Bobby Canipe with his shotgun/cane
Bobby Canipe with his shotgun/cane

Bearing Arms Editor Bob Owens’ article on the shooting of 70 year old Bobby Canipe by York County Deputy Terrance Knox asks if the shooting is “A Law Enforcement Training Failure?” It is that and more.

Owens wrote:

This heart-wrenching video strongly suggests that we’re failing law enforcement officers with our “modern” training standards.

In this dash-camera footage, a York County, SC Sheriff’s deputy pulls over a truck for expired tags. The elderly driver gets out of the cab and reaches something in the bed of the vehicle. The deputy yells several times in warning and then opens fire, spraying the truck (and the surrounding countryside) with six shots, hitting the man once in the stomach.

The senior citizen wilts under fire, slumping against the side of the truck as the deputy yells at him to drop the “gun.” Just a few second later the deputy realizes that the “gun” is a cane, and rushes to help the wounded man.

By all means, take the link and watch the video.  It’s one of the most extraordinary—and horrifying—things I’ve ever seen.  Virtually every competent police officer has nightmares about being involved in a bad shoot.  This is a textbook case.

Mr. Owens’ focuses his article on training, which is indeed a worthy and correct focus, however, there are other issues that have as much, and probably greater impact on these situations. First, however, let’s review the law as it applies to deadly force.

Deadly force may be used when a reasonable person believes that there is an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death. It sounds relatively simple, but each incident must be judged on its own merits. Keep in mind that the police might be accorded a bit more latitude than the average citizen—might be. The courts will commonly judge police shootings by the “reasonable police officer” standard because they will assume that police officers have enhanced training and experience. This should tend to impose a higher standard on police officers, but all too often, it’s just the opposite.

It’s not possible to assume a given officer has a specific standard of training. Police agencies do their best to provide competent tactical and shooting training, but most fall short of the kind of training any citizen can get at schools like Gunsite and many others.  Notice that I speak of firearm and tactical training.  Any use of a firearm must be accompanied by competent tactics, tactics that seem to be missing in this case, but more about that shortly.