Wednesday, August 17, 2011

To shoot, or not to shoot?

About a week or so ago, a policeman named Robert Lasso was shot dead in the back yard by a Pennsylvania homeowner named George Hitcho Jr.

Here are the known facts of the case, as recorded by the court:

  1. Lasso was called to the home by someone other than Hitch or his spouse.

  2. The incident did not take place at the front door, but at the back door.

  3. There was no evidence of a disturbance at the home, other than the 911 call.

  4. Hitcho owned two dogs, who were in the yard.

  5. Lasso repeatedly pointed a Taser electrocution device, alternatively, at Hitcho and his dogs.

  6. Lasso called for backup, and his backup ended up being the Chief of Police.

  7. Lasso was told to leave the property, and to not come back without a warrant.

  8. The Chief ordered Lasso to “shoot the dogs” with his electrocution device.

  9. Upon such an order, Hitcho “pulled a shotgun” and fired one round, striking Lasso.

  10. Lasso was taken to a hospital where he later died, while Hitcho was taken into custody and subsequently charged with homicide.

Now, let's look at the inferred facts of this case. I say “inferred” only because they require the use of basic logic, not because I'm some kind of a psychic.

  1. Lasso, upon being told to depart from the premises, had no lawful authority to be on the premises unless he found probable cause or exigent circumstances to give him such a legal right. It is highly doubtful that such a thing occurred, considering it was neither brought up in court, nor did the officer ever attempt to enter the home.

  2. The dogs were obviously not “attacking” Lasso, if he had time to wait for backup to arrive.

  3. The incident occurred at the rear door of Hitcho's home, and not the front door, which indicates that the officer did not hold any reservations about exceeding his authority after finding no evidence of a disturbance after knocking on the front door.

  4. Hitcho was still obviously in his home, as evident by the fact that a shotgun was close at hand and neither officer had a firearm drawn. Unless the shotgun was cut down to far below the legal overall length of 26”, one does not simply “pull” a shotgun without it being noticed beforehand by two trained police officers. As evident by the fact that no where in the numerous newspaper reports or the court record was an illegal firearm mentioned, it was a legal shotgun. Even a pistol-grip shotgun of minimum legal length is incredibly difficult to hide on one's person, unless that person is wearing a full-length heavy coat capable of concealing both the length and the large outline of a shotgun.

Since that is settled, let's go over some basics of the law.

  1. In order for a law enforcement officer to legally be on a person's property, one of four things must have occurred.

    A) A warrant has been signed by a judge, granting said LEO permission to be on the premises.

    B) The officer has seen probable cause of a crime having been committed, or immediately about to be committed.

    C) Exigent circumstances exist, such as hearing someone scream.

    D) The LEO has the homeowner's permission.

    In light of the absence of these four things, the officer had a legal duty to depart the premises immediately when told to do so. He also had a legal duty to not return to the property without a warrant, exigent circumstances, or probable cause, because he had been told not to do so by the homeowner.

  2. Pointing a Taser electrocution device at a human being is no different than threatening him with a firearm, a lead pipe, or a knife. It is meant to inflict incapacitating pain, which is an assault upon the person, if not done within the confines of the law. Threatening assault is a crime.

  3. The threat of force is no different than the actual use of such force, with regard to warranting a response to such force. In other words, if someone unlawfully points a gun at you, the response of shooting that person is every bit as warranted in that situation as it would be if they had actually fired shots at you with intent to kill.

  4. A person has the right to protect his life and property using any force necessary, up to and including lethal force.

Now that we've gone over the facts, here's my take on it...

The cop had no business whatsoever being in this guy's backyard, period. It's obvious that no one was in the backyard, since no one was there at the time of the incident (other than the two cops) and there is no record of anyone having been in the back yard. If the circumstances would have given this cop the authority to go into the back yard, those same circumstances would have allowed the cop to kick down the door and deal with the situation...and the cop's duty as a public servant would have demanded that he do so. Instead, he went on a fishing trip in the back yard.

The cop was on private property, and did not immediately leave upon being asked to do so. In the absence of lawful authority, that makes him a trespasser...and guilty of a crime, himself. Pointing a Taser electrocution device at both the subject of his “investigation” (read: FISHING TRIP IN THE BACK YARD) constituted a threat to the man's life and property.

The cop was shot for trespassing and threatening, end of story. It's sad that he had to die, but he brought it upon himself.

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