Tony Menchaca said he had a gun and he intended to use it. When he appeared to be reaching into his waistband, Dallas police shot and killed him, says the Dallas Morning News. It wasn’t a gun – it was later found to be a bit of cigarette packaging, fashioned into the shape of a gun. Menchaca, 32, was the third unarmed man shot dead in recent weeks by area police officers. The split second in which five officers opened fire on Menchaca over the weekend illustrates the difficult life-and-death decisions officers must make in the blink of an eye.
Sgt. Dennis Craig has walked a mile in those shoes. He was a rookie officer in 1996 when he was sent to the scene of a disturbance. He heard gunshots and saw two women running away. He spotted a man holding a rifle in the air. “We gave him orders to drop the gun, but he refused and started walking away from us,” Craig said. “He then turned all of the sudden, just in a split second and pointed the gun at us.” Craig and other officers fatally shot Elfigo Jaimez. “It’s probably the scariest thing an officer can go through because you are forced into a position that you don’t have control over, but yet in order to protect your life and others, you have to take action,” said Craig. “I know that had I not acted in that tenth of a second, I would have been killed or injured.” From the moment an officer pulls the trigger, the decision comes under intense scrutiny from police investigators and the public. That includes members of a grand jury who make the ultimate decision on whether the officers should face criminal charges.