Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rest in Peace, Aulf

by Joyce Tremel

I’m so sick of hearing parents of criminals complain that their “baby” was unjustifiably “murdered” by police officers.

Yesterday in Pittsburgh, an officer shot and killed a 19 year old man who shot and killed his police dog. Two officers and a police dog in a marked police car responded to a report of shots fired. When they arrived at the scene, one of the officers spotted Justin Jackson, who had his hand under his shirt. When he was ordered to show his hand, Jackson pulled out a gun. The canine officer then deployed his dog and Jackson shot the dog in his chest and front legs, fatally wounding him. The officer then shot and killed Jackson. Police Chief Nate Harper stated the dog did what he was trained to do and called the shooting a justifiable action.

I agree.

The dead man’s parents do not. Here’s a quote from the dead man’s father from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: “"This needs to stop. The police are using excessive force and killing young black men," said the victim's father, Donald Jackson of the West End. "It doesn't make sense, this is terrible, and I want answers."” And from the mother: “"We are not going to let them get away with this!" Anna Jackson screamed. "They will pay for killing my son. They are going to pay for shooting my son over a dog!"”

While I feel sympathetic to the fact that they lost their son, he killed what, by law, amounts to killing a police officer. If Jackson would have showed his hand or put the gun down, the whole incident would have ended differently. Jackson caused his own death by his actions.

Although his father stated his son did not own or carry a gun, according to court records, Justin Jackson did have an arrest record for firearms violations, assault, and criminal conspiracy.

The Pittsburgh Police Department is flying the flag outside headquarters at half-staff and some officers are wearing the symbol of mourning—a black band over their badges. They are mourning a fallen officer.

There will be a thorough investigation of the incident by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, but I’m sure they’ll come to the right conclusion. While certainly tragic, the shooting was justifiable.


Gina said...

We'll have to wait for the investigation to be completed before we get a clear idea of what happened, but I think it's important to point out that this doesn't seem to be a situation in which a person was shot to avenge the death of a dog. Based on the news reports, it sounds as if the young man fired several shots and that the police returned fire as well as deploying the dog, which is considered a form of "non-lethal force." I have a lot of sympathy for the young man's family. He probably was a good son in many ways and maybe, given a few years and that influx of common sense that sometimes comes as we grow older, he might have become an admirable man. The tragedy for his family is that they'll never have a chance to see him grow into his future. That is gone forever. So I don't minimize the horror of a lost human life; I only try to see things from both perspectives, and it seems as if the officers were justified in shooting back, returning deadly force for deadly force. That's not the same as saying that the young man deserved to die.

Martha Reed said...

Gina, thanks for explaining the distinction so beautifully. This is a tragedy all around - for the officers, the family and the community. As we know, these events happen so fast it's hard to look at it later without taking the timing out of context.

My prayers are with all those involved.

Joyce said...

Jackson most certainly wasn't shot to avenge the dog, but that seems to be what his parents think. And nine times out of ten, when a young man has already been arrested for firearms violations, assault, and criminal conspiracy, he's not going to turn his life around. Especially when his parents seem to condone everything he does.

ramona said...

This may sound callous, but I have no problem with killing someone who shoots a police dog. If that person kills the dog, isn't it logical to think he's going to fire at the police officer next?

Joyce, I'm near Philly, and today is the memorial for Sergeant Steven Liczbinski, who was murdered last weekend by three bank robbers. I just read that the third suspect in his killing was found last night. The police were determined to get this guy in before the funeral. They did. They brought him in wearing the dead officer's handcuffs.

nancy said...

The boy pulled a gun in the presence of police officers. It's a miracle of self-control that the police didn't shoot him at that moment, isn't it?

You know what bugs me about this case? The local newspaper has been screaming headlines about an academic scandal at a nearby university. (The daughter of the state's governor had been essentially given a resume-boosted MBA without taking classes--okay, a bad thing, but not worth endless headlines and finally the long article about how the reporters "broke the story." Well, hell, where's the courage in that? Write about gun violence, kids stealing guns, kids carrying guns the way they used to carry packs of gum, parents who condone weapons, a culture of violence over petty issues---THAT'S reporting worth headlines. Newspapers have the power to change a culture, but ours is wasting its power.........Oh.

I'm venting, aren't I?

Sorry. Back to focusing on the dog. It's a better story.

Joyce said...

I agree, Nancy. Probably every college and university at some time or other has done exactly the same thing. Talk about blowing things out of proportion!

For more on the shooting, read this morning's PG. You could probably see steam coming out of my ears when I read some of the family's comments. They think the officers shot their own dog and planted the gun on their poor baby.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I'll try to make this simple even though nothing about this is simple. It doesn't matter what your situation is, we all have a choice to make. Right or wrong. Whether we're homeless or live in endless wealth we can choose to be good or bad.

If you choose to carry a gun and walk the streets, you're making a choice. A dangerous choice. If you pull that gun and point it at law enforecement, you're making a really bad choice and unless you're insane, you know the potential consequences.

This may seem harsh, but if somebody pulls a gun and points it at me, or worse, my wife or one of my daughters, I hope to hell that there is a policeman around to shoot that person, regardless of their ultimate intentions. If they die, that was a choice they, themselves made and I will feel no remorse.

Would it be a tragedy? The tragedy is when an innocent person dies.

Sorry for the rant. I know nothing about the case Joyce wrote about, but, based on the details Joyce provided, I think the boy doing the shooting made the wrong choices and paid the price. Albeit the ultimate price. I find it hard to fault the officers.

Joyce said...

Amen to that, WB!

Anonymous said...

I agree with others in that I do not feel that Jackson was shot to avenge the police dog being shot. Although, they were perfectly justified in doing so for that reason because Aulf was an officer of the law. Jackson had the choice to drop the weapon...and he chose not to. The police cannot be expected to be standing targets for Jackson to kill them. I feel that Jackson's parents were totally out of line in their comments about the police officers. I'm so sick of parents such as this defending their son when he had a prior record and also having a stolen .357 magnum in his possession. What did his parents think...that he was carrying this to make a fashion statement. It seems evident to me...since he was carrying this weapon that he did not have good intentions for someone...and very possibly the police kept him from killing someone else.
Try putting yourself in the policeman's shoes and standing there...would you want to stand there and do nothing until the other person shoots you? Jackson made one wrong choice after another...which ultimately caused his death. How dare his parents or anyone blame the police officers. The police officers have a right and obligation to uphold the law. It scares me to think of what our society is coming to today when the person in the wrong is defended...and the police officers are the ones criticized and reprimanded.
Police officers have my utmost respect because they have a very dangerous and difficult job. My sympathy goes to the officers who lost a member of their force. The shooting of this dog was unnecessary, all Jackson had to do was drop the weapon...nobody would have been killed.
I feel bad for Jackson's parents, however, they need to realize their son was in the wrong...not the policemen.

Cathy said...

I'm glad to get your input and that of us others in this tragedy. I agree with you on all counts, especially in taking responsibility for one's actions. The family's comments seem totally inappropriate. Their grief must have blinded them to the reality of the situation.

Kristine said...

This case upsets me. Losing a child is something no parent should have to endure, but it happens all too often, as does the unfortunate situation that precipitated it.

Having said that, however, the dog was a living being who was murdered. Bottom line. The dog was just as important to the police force as any pet is to any family. The kid's actions put the officers in danger and also resulted in the end of a life.

That's what makes this case such a tragedy.

lisa curry said...

I concur that the police officers acted appropriately, and I don't believe the kid was shot to avenge the dog. I also feel bad for the parents, and I can understand that they are grief-stricken and angry over their loss. Really, what parent is going to think -- the day after their child was killed -- well, my son was bad/ wrong/ exercised poor judgment, and he deserved what he got? One doesn't usually react logically to sudden tragedy and loss. When my mother was killed in a car accident, I fervently wished that the drunk driver who killed her would go to prison and be gang-raped by a dozen well-endowed men and that somebody would kill his mother so he could see just how it felt. That was neither appropriate nor rational, yet that is how I felt in my grief and anger. One hopes that had the media been interested in speaking to me, I would have had the restraint not to say that, but we all know people who just say whatever they think or feel without filtering. I think it's too bad the media didn't decide to use some restraint in airing it.

Jackie said...

Whether it was a mutt or a police dog, I would have probably did the same thing as the officers. The way I see it, this delinquent did so many things wrong he had no respect for human life. The first, he had a stolen firearm. Second, he HAD a firearm in the first place- he was 19 years old and in PA you cannot own a pistol until you are 21. Third, he didn't comply with officer's requests, and last but most importantly he began shooting at a police dog. May I point out that when shooting at the dog there were likely many people (not just officers but bystanders, the same ones boo-hooing this "thug's" death) in range. What if that bullet would have kept going through the dog? What if he would have missed? He had no respect for ANY life on that street except his own, and neither do his parents. Heck, his mom has a record for an incident that occured a year prior (as noted on DO I feel bad someone died? Yes, in a way. But I feel more bad an innocent animal had to die a horrible death because someone, who probably would have killed a person at someone in his life, had to suffer because of his callous and selfish actions.

Joyce said...

Thanks for the comment, Jackie. You summed it up nicely!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I missed this yesterday.

Ignoring for a moment the grief-stricken parents - and who knows what any of us might have said in the same situation - from everything that I have read, the shooting was justified.

It's unfortunate that this is not Mayberry, where people can talk things out like rational human beings. Our streets are not like that.

When someone points a gun, you have to assume they are going to use it. And regardless of his age, when this man chose to carry a gun, he accepted both the protection and the risk it provided.

I'm not a police officer, but every single one of them I've talked to has said that the LAST thing they want to do is kill someone. They're not out there looking for targets. But if someone points a gun at them, they react the way they have to react - they fire.

Sad, but it has to be that way.

Kathy Sweeney

Joyce said...

If anyone has any doubts about the jagoff who shot Aulf, read this article:

Anonymous said...

If you are DUMB enough to fire a gun at police ifficer, than you get what you are asked for. !!!

As far as the dog goes, it sounds like his life was worth far more than the dumb ass who was shot by the police.