engaged in violence and disorder. Save your sympathy for those the cops protect, defend and serve, and not lowlife criminal slime.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

I have the same questions Rupa Marya, M.D. has asked:

Why did the officer who shot Charles not aim for the leg if he felt the need to use a gun, instead of his vital organs? I wonder if he possessed other training methods to subdue an agitated man with a knife or bottle.

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

A shot in a limb, as well as being hard to pull off (they're thin and they move around a lot) also will not necessarily stop a man, especially if they are crazed and determined.

The objective in shooting, when your life is under threat (two sharp objects were thrown) is to stop the other guy. There are basically only three ways to do that:

1) Induce hydrostatic shock - internal shock waves that disable the body
2) Immediately lower blood pressure
3) Destroy or incapacitate the brain

I recall one case where a guy was shot 12 times and continued the assault.

While cops are trained to use various techniques to subdue an unarmed man, if the attack is at a distance and represents a clear and present danger, then using deadly force is SOP.

A normal member of public who doesn't assault cops is under zero danger.

Posted by PaulT on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 5:04 pm

Residents of the District of Columbia speak about police brutality:
Police brutality is the norm?

Posted by Jorge Orwell 1984 on Aug. 29, 2011 @ 6:36 pm

political opinions of the left variety, so it smells like there is more than a tad of ideological opportunism present in her leading and self-serving "questions".

Perhaps she feels guilty that a mental patient under her charge was allowed to roam the streets. Doctors have a legal obligation to notify authorities if they believe their patients have any intent to harm either themselves or others.

Could she be merely trying to distract from professional negligence?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 30, 2011 @ 11:33 am

Let me try this again.

The video doesn't show any evidence that the knife was thrown even close to where the cop was standing. And while I know that this was a tense situation, cops ought to be trained to deal with tense situations -- and to recognize when something is a real threat to their lives and when it's not. I know it's a close call -- but if the guy had thrown a baseball at the cop instead of a knife, would that have been grounds to kill him? (The baseball could have been a bomb in disguise. Odds of that are better than the odds that a knife thrown by this guy would be lethal to anyone.) What if he'd thrown a water balloon? How about a screwdriver?

What I'm saying is that a propertly trained officer shouldn't have shot Hill. That's my opinion. I'm not a cop. But when you give people guns and the right to use lethal force, you should invest the time and effort into teaching them how to AVOID the use of lethal force.


Posted by tim on Aug. 30, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

Lost in the hulaballoo was the question of why cops were discharching a weapon in a crowded subway platform. Somebody else could have been hurt other than the homeless person. He was apparantly intoxicated, armed with knife which he threw at the cop: and the cop shoots him. That alone should set up cautions. The cop was irresponsible...

Posted by tStevenTorrey on Aug. 30, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

for needlessly shooting and killing a number of people over the years.

Posted by Tami on Aug. 30, 2011 @ 6:16 pm

As a former police officer, let me clear up a couple of things. First, police are not taught to shoot to kill. They are taught to shoot to end the action that they believed required the use of "potentially lethal force." Second, as I read the text and saw the video -- several times -- the officer who fired did so before the knife was thrown as the man began to lunge with the knife in his hand. As those of us who have trained on it can tell you, in a Tueller Drill, an average person can cover 21 feet in about 1 to 2 seconds. It appears as if the man was within this range.

The taking of a life is not trivial to cops. Some officers cannot continue to do their jobs after having done it. You do need to come to grips, early in your career, with the notion that if you draw your weapon, you may have to take a life. Shooting to wound only works in the movies. Even an exceptional shot cannot guarantee a hit on a limb. Police are taught to shoot to center of mass because it is most likely to cause the action to cease and it is the largest target.

From all I have seen and read, the officer performed his duty correctly under the circumstances. Dr. Marya's questions are irrelevant. I have worked with the mentally ill as a police officer in several settings. They are not always predictable and I have seen doctors who knew them make grievous errors in judgement concerning their potential for violence.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 06, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

Doctor Marya, How dare you question what the cop did. "Why didn't he shoot for the leg?" Seriously? You sound like a stoned naive hippy. NOTE: SOUND LIKE.

Let me tell you something: your brain isn't the first one that idea has crossed, and like most others your thought process on the matter stops there. Next time you're in a dangerous situation on a crowded platform (which is a very different environment than a hospital (Just trust me, Ms. Hallowed Hall, it is) next to a third rail and the stairs/escalators create a bottleneck'd escape route for innocent bystanders, you have a split second to make your move. You're not thinking, "I don't want to kill this guy." You just try to diffuse the situation as quickly as people as possible and if one mentally ill drunk who is the one causing the problem has to go down, then so be it.

Next time you lose a patient on the operating table and you have to tell his/her family waiting in the lobby that they died, that you couldn't, in fact save them, how would you feel if they said, "Hey doc, maybe if you'd just done xyz" or "Hey doc, why didn't you just do it my way?" Because
that's what you're saying and you have no idea what you're talking about.

A policeman's daughter
(And proud of it)

Posted by Daisy on Nov. 04, 2011 @ 9:34 pm

When doctors screw up, they lose their licenses, maybe go to jail. When a cop screws up and kills someone, they usually get a paid vacation while the department conducts a sham investigation which invariably clears the cop of all wrongdoing, and then he goes on his merry way to kill someone else. At least there's some accountability in the medical profession.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 04, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

Patients die under the care of doctors all the time. "We did everything we could," the doctor said. Uh, huh. Behind closed doors where there was no camera.

The "You should've done what I would've done" is hindsight, which is always 20-20. I think the doctor's taking this way too personally. No one who wasn't affecting the collective safety of the passengers got hurt, that's all that matters really.

Posted by Daisy on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 11:47 am

So the guy who got murdered prolly deserved it. Yeah, I guess you inherited your cop daddy's mentality toward human life.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

No, I'm not saying he deserved it at all. I'm just saying that no one else got hurt (and kudos to the cops for that) and that he was the one instigating the situation. And I take issue with the doctor's wounded superiority.

Posted by Daisy on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 9:57 pm

so he got a job hitting people with sticks.
Big deal.

Your father's vocation confers nothing on you in terms of ability to judge a situation like this.
Maybe you inherited a big mouth a little brain and a quick temper from him, though.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

And I don't want to let you get away with what you said, because you said something totally repugnant, Ms. Proud Cop's Daughter.

You're trying to walk back your comments now, but you gave away your true attitude toward human life with your original comment. You emphatically did NOT "just" say that no one else got hurt. You also added the qualifier "and that's all that really matters." In other words, as long as no one ELSE got hurt, except for the person who the cops intended to kill, it doesn't matter.

I don't know what kind of morality your daddy cop taught you, but I believe that yes it does matter that a human life was taken.

Sadly, I find this sort of attitude all too common among law enforcement. Human beings aren't human beings, but "perps" to them. And in cases where there's a crime between two people who cops find undesirable (which can mean any number of people -poor, homeless, drug addicts, sex workers, etc), they have a commonly used term for that: "NHI". For those who aren't schooled in the language of LE, that means "no humans involved." In other words, their deaths don't matter.

And you wonder why this profession is, in turn, commonly referred to as "pigs?"

Posted by Greg on Nov. 05, 2011 @ 11:23 pm