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Was It Suspect's Race, or Just Good Tactics, That Ended Standoff Peacefully?

When law enforcement officers spotted the suspect in two separate shootings of Baltimore-area police officers earlier this month, they used spike strips to disable his car and then chased him into a wooded area, where he was surrounded. Authorities came well-equipped: armored vehicles, helicopters, drones, sniper teams and night vision goggles were used in addition to pepper balls, flashers and tear gas. But they ultimately arrested David Linthicum, 24, after an eight-hour standoff without shooting him, prompting the attorney for the family of a woman police killed in Baltimore County after a 2016 standoff to ask whether Linthicum's race, white, is what saved him, the Baltimore Sun reports. “We look at these things as African Americans and when police tell us, ‘Well, we didn’t have any other choice and we had no other options and we did everything that we could to prevent the loss of life,’ and then you turn around and you see the David Linthicum matter, you know that the training is there, that the expertise is there,” said J. Wyndal Gordon, a local defense attorney.

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said in an interview that his officers were prepared to kill Linthicum, and would have had he acted in a way that threatened their safety. Police are not allowed to use lethal force unless there is an imminent threat to their lives or the lives of others. “It didn’t end fatally because the suspect didn’t put us in a decision that forced us to kill him,” Gahler said. In virtually every police situation, the longer officers have to plot out their response, the more likely lethal force will be avoided, said Seth Stoughton, a use-of-force expert and professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law. When police are able to coordinate resources and draw up plans they tend to feel safer, meaning they are less likely to use deadly force, said Stoughton, who was also a police officer in Tallahassee, Fl. “Time is definitely the most important tactical concept in policing,” Stoughton said.


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