Did Four People Need to Die in Florida Police Chase and Shootout?

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Could last week’s shootout in South Florida that left four dead –two hijackers, an abducted UPS driver and a 70-year-old man who happened to be idling at a traffic light on his way home from work — have been avoided? So asks the Washington Post. “Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” said David Klinger, a criminal justice professor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. The incident “was really, really bad.” Still, it was “a perfect example” of why police are allowed to use deadly force against dangerous criminals, Klinger said. Authorities said Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill left a trail of violence behind them that evening. Stopping them by any means — even with bullets — was “absolutely the right thing to do,” Klinger said.

The dramatic exchange of gunfire followed a high-speed chase through two counties that thwarted residents’ commutes at rush hour. The men had allegedly tried to rob Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables. Heather Taylor, a homicide sergeant in St. Louis, said, “We don’t always have to be the warrior. Sometimes we have to understand that retreating is okay. You don’t always have to get the bad guy.” Geoff Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, said that other than having a SWAT truck with heavily armed tactical police officers, he did not know of alternative ways that police could have safely ended the pursuit. The gunmen had proved that they were willing to resort to violence to escape and could have endangered other people in the area, such as by hijacking other cars, Alpert said. Every shot that police fired must accounted for, he added. “Every one of them could be justified,” Alpert said, “or there may be some that aren’t.”

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