Thurston County Sheriffs Lt. Ray Brady said Tuesday that Michael Reinoehl had a gun in his pocket when he was shot by federal fugitive task force led by the U.S. Marshals. This admission comes over a month after eyewitness Nathaniel Dingess came forward saying that he never heard the police give Reinoehl any commands before shooting him (https://copblaster.com/blast/25950/u-s-marshals-shoot-and-kill-michael-reinoehl). According to the New York Times (video below) three other eyewitnesses have come forward saying that the cops never gave Reinoehl any commands. Dingess said that he saw Reinoehl holding a cell phone when police rolled up on him and that he tried to duck for cover before getting shot. According to Dingess, the order to stop firing was the first thing he heard the officers say. This new admission by Brady further supports the theory that this shooting was an unjustified police execution.
What does it say of the internal investigation so far when the best thing they can say to justify shooting the man is that he was found with a gun in his pocket and his hand was found near his pocket after he died? It says they are getting desperate to find a way to justify shooting someone that never tried to shoot them. It shows that their investigation will most likely conclude that since Reinoehl was wanted for murder and ducked for cover that they felt the need to gun him down before he had the opportunity to shoot back if he were in fact armed. That is not the same thing as shooting an armed man known to be armed. Is that a justifiable use of force? Unfortunately, the police usually say that it is.
We see this happen a lot with people that are told to take their hands out of their pockets and don't. Cops will usually give repeated commands to suspects to show them their hands. If the suspect does not show them their hands they open fire. Afterwards they justify it by saying that they had no way of knowing what was in the person's pocket and it could have been a gun for all they know. We have seen them do the same thing with dark colored objects (https://copblaster.com/blast/3403/portland-police-kkk-liaison-andrew-hearst-shot-and-killed-a-black-teen). Unfortunately, the courts tend to support officers when they make these types of arguments. In Reinoehl's case, Lt. Brady claims that some officers claim to have given Reinoehl commands to stop and show his hands, one officer claims to have seen Reinoehl try to retrieve a gun from his pocket, and another claims to have seen Reinoehl point a gun at him. With so many different stories one would think that the investigation, which has not been completed, would find that officers telling so many different stories could not possibly be telling the truth, but that is not how these things typically work. The primary objective of internal affairs units is to clear officers of wrongdoing. They will most likely write something up saying that after officer gave commands, Reinoehl reached for his pocket, pointed something at an officer that was thought to be a gun, and a gun was found in his pocket not far from his hand. They will treat the word of the officers like gold and explain any inaccuracies as reasonable due to things happening quickly, so despite conflicting stories from members of the public, they will give more weight to the officers even though any independent fact finder would consider random people with no personal stake in this far more credible.
There was of course no body camera or dash camera footage, so nobody will ever be able to prove what really happened. Even when body cam footage is available it does not mean that justice will be served. A Salt Lake City Police Officer was caught on camera shooting an unarmed 13 year old autistic boy 11 times last month, but nothing have been done so far (https://copblaster.com/blast/25973/linden-cameron-full-body-camera-video-shows-no-justification). They will not even say the officer's name. That case has every indication of a justification waiting to be released. They will probably say that because the boy's mother said he might have a bb gun that they had to treat him like an armed suspect, that he wouldn't take his hands out of his pockets, and that they were justified shooting him because they had no way of knowing that he did not have a gun. This is a systemic problem that allows officers to use force without knowing for sure if a suspect is armed.
This is a problem that needs to be fixed at the legislative level. Congress needs to enact a new law requiring officers to know for sure that a suspect is armed before shooting them. Critics of this idea would argue that officers would lose their lives if they had to wait before a weapon is seen before they can shoot. They would be correct, but the public would be better served because the overall body count would be lower. Trained police officers would still usually get the best of most people that they see behaving aggressively with a gun. Surely the small number of officers lost due to them not being able to shoot armed suspects before they see their gun would be far less than the number of people killed by police for not showing them their hands each year. The greater good would be served by taking away the defense being used by officers in cases like this one.
Finally, at least two more people were nearly killed by the police during this execution according to the New York Times video. A shot nearly hit an 8 year old boy that was riding his bike down the street. At least 5 shots hit a private residence and one of those shots nearly hit a man. The police should not be allowed to fire aimlessly in any direction that they thing a threat might come from.