■ Calvin Porter / Columnist
On Dec. 21, 2018, Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies, under contract to the city of San Jacinto, responded to a domestic violence call involving a man who was threatening a woman with a knife. By the time it was over, the man was dead, shot and killed by an officer near the “Five Corners” area of S. Ramona Boulevard and E. Main Street in San Jacinto.
Even though the Sheriff’s Department promptly informed the media through a press release that there had been an “officer-involved” shooting, the department has never released the victim’s name nor any further information on the disposition of the case or the responsible officer who, reportedly, is still out on administrative leave. More than three months after the incident, the case is still “under investigation.”
Any thinking person would find shortcomings in this regrettable event on the part of the authorities by not having immediately released the name of the victim, once next of kin are notified. We also would want the public to know the name of the officer responsible. The public has an interest in knowing if this individual has been cleared of wrongdoing or whether he’s facing disciplinary action or even criminal charges.
Furthermore, ordinary citizens are wondering if the Sheriff’s Department, which has been sworn to protect the community, will flash a revolver at the slightest provocation. A person wielding a knife – or a rock or a bottle or any other potentially dangerous object – who signals their intention to throw it or use it against the police should be aware that the other party has a handgun and is apt to use it. But if a private citizen were to use a handgun in the face of such a threat, what would the outcome be? If they killed the person, they probably would be charged with homicide. However, such threats seem to be sufficient provocation to routinely elicit a deadly response from police.
In our present society, people get stressed out and can’t handle conflicting scenarios. Some react by shouting obscenities, others react by brandishing whatever object may be readily available, and many will react passively by not heeding an officer’s command. Should this type of noncompliant behavior be cause for an officer-involved shooting?
Even though deaths by shooting at the hands of highly trained police officers are, prior to an investigation, assumed to be justifiable, in view of the frequency with which these incidents are occurring, it is nonetheless discouraging that someone in the community who may be mentally ill should be at risk of being shot and killed by police. But apparently they are, both at home and across the nation.
It is our hope that a truthful investigation is ongoing into the shooting death of the knife-wielding San Jacinto man and that the public will sooner rather than later be told who was involved and exactly what happened. The Sheriff’s Department works for the public, and the public is entitled to this information.