Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 9, 2006

For Assisted Suicide, Call 911

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:00 am

I wonder if this is what the “assisted suicide folks want — because here we surely have two cases of government-assisted suicide. This may remind you of the joke (maybe it’s not a joke) that suicide is a crime punishable by the death penalty.

From a 1999 article in the San Antonio News-Express (no link — found it on Lexis)

A 48-year-old armed man was killed in a hail of gunfire early Saturday by a special operations police squad during what police said was an attempt to stop him from committing suicide.

Well, I guess it worked. They certainly prevented him from committing suicide. This is actually getting increasingly common — sending SWAT teams to deal with suicide cases. Seems to me it’s a self-evidently bad idea. One of the more famous incidents took place in Albuquerque at about the same time as the case above. From a New York Times article:

Late on a chilly October night three years ago, Larry Harper told his family that life was no longer worth living and headed out the door with a handgun. He had slipped back to using crack cocaine after being in drug treatment and was ashamed to face his wife and brother.

The family called the Albuquerque police for help. In response, a paramilitary unit, nine men clad in camouflage and armed with automatic rifles and stun grenades, stormed into the park where Mr. Harper had gone in despair.

”Let’s go get the bad guy” were the last words Hope Harper heard as the Special Weapons and Tactics squad brushed by her on a hunt for her husband, leaving the family in the dark at the edge of the park. Police marksmen chased Mr. Harper through the woods, found him cowering behind a juniper tree and shot him to death from 43 feet away. He had committed no crime and had threatened only himself. The police said the fact that he was holding a gun made him a target.

Albuquerque’s SWAT team was notorious in the 1990s for being quick to pull the trigger. The city had more than 40 police shootings over a period of about four years, including 11 by the SWAT team — remarkable numbers for a city of its size. After a series of lawsuits and scathing independent reviews, the city put in some reforms, though it looks like in at least one case, by 2004 the SWAT team was back to answering suicide calls.

(Rarely do I quote another blog post in its entirety, but this is just too perfect — there’s nothing I can add, and nothing I can justify deleting. But click over to Radley Balko’s post anyway so he knows we’re reading it. (He’s got lots of other good stuff, too.)

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