By: Jerry Cooper
I simply must stop watching TV news.
I am writing just hours after prison escapee David Sweat was shot and captured by New York State Police Sergeant Jay Cook on June 28, 2015 near Constable, New York. I cannot resist making a few candid comments concerning the event and subsequent news coverage, and the lack thereof.
For those who do not pay attention to any news, David Sweat and Richard Matt are killers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York on June 6, 2015. Matt was killed by a U. S. Border Patrol officer near Malone, New York on June 26, 2015 when he failed to disarm himself when confronted.
Neither should have been in prison at the time of their escape; however, the State of New York shamefully does not have the death penalty. Maybe they will revisit this issue, but I doubt it. So, both were serving life sentences. Matt had killed two people, and Sweat savagely killed a deputy sheriff who was on routine patrol at the time, then ran over him to make sure he was dead.
I saw a news alert banner on my computer screen reflecting that Sweat had been shot and captured. I immediately ran to the TV and switched on CBS. Just golf there. So, I switched to ABC, then to NBC. As the case with CBS, there was only routine programming. Surely CNN would have coverage. They did, but hey, it is CNN, and they might as well have been reporting on a Paris fashion show. I turned to FOX News.
Julie Banderas was anchoring the news program. Oh boy. Bandaras is even worse than Bill O’Reilly when it comes to pontificating about something she has absolutely no knowledge. Back in 2006, during the early stages of the Duke lacrosse case in which players were falsely accused of rape, Bandaras made an idiot of herself when she tried explaining the legal issues pertaining to the police interviewing the suspects. I have taught interview and interrogation, including the legal aspects, to many law enforcement officers. I was embarrassed for Banderas, so I sent her an email with information to try to help her out. I wasted my time.
Referring back to Matt’s capture a couple of days earlier, Bandaras struggled with the idea that if police shoot to stop the threat, and not to kill, then why was Matt shot in the head three times? Let me try one more time Julie to give you a little help. A professional investigation will undoubtedly answer your question in due time. As for now, let me just throw out three possibilities: 1) in a police shooting, a trained, experienced officer only hits the target about 20% of the time; so, maybe they were shooting at “center mass,” but shot Matt in the head; 2) center mass is the largest part of what you can see, and if Matt was trying to take cover or use concealment, then the head might have been center mass; and 3) as Matt had a shotgun, and if he was aiming the gun at the police, then it is common for the officer’s brain to focus on the threat; the threat in this case would be the shotgun, which he probably would have been near his head while he was taking aim.
Then, referring to Sweat’s capture, Bandaras kept saying how impressed she was that although Sweat had killed a deputy sheriff in the past, the officer who shot Sweat had the presence to simply wound him. She explained that Sergeant Cook was a firearms instructor and obviously knew where to place the shots in Sweat’s back so as not to injure any organs or other vital body parts. Now, Julie, not taking away from Sgt. Cook’s abilities, but under what had to be great stress, and using his duty handgun, do you really believe this is what happened?
Thankfully, they finally got Rod Wheeler on the phone to comment. Wheeler is a former Washington, D.C. homicide detective, and is a brilliant guy. Wheeler tried to bail Bandaras out. Wheeler illuminated that if Cook shot Sweat in the back as reported, it was certainly justified so that Sweat would not escape and harm anyone else.
After Wheeler, they connected by phone with Gil Alba, a former NYPD detective. Alba sent Bandaras into a downward spiral by telling her that officers shoot to kill, not to stop the threat. Huh? Now, Bandaras was all confused. Fortunately, she was replaced as anchor by Harris Faulkner. An ATF agent, also commenting telephonically, straightened out the mess. He enlightened everyone by clarifying that officers don’t shoot to wound; they just shoot, and sometimes they wound, and sometimes they kill.
This incident represents the kind of cooperation that should exist between law enforcement and the public. More than 2500 leads were provided. On this occasion, I heard no one ranting about demilitarizing the police.
Sweat has killed a deputy sheriff, was convicted of first-degree murder, was sent to prison, escaped, and was then shot twice in the back while trying to further his escape. Sergeant Cook did what he had to do: shoot Sweat in the back to stop him from making it to a tree line where he might again escape and potentially kill someone else. Under Tennessee v. Garner, it was a very righteous shooting.