First there was Kelly Thomas, the unarmed homeless man who was allegedly brutally beaten to death by police in Fullerton. Then there was Manuel Angel Diaz, shot in the back and killed by police last summer in Anaheim, prompting riots and clashes with officers lasting at least three days. And now comes Jose de la Trinidad, who according to a recently released coroner's report was shot by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies five times in the back and once each in the right hip and right forearm. He was not armed.
With gun violence down in Southern California, one would hope that police shootings would follow. And yet these incidents persist, and serve as a reminder that when police shoot and kill civilians, law enforcement agencies must react forcefully and publicly in order to demonstrate that officers are properly using the force they're entrusted to employ.
In the incidents cited above, with the exception of the Thomas case, officers may have had good reason to believe that their targets were armed and that they were protecting the lives of citizens, if not fellow officers. But then, that's the trouble, isn't it? In many officer-involved shootings, public trust in investigations relies on police officers to candidly describe the work of colleagues and on investigators to critique the actions of peers. That would inspire more confidence if we didn't know that police occasionally cover for one another and that even official reports of officer-involved shootings have a way of getting redacted before they make their way to the public.