On January 28, 2019, I read a story in The Seattle Times (linked from The Suburban Times) that proves once again that a citizen acting out with enough poor judgment and bad behavior can create an opportunity for their family that adds meaning to the phrase, “Non-Compliance Is Worth Millions.”
For story details in The Seattle Times click the link Lakewood to pay $500,000 after police killed unarmed Native American man / The Seattle Times.
While I am sincerely saddened by the family’s loss, this is another case of misguided emotion and greed triggering the opportunity for family members, not involved in the incident to scam big money from the City of Lakewood, Lakewood Police Department, and Lakewood taxpayers.
In this incident, The Seattle Times report suggests all witnesses agree Mr. Covarrubias pointed a cell phone towards the police. The uninformed conclude that because it was a cell phone, the label “UNARMED” should mandate that the police must have shot him because of some racial bias goal. The headline reinforces the racial bias idea by including the descriptor, “unarmed Native American.”
You will never see a truthful and factual headline, “Man Is Shot Because He Acted In A Threatening Manner And Failed To Comply.”
What the uninformed fail to understand is the fact that a suspect can possess a cell phone that is designed and manufactured or modified as a multi-shot handgun. Yes, it looks like a cell phone, but there is no talking or texting. Just shooting and killing the police.
When a police officer gives a lawful order such as, “Don’t move or I will shoot. Put the phone down, or I will shoot.” and the subject fails to comply, and instead acts like he has a gun he is about to use, shooting the suspect is very likely the only option.
Mr. Covarrubias pointed the cell phone like it was a gun. It is easy to understand that if he acts like he has a weapon, anything can look like a gun in a split second available for analysis. And in fact, cops understand that a cell phone might be a gun. That means if the officers recognized in a split second that the object in the suspect’s hands looked like a cell phone, the officers would still need to shoot based on the suspect’s behavior and the known fact that a gun can look like a cell phone.
Why would anyone pretend a cell phone was a gun other than trying to goad the police into helping them with suicide. When will the public serving on jury duty ever figure this out?
Once again there is no discussion regarding Mr. Covarrubias’s failure to COMPLY with lawful police orders. Had he COMPLIED, he could still be alive today. Had he COMPLIED, there would not have been any shots fired by police. The same factor applies to our recent $15 million dollar loss in another infamous “fail to comply case.”
The next thing reported is Mr. Covarrubias had methamphetamine and other drugs in his system. With dope on board plus the possibility of mental illness, it is easy to understand that “suicide by cop” may become an appealing option for a way out of personal stress and pain. In the old days, he might have been safely locked up in Western State Mental Hospital where he could get treatment to break his drug habit and resolve any mental illness he might suffer from. Today our tight-fisted politicians have set us up to push the mentally ill into the streets of mainstream society even if the subjects suffer from problems that can create a threat to themselves and others.
While I understand Lakewood’s decision to settle for the $500,000 payment and see that as a smart money and time management decision, the payment is a clear demonstration of how broken our court system can be. Had I been on the jury, the award would have been zero dollars.
The payment is an intelligent move on Lakewood’s part to mitigate the financial loss of time and money. The payment is not, as suggested in the article, evidence of guilt or wrongdoing on the part of Lakewood Police.
If anyone deserves $500,000, it would be the police officers who Covarrubias forced into a situation where they had to use lethal force thereby creating the distinct potential for PTSD. Police officers must make deadly force decisions for us to keep everyone safe, but anytime that happens, there are two victims; the deceased suspect and the police officer.
This matter is not about wrongdoing or bias on the police officers part. It is about abusing our court system and greed for the family and the lawyer.
During almost 2 1/2 decades as a police officer, I have never observed or heard a single Washington State police officer treat anyone inappropriately because of racial bias. I have seen police acting in a racially biased manner in Mississippi, but Lakewood is a long way from Mississippi.
Families and lawyers connected to the suspect, who was solely responsible for the incident, are seen frequently capitalizing on what can be considered an easy money windfall.
I am proud of our Lakewood Police and ashamed of how our system works. When the police are forced to use lethal force, it is not about race. It is about suspect behavior.
Members of the public cannot change their race, but they can improve their behavior, and they should do so if they desire to enjoy a long life.
In one way, you can’t blame the family because if a relative is shot by the police, our system makes the tragedy like winning the Lotto.
Strangely a family could even hope to have a loved one who acts threateningly and fails to comply with lawful police orders. It is an effective way to make big money for those who are left behind.
Watch for next time. It will happen again. The lawyers are waiting.
In closing, I have a message for our professional Lakewood Police Officers. Ignore the words of the new candidate for Lakewood City Council who told you to subscribe to the concept bring them in alive. Sure if possible that is exactly what you should do, but know this. Improper or inappropriate hesitation and delay on your part will get you killed.
If forced into an officer involve shooting by a subject’s behavior and refusal to comply, shoot first and ask questions later.
Ethical police officers do not act upon a suspect, they react to the suspect’s behavior. If you shoot or don’t shoot, in reality, the final decision is made by the suspect as communicated to you by their behavior.
Shoot first and ask questions later if you want to go home to your family at the end of your shift.