December 28, 2012

"A Madison police officer will face no criminal charges after fatally shooting a man who had mistakenly entered the wrong residence..."

"... struggled with the homeowner, then charged at the officer and reached toward his gun, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Thursday."
Attorney Jeff Scott Olson, who is representing [Paul] Heenan's family, said "I believe it was unjustified".... He maintains Heimsness could have used other tactics against Heenan, 30, a local musician who "weighed 150 pounds and never hurt a fly in his life," after the two were separated by about 5 to 6 feet after the physical confrontation.

48 comments:

Matthew Sablan said...

If the report is true, that the guy charged an officer and tried to take his gun, then it was justified. I'm too lazy to click through to see what evidence there is that it did not happen that way.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

I think we all (as a country) should sue Jeff Scott Olson for the death of Sgt. Mary Ricard.

Jeff Scott Olson could have used different tactics which could have changed procedure at prisons nationwide regarding guard safety, but he didn't.

He used the same old tactics, and now Sgt. Ricard is dead.

Mogget said...

After midnight; alcohol involved. Homeowner kept a key by the door which the drunken neighbor used to enter. Many mistakes but not, I think, on the part of the officer.

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"OK, you wanna get weird?"

The Drill SGT said...

Sad collection of misteps, but no charges IMHO.

cop gets called to a break-in. sees suspect struggling with homeowner.

suspect comes at cop with gun out?

My money is that 90+% of cops would shoot...

Oso Negro said...

Can't feel sorry for the dead drunk. Get wasted out of your mind and start breaking into homes and bad things are going to happen to you. Down here in Texas, it would probably have been the homeowner who put him down, not the cop.

Oso Negro said...

Yipes! Some company jacked my post with a drop down ad.

Paul said...

If the LEO was in full uniform and had announced himself well I can see the self defense claim even though basically he was a bugler. If not (in plain cloths that is) no.

In Texas hell it's a free fire zone. Could always be a fake cop so the cops always announce themselves, have backup, and in full uniform.

Ann Althouse said...

If the homeowners knew the man and wanted to help him get home, why did they call the police and having called the police, why were they unable to communicate that the man was no threat to them, just a drunk trying to get home?

The homeowner backs up the cop's story, but no one -- in what we're seeing -- is questioning the homeowner's role in what happened. That makes this whole story incredibly hard to understand.

I don't think Heenan should have had to die in this chaotic scene, not that I wanted to see the police officer charged.

jr565 said...

Perhaps we should ban alcohol.

Pogo said...

You will find that the police almost always find themselves justified in what they do.

This case does not explain my suspicion, only that I no longer trust what they do. They have begun to treat us as cattle to be herded. Examples of the militarization of the police and their no knock break-ins (with killing of the innocent) and shooting of fenced-in family dogs and Chicago style off duty shenanigans abound. Their union activities make me even less supportive.

Point is, I trust them less and less over time, and incidents like this seem on par with pat behavior. I no longer give them the benefit of the doubt, and instead find myself fearful.

The police and the courts can do anything they damn well please. Better stay on their good side.

TosaGuy said...

Not every unfortunate situation requires that charges be filed.

Matthew Sablan said...

On reading it, it sounds like a series of bad choices and bad luck that finalized in a rather sad turn of events.

Michael Haz said...

The class I took to qualify for a CCW permit was taught by a former LEO, an excellent instructor.

We role-played many situations as part of the class. One of them was similar to this event - a drunk man enters a neighbor's house, the police are called, etc.

A seemingly benign situation changes the instant someone reaches for an officer's gun (or taser).

As the instructor explained, when you reach for a police officer's weapon, the next thing that happens is you probably die.

MadisonMan said...

suspect comes at cop with gun out?

I asked a while ago -- why was the drunk not tased? Why did the Cop draw his gun (as if a drunk can appreciate the danger in a gun) and not, say, a billy club or a taser?

When you try to subdue a man with little perception of threat, why immediately go to the most deadly option? This points to a lack of training in the MPD, IMO. Of course, I don't know all the facts in the chaos that occurred, but I can still speculate. This does make me less likely to call a cop. Do I want someone's death on my conscience?

I'm glad I'm not a belligerent drunk. I'm the happy drunk. If the dead guy were a happy drunk, he'd still be alive.

Pogo said...

The family stupidly left the keys in the front door.
The drunk neighbor stupidly thought he was in his own home.
No taser, or none used?
No negotiating skills, or none used?
A tragedy of errors.

As I said, I no longer believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to the government's guards.

Matthew Sablan said...

"When you try to subdue a man with little perception of threat, why immediately go to the most deadly option?"

-- Because you have to make a snap second judgment: "Is less force enough force?" What if you are wrong? What if you -miss- with the taser? What if it doesn't stop the guy? If you think the opponent means to use lethal force, you have to meet it with lethal force. Especially (though it probably was not the case here) if you are a less than physical officer, on the smaller side or a female officer, against a larger, stronger potential threat.

EMD said...

"When you try to subdue a man with little perception of threat, why immediately go to the most deadly option?"

In the dark, in the middle of the night, against someone obviously aggressive? Ask yourself the same question.

MadisonMan said...

Because you have to make a snap second judgment

Which points to the need of training.

My recollection is the dead man was a little 150-pound guy. I admit that's a smaller target for a taser to hit; but it's also a smaller threat.

Matthew Sablan said...

My understanding, though by no means first-hand, is that less-than lethal options are acceptable, but actually discouraged from any situation where lethal force is required. So, if someone is going for your gun, using pepper spray on them is actually the -wrong- action to take by training, since you may fail and lose your gun.

Rusty said...


I don't think Heenan should have had to die in this chaotic scene, not that I wanted to see the police officer charged.



When the copper tells you to put your hands behind your head and get on your knees, put your hands behind your head and get on your knees.
You can sort it out in front of a judge later.

edutcher said...

He had an instant to make the decision.

No choice.

jr565 said...

Perhaps we should ban alcohol.

BTDT.

jimbino said...

"He went for my gun" is the hackneyed excuse a cop uses when he forgot to bring a throw-down.

Larry J said...

Stupidity should be painful, if not always fatal. Some people call alcohol "ignorant oil" for a reason. Just like eating too many doughnuts will make you fat, drinking too much will make you stupid. Stupid is as stupid does.

Paul said...

"As the instructor explained, when you reach for a police officer's weapon, the next thing that happens is you probably die"

Same way here in Texas. Grab for a Troopers Sig and a 125gr JHP will very quickly be inside your noodle.

The DPS is very polite here. Never ever had a problem (even with local LEOs to, and I pack.) But... I know dang well not to mess around with them and try some BS. They ask strait questions, I give strait answers and everyone calls each other 'MR.' or Officer.

A armed society is a polite one!

EDH said...

The entire decision to prosecute should hinge upon whether the initial press reports described the three shots to upper torso as "execution-style", in "cold-blood" or "racially-tinged".

Mick Havoc said...

Until you have been in one of these situations as a direct participant, you really don't know what you are talking about.
Little guys can be very strong and they are usually very fast, even when drunk.
Every call involves a weapon-your own.
I once ran a "citizen's academy" for selected members of the public. We had a local civil rights leader who was outspoken about how the police shoot too many people.
When we ran a street simulation with paint guns, he shot the first guy who lipped off to him.

The Drill SGT said...

MadisonMan said...
suspect comes at cop with gun out?

I asked a while ago -- why was the drunk not tased? Why did the Cop draw his gun (as if a drunk can appreciate the danger in a gun) and not, say, a billy club or a taser?


MM, a couple of observations:

1. The homeowner was struggling and lossing to the invader when the cop arrives with gun drawn.
2. nothing is said about the lighting conditions
3. nothing said about the 911 call, and what might have been conveyed to officers.
4. officer attempted apparently to physically subdue the suspect, but after grapling, when the suspect grapples for his gunm, the officer pulls back and shoots.

I see an officer alone with his gun drawn, engaging with a suspect who is hostile. At that point, things are going down a predicatble path. putting the gun away and drawing a taser, while very close to a suspect is lethally dumb of an officer.

what I have read is that facing a suspecteven 15 feet is not sufficent space, if you dont have your gun out and the suspect charges with a knife.

Mary Beth said...

jr565 said...

Perhaps we should ban alcohol.

12/28/12 8:15 AM


Or personal property. If your house is my house and my house is your house, then we'll just have to learn to ignore drunks who stumble in during the night. Stay in your room! Hide! The children can fend for themselves.

Carnifex said...

Several years ago we had a shooting in the police station. According to the "official" police report, and elderly blackman, with his hands cuffed behind his back, reached into his pocket and pulled out a pocket knife with which he threatened the entire squad room. The elderly black man was shot 9 times.

He died.

A lot of times the cops are the good guys, a lot of times they aren't. They are people with flaws and foibles just like everyone else.

To see our society place them on a pedestal is disturbing. Better to worship God than a representative of the government.

Ps.

As usual Pogo has the right of this.

William said...

I knew a guy who worked as a NYC cop back in a different era. His strategy for handling calls involving bar fights was to arrive on the scene late and arrest the winners.....This officer may or may not have acted wisely, but if you hang him out to dry, the next such call will be responded to in a slow, deliberate manner. Everyone here is always saying that when seconds count, police are only minutes away. This will not help improve their response times.

Libertarian Engineer said...

Alcohol abuse and drunkenness are not acceptable hobbies. Getting drunk, while taken so lightly by so many people, is actually very destructive to your physical and mental well-being. There is never an excuse. A couple of beers - no problem. Drinking until you are stupid - never a good idea.

The person that drinks to get drunk, even if only once a month, is classified by any decent therapist as an abuser.

caplight45 said...

1. Had a drunk trying to get into our back door at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning. Mildly frustrated he was getting angry thinking his roomies were screwing with him. He left before the cops came when I shouted at him. Have often wondered what would have happened if he tried breaking a window or something.

2. Cops were minutes away when seconds counted.

3. Pogo is right. In my opinion the government is trying to turn the younger generation of cops into into military type enforcers who regard the citizenry as the enemy. Hence the proliferation of SWAT teams, military vehicles and military weapons. Not only that but there is the increasing militarization of government agencies like the USDA having its own SWAT teams to raid Amish farms that sell raw milk (the Amish are famous pacifists who don't own guns).

My hunch is that the Feds are counting on local police to side with them as a national military if the sh*t ever hits the fan.

jr565 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Freeman said...

> If the homeowners knew the man and wanted to help him get home, why did they call the police and having called the police, why were they unable to communicate that the man was no threat to them, just a drunk trying to get home?

What can the neighbors say that should have more weight than "Heenan came at him rapidly, grabbed his outstretched left hand with one hand, and reached across his body toward his gun with the other."?

After all, if the neighbor is lying or wrong, the officer gets killed. (If the neighbor was such an expert on the guy's behavior, he'd have handled the situation.)

FWIW, lots of people are bit by dogs right after the owner says not to worry.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Going after the homeowner? The husband goes downstairs and the wife calls the cops, which the husband does not know. The husband tells the drunk neighbor he could have called the police but didn't (and unknown to him the police are on the way).

The drunk neighbor then attacks the husband as the first police officer arrives. The complaint against the husband Is what, that he didn't shout out, "this guy attacking me is just a drunk neighbor?"

I Callahan said...

The person that drinks to get drunk, even if only once a month, is classified by any decent therapist as an abuser.

Bullshit on stilts, despite the classification by any "decent" therapist. Other than beer, what is the point of drinking alcohol? People don't like the flavor of it, so don't bring up that canard.

Answer: because people like the effect. It makes them feel good. For some, going out drinking once in a while does NOT make them an abuser.

Definitely not a very "libertarian" view you have there.

McTriumph said...

I dot to ask, was Paul Heenan a protester at the capitol during the recall? If so, he might have just been on a mission to steal a officer's handgun for Jeremy "I'm too lazy to walk" to go with his private party jacket.

Rusty said...

jimbino said...
"He went for my gun" is the hackneyed excuse a cop uses when he forgot to bring a throw-down.


In that case you might want to consider moving.

tiger said...

Pogo said...
You will find that the police almost always find themselves justified in what they do.

This case does not explain my suspicion, only that I no longer trust what they do. They have begun to treat us as cattle to be herded. Examples of the militarization of the police and their no knock break-ins (with killing of the innocent) and shooting of fenced-in family dogs and Chicago style off duty shenanigans abound. Their union activities make me even less supportive.

Point is, I trust them less and less over time, and incidents like this seem on par with pat behavior. I no longer give them the benefit of the doubt, and instead find myself fearful.

The police and the courts can do anything they damn well please. Better stay on their good side


Yaaaaaaaawwwwwwwn.

So what are *you* going to do the next time you have interactions with a cop?
Run?
Shoot him/her first?
Tell him/her that he has no authority over you?

Good luck with any of those actions.

tiger said...

What the heck is a 'LEO'?

Libertarian Engineer said...

If you only drink beer and drink to drunkenness than your attitude towards alcohol is both dangerous and immature. And you are in denial about your emotional health.

An adult is capable of appreciating the fine flavor of a high-quality beer, a glass of good California wine with a meal, a port afterwards, or a good scotch (no ice soda or other crap in it), a martini, or a good sipping bourbon. If you do not appreciate any of these, you are missing out on some of the finer material things of life.

Michael Haz said...

LEO = Law Enforcement Officer.

Skyler said...

I wonder why they say he weighed 150 pounds as though this makes him some sort of petite harmless man.

Robin said...

Its very easy for an officer who has a backup officer with him to use a Taser. Its more difficult for a solo officer to use a Taser, because drawing the Taser automatically makes changing to the more lethal firearms slower and more difficult.

That often means that the solo officer has to choose to escalate faster/earlier.

Alex said...

The dead man was at .208 blood alcohol level - raging drunk. No sympathies.

Alex said...

How is a raging drunk any different then a hopped-up speed freak?

garage mahal said...

What the heck is a 'LEO'?

Union Thug.