Monday, September 24, 2012

Police kill double-amputee over a pen

He lost his right leg and right arm when he was hit by a train. He was confined to a wheelchair. He lived in a group home. He had some mental issues - some serious mental issues.

He got upset early the other morning because his caregiver wouldn't give him a cigarette. Naturally when he got upset someone called the police. And that's where things went wrong. Bad wrong.

Brian Claunch was waving a pen when the police arrived. Instead of determining whether Mr. Claunch was in need of medical attention the police escalated the situation and, when it was all over, Mr. Claunch was dead - in his wheelchair. Holding a pen.

It was bad enough when officers in Montgomery County managed to shoot a paraplegic to death in the cab of his truck, but it would appear that the good men of the Houston Police Department couldn't allow themselves to be outdone by their colleagues to the north.

I understand that the first rule of policing is to make it home safely at the end of the shift. But I also understand that a man waving a pen in a wheelchair is not a target worthy of hot lead in his chest.

The officer who killed Mr. Claunch claimed he was worried about his partner's safety. Really? Let's see. Mr. Claunch was missing an arm. He was waving a pen in one hand. His only hand. Just how was anyone in any danger?

The mind just wanders aimlessly trying to get a head around just what was going on in that home on Saturday morning. Whoever called 911 was aware that Mr. Claunch was emotionally disturbed. The caller was aware that he needed help - not a bullet.

The police are not equipped to handled mentally disturbed individuals. Nothing good ever comes of it. The mission of the police is to fight, and prevent, crime, not to provide mental health care. The police are used to be in charge. When an officer asks you to jump, the correct response is not why.

But, time and time again, the police find themselves dealing with someone who isn't in his or her right mind. A person who isn't going to ask how high; a person who either doesn't understand the question or has no way of answering it in a way that an officer wants.

These situations invariably end with someone being tased or shot because the officers involved were woefully unprepared or untrained to deal with the situation.

It's not Mr. Claunch's fault his brain isn't wired like ours. But he needed treatment and counseling, not the death penalty.


Kim Stafford said...

Every American citizen needs to be aware of how police officers are trained. I once had great respect for ALL men and women in uniform; however, that has changed. After having someone I know getting murdered by a police officer, I began researching other cases, laws, and training of officers. I spoke with an officer today about the killing of the amputee in Houston last week. He informed me that the officer followed protocol and killed the unarmed man. Actually, the officer told me that the man in a wheelchair was armed with an "ink pen"! The officer told me that they are trained to KILL, not injure, if they believe they are in any kind of harm (like getting stabbed with a pen). The officer asked me if I would expect him to get stabbed with a pen before protecting himself....well, I told him YES if that meant not KILLING someone! I now think police officers should get paid minimum wage because anyone can get scared and kill someone! Of course there are dangerous situations where an officer would appropriately use his or her weapon, but to just shoot to KILL unarmed people everyday is just not humane, sane, logical, or safe. Are you telling me that Americans have not moved forward or progressed at all????? What ever happened to training officers how to aim? How to shoot someone in the leg if they are running instead of in the head or heart????? The officer told me that they would get fired for shooting to injure instead of shooting to KILL!! I do not want to live in America if we are to be protected and served by a mean, untrained, uncivilized militia!!!!! I do not want my tax dollars going to this kind of militia. This behavior is sick and needs to be changed. People make stupid decisions everyday, but they don't deserve to get murdered from a bad choice! Everyone deserves due process!!! Stop the murdering of Americans by police officers!!!!!

Kim Stafford said...

I used to think all Police officers were heros and courageous; now, I know that they are scared little boys and girls with guns! Why can't we train them to be professional at what they do? Just sick and disgusting!

Anonymous said...

HPD has over a million citizen contacts a year, many of them with mentally ill people. In all those contacts, a few people are injured and on rare occasion one dies. All life is precious but no matter how professional the police are, sometimes things go wrong.

This does not lessen the tragedy but it does remind us all that we can demand the city provide more comprehensive training, admittedly at great cost, and hire better employees. Some suggest that police departments hiring so many military vets leads to this kind of thing more often but I'm not so sure about that, lowering compensation & benefits will only result in getting worst results.

As far as allowing someone to stab them with any object, good luck with that idea. A metal pen is a weapon that can kill or maim, one of my many questions about this death is how did the man corner one of the officers though I have others as well.