• January 20, 2020

TEXAS VIEW: Troopers shot a man 16 times, video shows they made correct call - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: Troopers shot a man 16 times, video shows they made correct call

THE POINT: That it all happened in a flash shows the difficulties and dangers police officers face.

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Posted: Wednesday, January 15, 2020 2:30 am

No one wants to see someone killed in a hail of gunfire, especially not in the driveway of the person’s grandmother. So when 27-year-old Schaston Hodge was shot and killed by Texas Department of Safety troopers on Aug. 17, questions were immediately raised about what happened and why. And the fact that the shooting came at a time when some were raising objections to the troopers being involved in a drive to stem a crime wave this past summer gave us all the makings of a very tense moment for Dallas.

But now video evidence has been released that we hope will help shape our community’s thinking and understanding of the work our men and women in uniform are asked to do on a daily basis. The video includes footage from a dashboard camera as well footage from the body cameras that both troopers wore.

What it shows is the following: Moments after finishing a routine stop, troopers Joshua Engleman and Robert Litvin attempt to pull over Hodge for failing to signal while making a left turn. It’s fair to debate whether such a small infraction was something worth pursuing in the first place.

Nonetheless, everything after that decision is what we expect of police officers. The troopers first try their flashing lights and then add their siren. Hodge speeds up, and the troopers pursue him. Eventually Hodge turns into a driveway. The troopers run up to his car as Hodge emerges with a gun that he appears to point in the direction of the troopers. Gunfire ensues. Hodge collapses. The video ends with the troopers applying emergency medical care while awaiting paramedics.

Our takeaway from all of this is threefold.

First, by pulling a gun, Hodge forced the pursuing officers to fire on him. So this appears to be an incident where the officers acted justly in the way they are expected to act.

Second, even within the confines of a justifiable shooting such as this, the speed at which officers have to react should be understood by the community. Everything happened in a flash, which should illustrate how dangerous and difficult being a cop is. We understand why some would wonder if 16 shots were necessary, but officers are trained to disarm and neutralize a person with a gun in his hands. It’s right to punish officers who make the wrong calls, but it’s equally important to acknowledge when officers make appropriate decisions.

And finally, we can’t now ask Hodge what was going through his mind or know what was ultimately driving his decisions. He made the terrible and deadly choice that led to his death. Still, we should mourn that death and see the end of this young man’s life as tragic and a devastating loss.

We only wish his path in life had a different destination, that his humanity and his talents instead delivered him safely to his family.

Odessa, TX

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