stephen stem

If an officer responds to a 911 call and encounters an armed suspect who refuses to put their weapon down, should the officer be terminated for shooting that armed suspect?

A Texas town seems to think so:

The police officer who shot and killed a 93-year-old woman is out of a job.

Saturday afternoon, the city council met to discuss taking possible disciplinary action against Officer Stephen Stem. It took them less than 30 minutes to reach a unanimous vote to fire him.

Stem responded to a 911 call Tuesday from Pearlie Golden’s nephew. She was upset about not being allowed to drive after failing a driver’s license renewal test. Roy Jones says when he wouldn’t give Golden her car keys, she went into the house and grabbed a .38 revolver. Jones then ran to the side of the house and called 911.

Stem ordered Golden to put the gun down, but Golden refused. Jones said Golden fired two shots gun into the ground. At that point, Robertson County District Attorney Coty Seigert said Stem fired four shots, hitting Golden twice, once in the right arm and once in the upper chest. Seigert says they have not confirmed whether Golden fired first.

Obviously, we don’t have all the details of the situation, but as a general rule of thumb, when an officer points a gun at you and tells you to drop your own weapon, and you respond by firing your weapon, bad things are going to happen.

Stem’s firing before the Texas Rangers have finished their investigation of the incident suggests that the Hearne City Council fired Stem not due to evidence of any violation of department rules or criminal actions on his part, but merely because they feared a racial backlash from the white officer shooting an elderly black female. Quannel X and the Black Panthers had threatened a protest at Stem’s home if the officer was not terminated.

Stem had shot and killed another armed suspect in 2012, and was exonerated by the Texas Rangers in that shooting. I suspect that if they find that the shooting of Pearlie Golden was justified—and based upon the limited data, it appears that it likely will be found to be justified—then Hearne can probably expect to face a very expensive wrongful termination suit from Stem.

The media circus surrounding this case is attempting to focus the shooting on Mrs. Golden’s age and race.

I’m rather certain that the bullets in her .38 are unaware of the fact that that she was a elderly minority. The bullets will shoot just as fast and penetrate just as deeply when they hit a target whether they are fired from an elderly woman or a prison-toughened felon.

Pearlie Golden alone made the decision to pull a gun on a family member because he wouldn’t let her have the keys to her car after the state determined her to be an unsafe driver. She alone refused to drop the weapon after officers arrived at the scene. If accounts are to be believed, she chose to fire her gun when officers had their handguns pointed at her, and had to know the likely outcome of that action. From my perspective, this sounds like suicide by cop.

Is now former officer Stem a trigger-happy cop, or a scapegoat of a bad situation? I’ve had my say, but would appreciate your perspective in the comments.