A split-second decision

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

May 20, 2013 1:33:48 PM PDT
Shoot or don't shoot.

It is by several factors the single most difficult decision a police officer faces.

Shoot or don't shoot.

The ramifications of either decision can and often does make the difference between life or death.

And that's what a veteran cop in Nassau County went through on Friday, as he confronted an ex-con with a gun pointed to the head of a student at Hofstra University on Long Island. The home intruder - who had sent one of the young women in the house to a bank to get some money, under threat apparently of hurting her friends - turned the gun on the cop, and the cop fired. Eight times. Seven of them hit Dalton Smith. One of them hit Andrea Rebello, a junior at Hofstra.

If the officer had waited for a hostage negotiator, then maybe the situation could have been resolved. Of course, if he had waited, and Smith had killed the hostage, then the cop would have been second-guessed. If the perp hadn't pointed the gun, the cop wouldn't have shot. It's all so tragic. Andrea's wake is tomorrow in Tarrytown in Westchester County; her funeral is on Wednesday.

We'll have the latest at 11.

The shoot-don't-shoot conundrum was dramatically presented to me when I went to a police training seminar in Los Angeles in March, 1991, a couple of weeks after several LAPD officers were caught on videotape beating Rodney King, whom they had pulled over. It was a vicious and over-the-top assault, and so I went to the LAPD training academy to hear a crisis management expert lecture the young cops about how best to make split-second decisions in the field. It was a powerful experience for those recruits, and for me.

Also at 11, we're following other traumatically sad stories involved youngsters. This time it's the search for the shooter of a 14-year-old girl, hit by a stray bullet as she rode a bus in Queens. And cops in Jersey City are looking for the killer of a 12-year-old boy, who was bouncing a basketball with his dad. All - just so senselessly painful.

We're also at a march against hate crimes tonight after a series of bias attacks against gay men in New York City - the latest was on Friday night when a 32-year-old man was shot and killed. Also just senseless. Shot because he was gay.

We'll also have any breaking news of the week, plus Meteorologist Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather Memorial Day Weekend forecast and the latest on those destructive tornadoes in the South and Midwest, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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