They kill not because they want to Because they think it’s right to In some cases Have mercy on them and someday they may Have mercy on you The Mercy Killers Have mercy on you The Mercy Killers….
— Theme to the imaginary TV show “The Mercy Killers,” as presented in a 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch.
Susan L. Stuckey was suicidal when the police arrived at her apartment in Prairie Village, Kansas on March 31. When the police arrived to conduct what they dishonestly called a “welfare check,” Stuckey refused their offer to “help.”
Police had paid several previous visits to Stuckey, who reportedly suffered from severe emotional problems. On this particular occasion, when they materialized shortly after daybreak, they were acting on ulterior motives. “Our intent was to take her to K.U. Med for a mental evaluation,” admitted Police Captain Tim Schwartzkopf following the confrontation.
Any day that begins with the arrival of armed strangers on one’s doorstep is going to end badly. Despite her afflictions, Stuckey was lucid enough to understand that principle, and she did the entirely rational thing: She bluntly invited the police to direct their unwanted attention elsewhere. Since she wasn’t suspected of a crime, that should have ended the matter.
But the police weren’t investigating a crime. They were carrying out a much more dangerous function: They were there to “help” Stuckey, whether or not this would be appropriate, and her desires were irrelevant to the matter.
So when Stuckey rebuffed their offer, the police decided to “help” her a little bit harder by calling in a posse of uniformed knuckle-draggers called the Tactical Squad. Oddly enough, the arrival of yet another contingent of armed strangers — this one decked out in military garb and carrying high-caliber firearms — did nothing to ease Stuckey’s troubled mind. She had already refused to grant police access to her apartment, and the arrival of the local goon squad prompted her to throw up additional barricades.
For more than two hours, the police tried to browbeat Stuckey into surrendering to them. According to neighbors who witnessed the event, the troubled 47-year-old woman — whose mental distress was genuine — was made frantic by this persistent, unwelcome attention.
Sometime around 9:45 a.m., Stuckey was heard to exclaim to the police, “Somebody please kill me.”
So they did.
After the fact, the police insisted that the woman — who was surrounded, recall, by more than a dozen armed males, most of them wearing body armor and packing military-issue weaponry — “threatened” them with a weapon of some kind.
Neighbor Gary Carson recalls seeing Stuckey armed with a broomstick and a baseball bat. After killing Stuckey, the police insisted that the fearsome implement of death wielded by Stuckey was something other than a Louisville Slugger. Thus it is quite possible that when Stuckey was shot three times by a heroic 15-year veteran police officer, she was armed with nothing more lethal than a thin wooden dowel.
Yet it was for this reason, insisted a local “reporter” embedded with the paramilitary team that attacked Stuckey’s home, that the police “were forced to shoot her.”
The same repulsive sentiment was uttered by Stuckey’s neighbor Marianne McGuff, whose canine eagerness to display the “correct” attitude suggests that she was a star pupil in one of the Regime’s obedience training schools.
“It did break my heart that they had to shoot her,” pronounced McGuff. “They must have had a real good reason to shoot her because that’s not normal.”
There was no “good reason” for the police to gun down Stuckey, because there was no good reason for them to be there in the first place.
The night before Stuckey was mercy-killed by the police, some neighbors called in the constabulary when the disturbed woman “verbally assaulted them,” reports a Kansas City CBS affiliate. Within hours, she was dead — without being so much as charged with a crime.
Police and their media stenographers insist that the “standoff” with Stuckey “escalated” as the morning wore on. To the extent that this is true, the escalation was unilateral, with the police fatally ramping up their efforts to overcome Stuckey’s refusal to submit to their offer to “help” the troubled woman by handcuffing her and taking her to a mental hospital. Eventually some similarly helpful person provided the police with a key to the apartment, thereby acting as an accomplice to an eminently avoidable act of death by government.
In describing the actions of the police officers who carried out the lethal “humanitarian” invasion of Stuckey’s home, Capt. Schwartzkopf offers no indication that the frantic woman posed a significant threat to the intruders: “They tried what I would describe as less lethal options; that was not working, and basically officers had to use deadly force.”
When used in this way, “basically” is a high-viscosity weasel-word. The only time anyone is morally or legally permitted to use lethal force is to deflect potentially lethal aggressive violence. Note carefully that Schwartzkopf didn’t claim that this was the case.
“[The officer’s] hand was forced,” Schwartzkopf maintained in a separate statement. “He tried to use different options there and unfortunately he had to discharge his firearm.”
The most urgent questions in this matter are left begging like Dickensian orphans: Why did the police officer “have” to kill Stuckey? What “weapon” was Stuckey carrying? What “less-lethal” weapon(s) did the officer employ before firing his gun?
If Stuckey had been wielding a gun or a knife, this detail would most likely have been shared with the public. Schwartzkopf made no mention of a gun or knife. In fact, he didn’t use the word “lethal” to characterize the purported weapon. Taking Schwartzkopf’s account at face value, it appears the officer who killed Stuckey had time to try more than one “non-lethal” option before gunning her down.
The official story is that Stuckey “made a threatening move toward the officer.” It should be kept in mind that police are permitted to describe any form of resistance as a “threat” to “officer safety.”
Stuckey would have been within her legal rights to employ defensive force to repel potentially lethal aggression by the police. But nothing Schwartzkopf has said for public consumption indicates that Stuckey was killed for any reason other than her insurmountable refusal to submit to the police.
As things presently stand, it appears that Susan L. Stuckey — may God grant rest to her troubled soul — was a victim of what I’m going to call the Troy Meade Doctrine of Police Violence.
That doctrine takes its name from the Everett, Washington police officer who carried out the execution-style killing of Niles Meservey, a drunken man whose car was completely hemmed in and who posed no danger to anybody. Meade, his patience over-taxed after spending a few minutes trying to talk Meservey out of his Corvette, bellowed, “Enough is enough! Time to end this!” Meade them emptied his firearm into the driver’s side of the car, killing Meservey.
Whenever the State’s armed enforcers are deployed to “help” somebody, and the target of official benevolence doesn’t play along, eventually the matter will reach the “enough is enough” stage. At this point, the government’s emissaries of coercive kindness will have no choice but to kill the object of their humanitarian concern.
Two recent cases suggest that Stuckey could have suffered a violent death even if she had surrendered and been taken to a hospital.
Last December, Preston Bussey III, a 41-year-old resident of Rockledge, Florida who suffered from mental illness, was forcibly hospitalized for self-inflicted wounds. His injuries suggested a failed suicide attempt. Two police summoned to the hospital acted on the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed….”
“Several police officers unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Bussey to follow a doctor’s directions,” according to a local news summary. “Bussey refused, and after repeated warnings to comply `two officers deployed their electronic control devices'” — that is, their government-issued portable electronic torture devices, more commonly called “Tasers.”
A brief digression is appropriate here. We were once assured that Tasers would be used as a substitute for lethal force in situations involving a potentially dangerous criminal suspect, and that the officers carrying them would exercise monastic self-discipline in employing electro-shock. Now we’re casually informed that Tasers are “electronic control devices” appropriately used to manipulate non-violent criminals — and even reluctant patients — through pain compliance. This was what happened to Mr. Bussey.
After being repeatedly hit with high-voltage shocks, Bussey stopped breathing and died after unsuccessful attempts were made to revive him.
Incredibly, this was the second time a member of Bussey’s family had been killed by police while in the hospital. Ten years earlier, almost to the day, Preston’s older brother Vincent, who had gone to the hospital for treatment following a fight, was killed in what was described as a “struggle” with police officers.
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A couple of weeks before Preston Bussey expired beneath the tender ministrations of Rockledge’s “Finest,” 62-year-old Toledo, Ohio resident Linda Hicks was gunned down by police in a group home. Hicks, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, and hypertension, had gotten hold of a pair of sewing scissors. Some well-meaning soul, not appreciating the potentially fatal consequences of doing so, called the police.
When the officers arrived — two distaff tax-feeders named Rebecca Kenney and Diane Chandler — Hicks still had the scissors but she was prone on her bed. When Hicks refused to remove her arms from beneath a pillow, Chandler attempted to shoot her with a Taser, but the cartridge malfunctioned. She then pressed the Taser directly against Hicks’s body to operate it in “drive-stun” mode.
This escalation had the predictable effect of making matters worse.
When the officers arrived, Hicks had been depressed and listless. The Taser assault enraged her: She rose from the bed and reportedly declared: “I’m going to kill you or you’re going to have to kill me.” Chandler replied by shooting the sick woman four times at point-blank range.
As was the case with the police officer who killed Susan Stuckey, Officer Diane Chandler was “certified with crisis intervention training,” observed her boss, Toledo Police Chief Michael Navarre.
Apparently, CIT doesn’t include instruction in de-escalating conflicts with people not accused of violent crimes.
If Chandler was able to get close enough to use the device in “drive-stun” mode, she was close enough to immobilize Hicks without killing her. Chandler had another officer on hand to assist, and there were objects in the room — blankets, pillows, furniture — that could have been used as a shield against a pair of sewing scissors. Presumably, police officers are given at least a modicum of unarmed combatives training, and are paid to run a few risks.
Despite all of this, Chandler’s first option in dealing with a physically sick, mentally ill 62-year-old woman was “pain compliance” using a reliably lethal weapon. When that proved futile, her second option was homicide.
“It’s a difficult job out there,” Chief Navarre commented after the killing, emphasizing that Chandler, like other members of his department, were stressed-out because of recent layoffs. “Officers are being stretched to the limit.”
This remark seemed to invite the public to sympathize with the killer, rather than the victim — and to contain an oblique warning that about the potential that other stressed-out Toledo police officers may be just a touch too eager to pull the trigger.