An Oklahoma City police officer is being charged with the murder of a suicidal man after he used lethal force while other officers fired beanbags. This video should be used as a training aid across every department in the United States. Many mistakes were made here, and we’re going to break them down in this post. Please review this your departments at the next roll call you attend. Let this officer’s fatal mistake be a learning point for every other officer in the nation.
Before we go any further, I want to preface this post with the simple statement that the footage below may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is highly advised. This post is made for the purpose of educating officers and the public on a simple mistake that cost one man his life, and may place another one behind bars for a very long time. Please keep comments on Facebook civil, and let’s use this as a learning experience to prevent future mistakes like this from happening again. We are not posting this to arm-chair quarterback the officers involved. We are posting it for the educational value provided by real world situations and circumstances that may arise for other officers.
The situation for the video is as follows: On November 15, 2017, at 2:40 A.M. multiple Oklahoma City police officers respond to a call for a suicidal individual. The suicidal individual, 29-year-old Dustin Pigeon, is holding an object in his hand as officers approach, and it is identified by the first two officers on scene as a lighter and lighter fluid. One officer is holding a shotgun loaded with less-than-lethal munitions in the form of beanbag rounds. The other officers are maintaining a lethal option in the event the suicidal man decides to attack the officers with an unseen weapon. Only one of those two officers knows that the shotgun is loaded with less-than-lethal munitions, as the third officer came from a separate vehicle.
This is where communication between the officers begin to break down due to the chaos of the situation, and things spin up in the heat of the moment. The officers are surely being pumped full of adrenaline, as is their 29-year-old suspect who is ready to take his own life. In his hands is a bottle of lighter fluid that he has doused himself in, and a lighter that he is prepared to use to immolate himself at any moment. Seeing the potential for the man to kill himself at any second, and the current escalation of the situation, the officer with the less-than-lethal option decides to take his shot in order to disable the subject so that they can detain him.
Communication is lacking when these shots are taken, and an officer with a pistol also opens fire on the subject. One of the officers with the lethal option that came from a different patrol car did not know that the other officer’s shotgun was loaded with beanbag rounds, and he thought that the subject was brandishing a knife in his hands. He opened fire on the subject and killed him without a complete and full picture of the situation. He is now facing up to ten years in prison on charges of second-degree murder.
What can we learn from this situation overall? If you choose to take this video into your next roll-call, here are some talking points you might want to bring with you. Communication is vital when you are in these situations. You can never assume that the guys you are with know exactly what you are doing at all times. He may not know that you have a less-than-lethal load. Also, more communication. When you are deploying a less-than-lethal option, the officer, or officers you are with need to know that you are in-fact deploying a less-than-lethal weapon system so that this exact mistake does not happen. One more time, communication. It is especially important when you find yourselves in a situation like this that whoever you are with knows what you are seeing. If you believe the suspect has a weapon, you can communicate this to the officer you are with by saying “Drop the knife!” to the subject. if the other officer has a better vantage point than you do, as we see in the video below, he will then tell you.
In all aspects of this video, officer communication is very degraded by the heat of the moment. That is however, no excuse for a mistake like this to happen. This video needs to be used as a teaching aid in order to prevent this type of tragic mistake from ever happening again. While it was in fact just a mistake, and officers are human beings too, this is the kind of mistake that cannot be afforded.