Navarro's family placed this memorial on the front lawn of Kahler Russell Park. Photo taken by Amanda Figueroa.
Charter Oak High School

Commentary: When to shoot

On Sunday, Nov. 26, police filled the parking lot of Kahler Russell Park in a standoff against Daniel Navarro, a 22-year-old man who was holding his infant daughter hostage in a car. Police treated it as a dangerous situation because of Navarro’s possession of a knife.

Around 11:00 p.m., police engaged with Navarro throwing a flashbang at his car before shooting him multiple times. His family was horrified at this sight as he did not do anything particularly threatening. In fact, Navarro’s family was receiving phone calls from him, during which he explained that he was scared of what the police would do to him were he to give up the baby. As for the knife, Navarro only ever used it to threaten himself; however, the police considered Navarro to be in an unstable mental state, which provoked action in order to ensure the baby’s safety. This begs the question: What kind of situation should police warrant use of deadly force?

On one side, it could be argued that the police did what was necessary in order to ensure the safety of the child. According to the police protocol dealing with an armed potential hostile, they are to shoot them until they cannot respond. The intention is not necessarily to kill the person, as evidenced by the first aid called to him, but it is often the result because police often shoot someone multiple times in this kind of situation.

When asked about what police are required to do in a situation that concerns shooting, a police officer said, “The suspect is shot until they are no longer able to threaten the safety of those around them.” Since Daniel Navarro brandished a knife and had his infant daughter in the car, he met the requirements for taking action.

While the knife and Navarro’s daughter were factors in the police decision, other factors could have led to a different solution. As previously stated, Navarro’s family was in contact with him before and during the shooting. Furthermore, he never threatened the baby directly, but only threatening to use the knife on himself. These phone conversations were still in progress when the shooting occurred. If the police had waited while the family talked Navarro down, Navarro could have potentially lived. Also, police typically try to talk people down, often in cases involving suicide, but also with people with guns.

Navarro was considered a threat to his daughter because he was in possession of a weapon; was it wise for the police to engage him? The argument could be made that they endangered the baby by provoking him. If he had malicious intent, he could have killed the baby as soon as the police stormed his car. The possibility that Navarro could quickly kill the baby is what made the situation so delicate.

If police deem it necessary to use force, there should be other tools available to deal with situations such as these. Police have access to weapons such as stun guns, which allow for them to incapacitate people at a long-range. They could also use tasers, as the police in this situation closed the distance between themselves and Navarro before shooting him. Furthermore, police are trained in hand-to-hand combat against wielders, which can also be used to incapacitate them.

In the United States where stories of police brutality are becoming more prevalent, what should the police do to reform themselves? Should they reform themselves? Have their current methods proven effective in the majority of situations? Are police decisions impulsive, or simply reactionary and based on their code? There are many factors to consider when determining what we should accept from our police and what we should protest.

Navarro’s friends and family did not agree with the police’s decision, despite also caring for the welfare of his daughter. This suggests that they believed him to be a good man in a bad situation. Now they lament that Navarro’s daughter will now have to grow up without a father. Several memorials have been built on the front patch of grass at Kahler Russell Park to commemorate the loss of Daniel Navarro, “The World’s Most Loving Father.”

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