Beltran

BELTRAN (Photo provided by the Alaska State Troopers)

It takes two to tango. It takes two to engage in a gunfight.

We’ve all seen the video showing an Ohio police officer holding his fire even as a slaying suspect charged him, saying repeatedly, “Shoot me.”

The tense moments were captured Thursday on a body camera worn by New Richmond officer Jesse Kidder.

The video shows Kidder repeatedly backpedaling, yelling at 27-year-old Michael Wilcox he doesn’t want to shoot him.

Kidder knew who Wilcox was: A man charged with the fatal shooting of his 25-year-old girlfriend and a person of interest in a Kentucky slaying. Dispatchers already told him Wilcox had a violent encounter with investigators who tried to arrest him before he drove off headed west toward Cincinnati.

As expected, Kidder received criticism for placing himself in potential harm, and for not pulling the trigger when Wilcox kept on pursuing him while the suspect appeared ready to pull out a gun or a knife.

But, generally, Kidder — who served in Iraq as a Marine — received praise for his judgment, for exercising restraint when he faced his toughest police challenge.

“Law enforcement officers all across the nation have to deal with split-second decisions that mean life or death,” Kidder said. “I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force.”

Kidder said he watched Wilcox’s hands and didn’t believe he was going to shoot, so he kept yelling to Wilcox that he didn’t want to shoot him. Backup officers arrived and Wilcox surrendered.

While Kidder received lavish praise for his “great restraint and maturity,” our local law enforcement officers last week also placed themselves in harm’s way, but they quietly performed their jobs without hoopla, without recognition, without ballyhoo.

Alaska State Troopers and Kodiak police officers arrested Kodiak resident Bryce Beltran after the suspect spent more than two weeks at large.

Beltran, 20, was taken into custody Monday, April 13, on a pair of arrest warrants involving more than 20 domestic violence charges.

Before his arrest, troopers had warned Kodiak residents that Beltran was believed armed with a powerful .308-caliber rifle. The cartridge is commonly used for civilian target shooting and military sniping. When loaded with a bullet that expands, tumbles or fragments in tissue, the cartridge is capable of what ballisticians call “high terminal performance.”

Beltran could have turned the tables, so to speak, and made our law enforcement officers his targets. He could have been the hunter, instead of the hunted.

Because Beltran had a pair of $25,000 warrants based on alleged assaults and violent crimes, troopers and KPD officers would have been justified in engaging him in a gunfight, assuming he was armed and combative. But AST spokeswoman Megan Peters said Beltran wasn’t armed at the time of his arrest and was peacefully taken into custody.

As Americans, we take pride in our skepticism of police power, and it is hard to imagine a greater expression of that power than to use deadly force.

Yet we are not skeptical enough.

We regularly read reports of shootings of unarmed suspects. In Houston alone, reports say, officers shot and killed 121 people, a quarter of them unarmed, from 2008 through 2012.

We saw footage of the tragedy after a 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun was shot dead by a white police officer in Columbus, Ohio. We saw the unnerving destruction of wide areas of Ferguson, Missouri, after protesters reacted to a grand jury finding in the shooting death of Michael Brown. We saw the videos of other recent cases: a police officer in South Carolina shooting an unarmed black man in the back, and — once again — a black man shot dead in Tulsa, Oklahoma, by a volunteer sheriff’s deputy who said he confused his handgun for a stun gun.

Sure, there have been increasing reports of law enforcement officers drawing guns and then opening fire. Reasons vary.

But it is an abhorrent calumny to think that officers leave their homes and go to work wishing to shoot civilians, armed or unarmed. When they use force, they are defending their safety or think it is for the public’s good.

If we could gather all those shooting-related reports, they would likely show that in many, if not most, of those incidents, the officers were justified.

Recent headlines about police officers accused of fatally shooting unarmed men in different parts of the country should make Kodiakans think about the temperament, maturity and training of their law enforcement team.

But compared to those other recent controversies involving officers, the performance of officers from the Alaska State Troopers and the Kodiak Police Department surely shines brighter than their well-polished badges.

After all, convincing a belligerent person to surrender without a gunfight is not an easy task.

Beltran’s arrest, indeed, behooves Kodiakans to unite and show appreciation to their law enforcement officers.

It is time to think about providing officers with upgraded equipment they can use to protect the community.

We should provide them the funds they need to polish their training and the tools necessary when they have to deal with split-second decisions.

Managing Editor Roni Toldanes wrote this editorial.

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