April 17, 2010 - One Response
Anchorage police shot and killed an armed man emerging from his home after an hour-long standoff in Midtown early Wednesday morning.
A man shot and killed by police Wednesday in a Midtown hostage standoff was carrying an air pistol manufactured to look like a popular semi-automatic handgun, a police spokesman said Saturday.
APD Actions and Search & Seizure
I saw a lot of comments on the ADN stories that basically said, "The cops didn't have a warrant, they should be crucified for shooting someone who was just exerting their rights against warrantless searches." I think this line of reasoning is rather flawed.
From a legal point of view, the fourth amendment has been watered down a fair amount. In this case, there are all sorts of justifications for the police to try and enter the building. For example, the guy appeared to be in the midst of committing a felony (holding his mother hostage), so an arrest and search incident to arrest would most likely be legit. Additionally, "exigent circumstances" doctrine allows officers to immediately enter if necessary to save lives (including their own).
From a practical point of view, once the SWAT team shows up the time to negotiate about constitutional niceties is over. The only thing you can do then is (1) be taken out or (2) find a way to surrender yourself peacefully. The only thing to do in that scenario is to call the media, ensure they're watching, then tell the police hostage negotiator, "Hey, in 60 seconds I will be lying face down in the foyer with my hands above my head, and my firearms will be unloaded and secured in another room. I do not grant permission for a search, but do what you're going to do." If it turns out that your rights were violated, sue the department after the fact.
I think it is clear that this was a disturbed person who wanted to die. This was "suicide by cop," plain and simple. While it is a tragedy, and it would have been preferable for the police to use non-lethal force, I don't fault them at all for responding with lethal force to deal with an apparently imminent threat. It appears that they acted appropriately in this situation.