We’ve got another teachable moment caught on video, after a Louisville, KY police officer shot and killed an assault suspect after the suspect charged him with a metal flag pole:
The surveillance video shows a man stagger away from a police officer and out of the frame. He charges back into view seconds later, a 7-foot flagpole reared over his shoulder, and he swings it wildly at the officer.
The man, a 35-year-old African immigrant, was shot twice by the Louisville Metro Police officer Saturday afternoon and died, sparking a debate over officers’ use of deadly force and the simmering racial tension between the police and the communities they serve.
Community activists gathered Sunday to lament that the officer turned first to his gun, rather than use non-lethal force like a Taser or pepper spray.
Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad on Sunday defended the shooting, and promised a thorough and transparent investigation. He identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as Nathan Blanford, a patrol officer in the 4th division who has been with the department since 2005, and released the video of the incident, captured on a surveillance camera from a nearby store.
The man killed was identified by the coroner’s office on Sunday as 35-year-old Deng Manyoun.
The video in this instance isn’t terribly hard to analyze.
Louisville Police Officer Nathan Blanford stopped his car and attempted to speak with Manyoun. Manyoun, very unsteady on his feet, starts waving his arms and staggering in and out of frame starting 26 seconds into the video.
38 seconds into the video, still gesturing wildly, Manyoun begins walking away from Blanford.
Blanford trails him by five yards or more, apparently calling for support on his radio as Manyoun goes out of the camera view 43 seconds into the video.
Blanford stops in his tracks and puts his hand on his sidearm at 44 seconds into the video, the draws his weapon, holding it at the low ready, then quickly raises it to eye level at the 46 second mark.
At 48 seconds, Manyoun comes charging back into frame, a metal flag pole in his hangs, and Blanford retreats as quickly as he can, attempting to put a mailbox between himself and the charging Manyoun.
Within a second, Manyoun swings the flagpole at the officer’s head as hard has he can, and Blanford fires a shot in self-defense as the pole comes down, and apparently fires a second shot either as a result of the impact of the pole, or simply as part of common police training to fire either a hammer or a controlled pair in deadly force encounters.
Manyoun obviously felt the hits and is falling away 50 seconds in, and Blanford retreats several steps, creating some distance to scan and assess the situation. By the 54 seconds into the video, Blanford is on the radio, presumably calling for backup and EMS less than five seconds after he was attacked.
Manyoun pulls himself to his feet briefly, and then slumps out of camera at the 57 second mark. Blanford continues to talk on the radio, his gun at his side, pointed at the ground. He begins stepping forward to assess Manyoun’s condition as the video ends.
* * *
The criticism from ever-present, ever-critical, and never-trained community activists is that they insist that Blanford should have been able to tell the molecular makeup of a moving metal pole 7′-8′ long and determine it not to be a lethal threat as a charging suspect is swinging it at his head, in an encounter that went from “routine” to “assault with a deadly weapon” in less than six seconds.
He should then—after instantaneous ocular metallurgical testing—transition mid-attack from his sidearm to either deploy pepper spray or a tazer as he retreats, as the suspect attempts to split his skull in less than a half-second.
It sounds utterly absurd when you look at it logically, doesn’t it?