My headline was not the one I read on a mainstream media news website. It said something like, “NYPD Shoots Nine Bystanders Before Killing Suspect.” Considering that in a crowd of people, the two officers shot sixteen bullets and hit a gun-wielding homicide suspect nine times at center of mass, I’d say my headline is closer to reality.
The suspect, Jeffrey Johnson, is seen at the top center of the video walking toward the left and carrying a briefcase. Officers Craig Matthews and Robert Sinishtaj enter from the top right. Johnson was walking from the scene where he had just shot a co-worker five times in the head with a .45 ACP pistol, killing him. A construction worker pointed out the gunman to the officers.
Because there were over a dozen innocent citizens at close proximity on the sidewalk, the two officers were presented with a difficult lethal force scenario outside the Empire State building on Friday. The suspect provoked a response when he plainly points his handgun at the officers. In turn, they eliminate him as a threat.
Of the nine bystanders hurt, three suffered “direct” gunshot wounds and the remaining six had “indirect” injuries either from bullet or concrete fragments, according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. None of the citizens suffered life threatening injuries, though two remained hospitalized at Bellevue.
I agree with Commissioner Kelly’s statement that the officers, both fifteen year veterans of the NYPD, had no choice but to fire. The suspect had just shot his victim six times. The officers were in very close proximity with a murder suspect who drew his handgun and pointed it at them.
No officer wants to inflict injury to an innocent citizen. It is part of our job that we do not engineer the shoot/don’t shoot scenario. The suspect does. Our actions are reactive, timed and placed by the decisions made by the offender.
I’m sure these officers will be vilified in the media and in civil court. That, too, is unfortunately part of our job. Under incredibly difficult circumstances, I think that Ofc’s Matthews and Sinishtaj performed their sworn duty, went into harm’s way, and neutralized a killer. There’s the headline.