Citizens in the reliably left-leaning North Carolina city of Asheville are having a fit because a police officer stepped out of his car with an AR-15 held at the low ready to confront three teenagers. Guess what? I’m pretty sure that in the context of the situation, he made the right decision.
A video posted to Facebook of an Asheville Police officer holding an assault rifle in front of three teenagers is going viral.
More than 24,000 people have viewed the video, which shows Officer Shalin Oza holding an assault rifle with two other officers beside him talking to teenagers on a sidewalk in Montford.
Some people on Facebook have commented that the display of an assault rifle was an inappropriate response, with one commenter writing it was “unacceptable and not welcome in our community.”
Asheville Police Department’s Patrol Division Commander, Capt. Mark Byrd, said, given the circumstances, the officers’ actions were appropriate.
“Our focus always is public safety,” Byrd said. “We respond to situations with public safety in mind. We want to protect the safety of everyone in the community — it’s our job, it’s what we’re tasked with.”
Police said a woman called 911 about 3 p.m. Monday and described three teenagers in detail, saying one of them was “waving a gun,” while walking up Courtland Avenue in Montford.
Here’s a freeze-frame of the video shot by one of the three African-American youths stopped by the officers after a 911 call was reported about three young men “waving a gun” as they walked down a public street in an area where there have been a lot of “shots fired” calls recently. You’ll note that the officer did not point the carbine at the teens, did not have his finger on the trigger, and is not taking an aggressive physical posture. That’s confirmed in the video.
Officers responding to call where they have a detailed physical description of armed suspects—especially in an area where there have been a number of unexplained shots fired calls in recent weeks, and in the current climate where these calls have been made to lure police into ambushes—are clearly justified in bringing “enough gun” to ensure their safety and the safety of the wider community.
While the use of a patrol rifle in a stop is atypical in police work it isn’t unwarranted given the context of the situation, and I would not recommend showing up to a call where there are possibly multiple possible armed suspects and a history of gang warfare including six incidents of gunfire in the area in the week prior to the call without a long gun in support.
This was a good decision by Officer Shalin Oza, and a local petition being circulated for him to be terminated for his decision to arm himself for an unknown threat are moronic.