Good Morning
Good Morning

The wrenching life-and-death decisions faced by police

A Suffolk County officer puts police tape in

A Suffolk County officer puts police tape in front of a Best Buy on W. Sunrise Highway in Bay Shore on Sunday, March 22, 2015. Police said they are investigating an officer-involved shooting near the store. Credit: James Carbone

Policing is difficult work. Most people understand that. In its most stressful and consequential moments, split-second decisions must be made with the public's safety directly at risk. Most of the time, police get it right.

From what we know so far, that's what happened Sunday night in Bay Shore, when a Suffolk police officer thwarted an attempted carjacking with two children inside the vehicle by fatally shooting the suspect. And though the broadest parameters of the incident -- police kill an unarmed black man -- echo other recent events that have roiled the nation, the lack of protest this time is telling.

The ongoing investigation might never explain the apparent cascade of bad decision-making by the suspect. But preliminary results indicate the officer did everything she could to avoid using her weapon.

A routine report of a theft from a Best Buy store, police say, quickly escalated when the suspect ran, tried to steal an unoccupied parked car, then attempted to carjack a moving vehicle before finally jumping into another car idling in a driveway with two young boys in the backseat.

During a tense struggle, the suspect put the car in reverse three times, twice dragging the officer with him. She twice tried unsuccessfully to use her Taser on the suspect and early in the driveway confrontation fired her gun through the window, missing him. Finally, she shot him in the abdomen to stop what now was a kidnapping attempt.

Taking a life weighs heavily on one's conscience, no matter how justifiable such an action might be. Police officers are no exception. So it's understandable the officer is telling colleagues she is troubled by the outcome. Also understandable is the absence of outrage over the shooting, no matter how sad it might be that a 21-year-old man is dead.