One death by cop is too many
Three Swedish police have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a man with Down syndrome who was playing with a toy gun, said Ingvar Persson. It’s a tragedy for everyone: for the 20-year-old victim, Eric Torell, for his family and friends, and “for the three police officers” who responded to a report of an armed man on the streets of Stockholm. They are being prosecuted for misconduct and manslaughter. Everyone has sympathy for the officers, who feared for their safety and were “forced to make life-or-death decisions in a fraction of a second.” Even the prosecutor concedes that Torell’s toy gun looked like a real weapon. But those arguments “are not enough.” The police should have known that the real gunman had been arrested before they encountered Torell. More important, they should have stopped firing once he was subdued. A total of 25 bullets were fired. Clearly, officers need more extensive training. Police shootings are “extremely rare” in Sweden, with an average of one person killed a year for the past 20 years—a far cry from the hundreds fatally shot each year by cops in the U.S. But even one is too many. We entrust our police with deadly force, and they must take that responsibility deadly seriously.