University of Chicago student wounded by cops after vandalism spree and attack on police; students blame the cops

April 8, 2018 • 9:45 am

To me this story exemplifies the tendency of today’s Leftist college students to think from gut rather than the brain, and to react to a “social justice” incident precipitously and in an accusatory manner—without knowing the facts. Sadly, the story took place at my University.

Last Tuesday, the University of Chicago police (who are armed and deputized to act like Chicago city police) were called to an alley not too far from me, responding to a report that a man wielding an iron bar was breaking doors and car windows.  The police arrived up on the scene to find someone wearing a helmet and visor, acting like a maniac, and damaging property. (When the person was later charged, the estimate was that he’d done $300,000 worth of damage, which seems high.) The accused vandal and police assailant turned out to be a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago, Charles Thomas. The cops of course did not know he was a student.

When the cops told Thomas to drop the bar, he went gonzo and then walked toward them, brandishing the bar. As the student newspaper Chicago Maroon reports in the paper edition (this isn’t in any online report I can find):

Bodycam and dashboard footage released by the University shows officers confronting Thomas.  As he walks toward them, an officer can be heard shouting, “Put down the weapon!” while Thomas shouts “What the fuck do you want?” and “Fuck you.” About a minute after the officers arrived on the scene, Thomas begins running rapidly toward the individual wearing the body camera, who commanded Thomas again to drop the weapon, and then fired a single shot into his shoulder.”

Here’s that video. As you can see, Thomas was wounded (I think they aimed for the shoulder to get him to drop the weapon), but he was still screaming “Fuck you!” and “Fuck you all!” as he lay wounded on the ground.

Here’s a video from the police car dashcam:

Taken into custody and sent to Northwestern Hospital, where he’s recovering, Thomas has been charged with three felonies: two counts for criminal property damage and one for aggravated assault of a police officer. The indictment also includes two misdemeanors involving criminal damage to property.  His bond has been set at $15,000, with the judge ordering that Thomas be kept at home with “electronic monitoring”. (This is from the paper version of the Maroon, whose articles aren’t all online.) The judge said she gave Thomas a break because he had a clean record.

The response has been surprising to me (well, maybe not that surprising): the students are saying the police shooting was unnecessary, that the cops should be disarmed; that this was clearly a psychotic episode or some symptom of mental illness that should have been treated by the University and, accordingly, by the cops on the scene; that this demonstrates the racism of the University police (Thomas is reportedly half black and half Japanese), and even that the University should pay reparations to Thomas! They also demonstrated at a University event. Here’s a video of that below. The protest was in favor of unionization of graduate students, but turned into a demonstration against the shooting incident:

When the group arrived at I-House, the activists gathered around the steps on South Dorchester Avenue, around the corner from the building’s main entrance. As more and more people joined the protest, speakers repeatedly called on activists to “Make some noise,” eliciting cheers from the crowd directed toward the I-House windows.

Meanwhile, inside the I-House Assembly Hall, moderator and Institute of Politics (IOP) Director David Axelrod opened the forum by asking Zimmer and Boyer for an update on Tuesday’s shooting, which he said he believed to be the first incident of its kind in recent memory.

“I don’t know if there’s anything that new to say. This is a tragic incident for all those involved. We were very focused on getting what information that we did have out as quickly as possible in terms of making the videos that we did have available…and there’s a mandatory investigation on the use of firearms from our police,” Zimmer said.

Axelrod also asked Zimmer how he felt about the University’s response to the shooting, Zimmer again emphasized the UCPD firearms investigation. Boyer added that spring quarter can be a high pressure time for undergraduates as they try to find summer internships and organize their coursework.

Chants began outside the western window of the Assembly Hall about five minutes after the start of the event, making it difficult for attendees to hear the speakers. GSU organizers said they were shouting, “Bargain now,” though some chants sounded like “Fire him now” from inside.

The reaction of the students and protestors was instantaneous and, to my mind, not well thought out. Here are the questions:

1.) Was Thomas dealt with properly? As far as I can see, the police acted properly in this incident (this is just my judgment from the videos and reports). They asked Thomas to drop his weapon several times, and he refused. He then charged the cop brandishing his iron bar. What was the cop to do? Take the blow—or use judo? He couldn’t have used a Taser, as University cops don’t carry them (maybe they should). Everyone knows that if a cop is pointing a gun at you and asks you to drop your weapon or do something, you do it.

Further, the cops shot not to kill, but to disable him: a shoulder shot was probably designed to make Thomas drop the weapon. He is now out of intensive care. I’m sure the cops could have shot him in the torso, which is where you’re supposed to aim to fully take someone down, but they didn’t. [JAC: See my note in the comments; even if they did shoot to take him down, Thomas could have killed the cop with a single blow of that iron bar.]

Now, is there anything else they could have done to stop him? Perhaps a Taser would have worked had the cops had one, but I’m not sure whether they can be deployed when someone decides to charge you at such short range. At any rate rate, that question is academic. Could they have tackled him from behind? I don’t know; I don’t think that’s the usual procedure when someone has a metal bar that could do serious damage. I will await reports on normal police procedure, but for now it seems that a shoulder shot was the proper and most humane response to somebody acting psychotic and trying to attack you.

2.) Was Thomas mentally ill?  A lot of the student response to the shooting centers on the claim that Thomas was clearly mentally ill or had some sort of psychotic break, and you must treat people differently when they are mentally ill. Yes, you should do that after the suspect is neutralized, but not necessarily when he’s doing what Thomas did. In fact, we have no idea whether Thomas was mentally ill. The Maroon reports that Thomas’s mother cites a family history of bipolar disorder, but also that he himself had shown no symptoms of it:

Kathleen Thomas said she has never seen anything like the behavior her son Charles Thomas, a fourth-year in the College, displayed Tuesday night, but there is a history of bipolar disorder in their family.

“That was not the Charles I know. All through him growing up and his teenage years, I’ve only seen him get slightly angry a couple times,” she said. “He never had to go to the principal’s office ever, never had any run-ins with the law.”

She had not previously seen any signs of bipolar disorder from Thomas; she said that she has been paying close attention because it can start manifesting around this age.

Now she’s wondering if it may explain his behavior Tuesday night.

She suspects that stress because of B.A. thesis deadlines may have been a factor contributing to his mental health episode.

“He’s always put a lot of pressure on himself to be successful.”

She said Thomas has been working hard to finish a thesis for his political science major, and he probably has not been sleeping much.

But something must have made him snap, she said.

Much has been made of the cop saying, in the first video, that the guy was “mental” (they of course didn’t know he was a student). But that isn’t an on-the-spot diagnosis of mental illness; it refers to the fact that Thomas was in a frenzy.  All of us have heard the word “mental” used to refer to someone acting crazy, but not necessarily afflicted with a mental illness. Given that Thomas had no history of this behavior, I think it’s at least as likely that he either snapped, as his mother said, or that he was on some kind of drug that made him act erratically.

There is, however, one statement by a friend of Thomas’s, reported in the Maroon:

A friend of Thomas told protesters at a UChicago United protest on Friday that Thomas sought help from the University’s mental health services and was “referred off campus.”

The University of course cannot confirm this, as health issues are confidential. But the article adds, and this is indeed the case:

The Student Counseling Service (SCS) website suggests that, for counseling needs beyond “immediate needs,” students are referred to an independent counseling provider.

“If any student requires more support, they will be referred to counseling outside of SCS,” the website reads. It’s not clear if Thomas ever received outside treatment.

It’s also not clear whether, even if he sought mental health service, that it was for some kind of bipolar disorder as opposed to the many other issues for which students seek counseling.

In this respect, the Maroon‘s front page paper story on this episode, composed by five reporters, was irresponsible, for the headlines were these:

UCPD Shoots Fourth-Year Charles Thomas (sub-headline; Protests continue Friday after UCPD shot a student who was having a manic episode. He ran toward the cops with a metal rod.

But it’s unclear if he was having a manic episode unless “manic” is meant in the sense of “frenzied”. The usual meaning of “manic,” however, and one followed in the story, is that he was in one phase of bipolar disorder. In the Maroon‘s paper issue on the report, a postdoctoral fellow, Guy Emerson Mount, who teaches one of Thomas’s classes, says “. . . obviously he had a mental health episode as everyone can see on the film. . “. But that’s not obvious to me. It is just as “obvious” that he was on some drug.  Only further diagnosis or blood tests can distinguish between these hypotheses.

3.) Did the cops shoot Thomas because he was a person of color? There is no evidence for this. For one thing, we don’t know the race of the shooting cop; many of the U of C police are African American. More important, Thomas was wearing a visor, and you simply can’t discern his race in the video. Have a look at the bodycam; my guess would have been that Thomas is white. The claim that this shooting was motivated by racism holds no water.


Now, what about the student and faculty reaction? It was unseemly, accusatory, and unreflective. The three accusations above, for instance, are not supportable with the evidence at hand. Nevertheless, a consortium called UChicago United (which has beefed before about the University’s declaration that it would discipline students who disrupted University events, issued another series of demands. Here’s the organization’s description from the Maroon’s op-ed by the group:

UChicago United is a coalition of multicultural student organizations, including Organization of Black Students (OBS), PanAsia, MEChA, Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), and African Caribbean Students Association (UChicago). UC United was formed to make the University of Chicago campus more inclusive for students of marginalized backgrounds and identities.

  • We demand the University disarm the UCPD and reduce the jurisdiction of the Department’s patrol.
  • We demand community control over UCPD. This shall include an all-elected Independent Review Committee with decision-making powers. No more Board of Trustees control of UCPD!
  • We demand UCPD compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. We demand University support legislation that would hold the UCPD accountable to the Freedom of Information Act.
  • We demand UChicago fully fund mental health services, including responders trained in trauma-informed crisis intervention. In addition, the University policy on involuntary leaves of absence must cease immediately. Deterring students from seeking out on-campus mental health services is harmful and not effective.
  • We demand community safety for all, from community members to students on the South Side of Chicago.

The full statement of this group (and others), as well as the list of demands, which goes beyond the following, is here.

This is a kneejerk and gut response. I have no idea about the Freedom of Information Act, but I doubt that the students would want the police disarmed if they themselves were attacked by someone with a gun or metal bar while the police had to stand by unarmed. While I’m against private ownership of guns except, perhaps, for target shooting, I’m not against police having guns, although their need for guns would be less if, as in the UK, private gun ownership was severely restricted. And how can you demand “community safety” for all when our University is on the South Side of Chicago, a place notorious for gun violence? (There were 12 shootings just between March 30 and April 1.) As for mental health services, as far as I know the University has made huge strides in assuring they’re available to students, including a 24/7 crisis manager for mental health problems and good psychiatric care. I’m sure there’s room for improvement, but remember that the demand above is in response to an unproven claim that Thomas’s frenzy was due to mental illness, and also that he wasn’t adequately treated by the University for it. There is no evidence for either of those claims.

Guy Emerson Mount, who has been focused on reparations he says are due to blacks from the University of Chicago, also calls for reparations to Thomas for being shot. As the paper edition of the Maroon reports:

Postdoctoral fellow Guy Emerson Mount, a former grad student organizer, spoke about his student, demanding reparations in wake of the shooting.

“On Tuesday of last week, he was in class. On Tuesday of this week, he was shot by the campus police at the University of Chicago,” Mount said. “Charles was shot under a system of punitive justice which says that if you break a law of the state, yo must be punished for it. Restorative justice says we must help people who have been harmed and must bring together people who are responsible for harm that has happened. In this case, the University of Chicago has harmed Charles. The University of Chicago needs to make reparations to Charles and his family for the harm they have caused.”

That’s truly bizarre. No punishment? In this case, Thomas was shot because he was threatening police; he would not have been shot had he dropped his iron bar. And “punishment” is necessary for good reasons: keep dangerous people out of society, deter others from committing similar acts, and so on. If Thomas is truly mentally ill, the proper response would be treatment, not incarceration. But he’s still responsible for paying for the damage he caused. Perhaps the “reparations” that, according to Mount, should go to Thomas, should then be given to those whose property he damaged!

Finally, three faculty members and a postdoctoral scholar from departments of social services (the usual locus of such reactions) wrote an op-ed in the Maroon whose thesis is largely that Thomas was mentally ill and that “police are inadequate and inappropriate first responders in the case of mental health crises.” (They cite another example of someone who was mentally ill being shot by Chicago police last month). The writers first express sorrow for the incident, but it’s directed solely to Thomas, whose shooting, they aver, was clearly the University’s fault:

To this student and to all those who love them, we send this unequivocal message: We are deeply sorry for what happened. We wish you the easiest possible recovery and we are terribly dismayed that the University so badly failed to create a safe environment for you at a time of vulnerability. We cannot imagine the level of trauma this must have caused to you and your loved ones. We send you a message of care and support during what we know will be an ongoing period of recovery.

And then, asserting—again without evidence—that this was a mental health crisis inappropriately dealt with by the University, they have the temerity to say this (my emphasis):

As we write, many factual details regarding this incident remain unclear. As more details emerge, many in the observing public may focus on adjudicating the facts of the case and whether the shooting was justified. As tends to be the case in police shooting incidents, there will be divergent interpretations of police accounts and body camera footage. We argue that many of these details—whether the student charged the officer, whether the officers ordered him to drop the pipe he was holding—are in fact irrelevant to the undisputed facts and the crucial concerns they raise for our community. Three officers approached a civilian who was not armed with a deadly weapon, and they fired a gun at him, endangering his life.

This level of logic is unworthy of University faculty and scholars. They note in bold that the shooting may have been justified, but then the rest of the letter, including the last sentence, clearly say that the shooting was not justified. And if a brandished iron bar isn’t a “deadly weapon,” then we’re truly in fantasyland.

At this point, the proper response is to wait for more facts before we figure out whether any blame falls on the University or the police. For, as the data at hand show, there is no evidence that the police acted improperly, were racist, knew that Thomas was mentally ill (and we still don’t know that), or that the University is somehow deficient in mental health care.  I am surprised by the immediate, kneejerk, and accusatory response of the students and some of the faculty, as well as by the accusations of police racism, but of course that’s what we can expect these days.

101 thoughts on “University of Chicago student wounded by cops after vandalism spree and attack on police; students blame the cops

    1. Agreed.

      Judging by the soundtrack after he was shot, they certainly didn’t damage his lungs.


  1. I think the cops behaved well under the circumstances. Sure, perhaps a baton or taser would be better but then that is a lessons learned and they can be equipped as such. But considering the person was armed and charging the cop, I think shooting in the shoulder was reasonable. I can see protesting if he had a full clip unloaded in his chest but he didn’t.

    1. Agreed, but I really wish a taser could have been used. In many of situations the young man would have been shot multiple times, as is well known.

  2. Yes, disarm the UPCD, then if someone is harmed by the next violent attack, sue them for not stopping the perpetrator. And if the victim has the right identity, call it racism or sexism, without bothering to check the facts.

    We demand protection, but we demand that that all apprehensions be nice and non-violent, whatever the perpetrator does.

    Glen Davidson

    1. I’d be all for disarming the UPCD and other police forces, *after* you have gun control and handguns are banned for a long enough period to get 99.9% of them out of circulation…


    1. While I don’t disagree with your general concern about some police departments in the U.S., from the details currently available it looks like this officer behaved appropriately. If anything, he was restrained while facing a potentially deadly threat.

      1. I’d agree with that. There are plenty of instances of other cops acting like thugs, (of course you can’t just lump all cops together), but in this instance, viewing the video, I can see absolutely no fault on the part of the police. They gave the guy more than enough warning, the cop was backing away the whole time, and his one shot was accurate – very restrained response IMO.


  3. I don’t really know what Hyde Park is like these days, but back when I was in school, no one but the most hide-bound ideologue would have argued that UC Police shouldn’t be armed. It just wasn’t a safe neighborhood. I think it’s unfortunate that the kid was shot, I would have liked the cops to try to disarm him without shooting him, but their actions seem to lie within the spectrum of acceptable use of force by police. Watching the video it’s clear that the police showed restraint, gave a lot of ground before Thomas, and that he had plenty of room to not get shot.

  4. “Further, the cops shot not to kill, but to disable him: a shoulder shot was probably designed to make Thomas drop the weapon. He is now out of intensive care. I’m sure the cops could have shot him in the torso, which is where you’re supposed to aim to fully take someone down, but they didn’t.”

    With all due respect to PCC(E), I doubt this is the case. Police officers are trained to respond to a potentially fatal threat by stopping it. In situations like this, they do not have the time to play sharpshooter. The usual procedure is to fire two shots to the center of mass then continue to fire if the threat isn’t stopped. The assailant in this case is fortunate to have encountered an officer who fired only once.

    The majority of police officers are only able to hit a 4 to 8 inch circle at 7 yards — and that’s a stationary target ( In a stressful situation, the measured accuracy is that only approximately one in three shots hit the target at all. My strong suspicion is that the assailant just got very lucky.

    1. I’m willing to admit that you might be right, and the kid was just lucky. I’ll wait to see what the cops say. But even if he had been killed, so far I don’t think the cops behaved inappropriately. The kid with the iron bar could have killed the cop with a single blow to the head.

      1. Exactly. That’s why I’m stunned by this comment from the protestors: “Three officers approached a civilian who was not armed with a deadly weapon, and they fired a gun at him, endangering his life.”

        I am curious if the person who wrote that would feel the same about a crowbar aimed at them.

        1. Sure, but it does make me wish that there was a way for the officers to disarm the guy without putting his life in danger. I know that there are alternative means such as tasers and that they aren’t always effective but why not try the “not 100% effective methods” first and only use the gun when all else has failed. In short, avoid threats to civilians’ lives never seems a high enough priority. This is not to justify the students’ and admins’ rhetoric which was not constructive to say the least.

          1. A reader wrote me that tasers have to be attached to skin to work, and that the student was completely covered. If the cop tried to tase him and failed, that would be the end of the cop.

            I’m not sure what other methods there could be save incapacitating bullets that wouldn’t kill (rubber bullets?). Whatever you do it has to work the first time and stop the perpetrator cold.

            1. That’s true but only if one assumes that the cops assume no risk in a situation like this. BTW, I have heard of other non-deadly mechanisms besides tasers. I seem to remember some kind of gun that shoots a net over the person. Sounds a bit silly too, I’ll admit.

              1. Of course, police officers do assume risk in taking the job. Someone deciding to rush a police officer while wielding a deadly weapon after being told multiple times to stop also assumes risk, and it’s entirely appropriate at that point for a police officer to mitigate his own risk of dying by using necessary force.

              2. You may be inventing a lot of things that simply do not apply. The police do not patrol with large amounts of alternative technology to pull out of a bag at a moments notice. Totally unrealistic. If you show up at a gun fight with a knife you are probably dead. Police must concentrate on using their weapons and to be trained well in using them properly. Notice this policemen shot one time and did the job. He did not empty his weapon and risk injuring who knows what in the middle of Chicago.

            2. A punch in the face is usually pretty effective. A cop did this to a woman that went to whack him with something and knocked her on her ass.

              1. A punch to the face of a man with adrenaline coursing through his veins and wielding a deadly weapon has a very low likelihood of success. I mean, look at a boxing or MMA fight. Throwing a punch to the face, which isn’t even likely to connect well in the first place, is probably the worst way to try and stop a situation like this, aside from maybe just getting in a fetal position and begging the assailant to stop 😛

              2. I didn’t say it would be easy. I didn’t say it would be a knock out punch but I think cops really need better training in using something like Krav Maga. There are police forces around the world who use it. It isn’t always about avoiding all unpleasantness for the cop but what is the best solution all around. Krav teaches you to keep attaching until your opponent is no longer a threat. That is a possibility here. The fact that the guy had a weapon probably made the cop feel that the gun was the best choice but there are choices.

              3. I’m sorry, but it’s just not a realistic choice. Each cop would have to be good at it and, more importantly, know they’re better at it than their assailant. They would have to pick and choose who to use it on: is this guy to big? Does this woman do BJJ training? Most cops don’t and never will have the stamina nor composure to attack properly and continue until the threat is over. What if the person has a concealed weapon?

                Getting into close-quarters combat is just about the most dangerous thing an officer could possibly do with someone posing a credible threat. The idea is to stop them before the assailant ever gets close enough to kill you.

              4. Actually every5ing you just listed as not realistic is exactly what Krav teaches you. It isn’t about having a long think when facing a situation. You are trained to recognize the situation, anticipate, react and neutralize. It’s actually why many police forces are trained in Krav. I know there are campus police at my campus trained in krav. They took it on their own because they recognized the benefit. Many police forces now have programs in place.

              5. You also have to remember that this person was wearing a helmet with a face shield. This would tend to significantly cut down on the effectiveness of a punch in the face.

              6. “this person was wearing a helmet with a face shield”

                Huh? Are you talking about the cops in the video? I don’t see any helmets.

              7. @GB. From the OP second paragraph.

                The police arrived up on the scene to find someone wearing a helmet and visor, acting like a maniac, and damaging property.[emphasis added]

                You can also see in the bodycam footage that the young man who got shot is wearing a helmet and faceshield. It’s not super obvious, I guess, but you can see the light reflecting off of it several times as they both (the subject and the officer) move down the alley.

                As the officer wearing the bodycam approaches after the subject was on the ground you can see it sitting on the ground near the middle of the alleyway as well.

              8. Twenty years ago or so, my family got me to a hospital admittance for another manic episode, but I had decided I didn’t want to be there and was going to leave. I was easily able to fight off hospital staff three uniformed security officers for a respectable amount of time before I was subdued. I also had martial arts training- Jujitsu- which gave me an advantage at avoiding grabs and getting out of them. (They didn’t want to hurt me and I didn’t want to hurt them, but I was up for the challenge.)

                I was a 110lbs and 5’2″ woman in my forties at the time. Similar event years later with two local police. One of them clearly did have training in takedowns, and I couldn’t help but admire his technique.)

                Which is only to say police never know who they might be dealing with or if they are high on drugs, adrenaline, faking an injury, whatever.

              9. Agreed t und i she at it would be easy. You could easily have had a clip emptied in your chest because it is easier and safer to do so. That is the decision a cop has to make and live with.

              10. Should read “and I didn’t say it would be easy or risk free”. Damn hands swelling with an approaching migraine.

            3. According to Wikipedia, tasers can penetrate ordinary clothing, and the latest models are designed to get through thick clothes.

              The article also says that the name comes from the initial letters of Thomas A Swift’s Electric Rifle, based on a book published in 1911. I did not know that!

            4. I agree with you regarding the cop that was charged. He didn’t have much choice. But I also saw three or so other cops in close proximity to and even behind the guy. I think they could and should have jointly tackled him. I understand that they probably didn’t want to get close to someone with a weapon, but three cops simultaneously grabbing him from behind should have an acceptably low risk, especially if the police are trained in hand-to-hand combat, which they usually are.

              1. Those kinds of split-second decisions which require communication between multiple individuals just aren’t realistic. You can’t train dozens of people to have wildly varying reactions depending on specific combinations of variables, and to then decide on which reaction to use in a millisecond. You need to use one uniform standard, and it has to be the one that makes it safest for the officer assuming that the assailant is posing a credible threat.

              2. Cops certainly can be trained to work together to take down dangerous assailants without shooting them. (Unarmed) UK cops are, for instance. And it wasn’t split-second, since the guy spent quite some time walking down the alley screaming.

                I agree that the shooter had little choice given his colleagues’ lack of action. It’s possible they had just arrived, but that would point to an error in confronting an armed person without backup at a time when he wasn’t posing an imminent threat to life.

                I think cops here are simply trained not to close with dangerous individuals and to shoot if they don’t comply, disarm, and lie down. But that’s not the only way, as European police forces show.

          2. There are so many variables and ‘if only’ scenarios. The cops were called in because it was reported as a situation that called for police. Mental health professionals would not be armed, but what could they do with a violent person with a pipe coming at them? The situation was unrolling fast and there was no time but to react. The police did what they could to not use lethal force, I think, while also securing their own safety.

        2. On TV shows and in films people are often hit on the head with things like crowbars and often with no lasting harm. It Must Be True.

          Anyway, I agree with you about the shooting. The guy is lucky to be alive. In real life crowbars kill and police officers do not shoot to wound.

    2. Perhaps the officer did try to shoot him in the torso, but when someone comes charging at you flailing a weapon, you do the best you can to take someone down without killing them. I think this officer did just that. It’s hard to aim accurately at a moving target. And I would have reacted the same as this officer…I would have fired a non-lethal shot. If this officer had not been armed, HE would have been the one taken to the ICU if not worse.

    3. I’d agree with that. The guy may have been just lucky to be hit where he was.

      On the other hand, whether we credit the policeman with accuracy or not, there’s the point that he did only fire one shot – which, IMO, is showing commendable restraint in the circumstances.


    4. Agreed. I’ve had to carry and fire firearms before, and accuracy is pretty low when you’re in a low stress environment like the firing range (unless you count trying to get certification as part of your job ‘high stress’).

      The targets don’t have arms or legs to aim at, they’re just an upper body silhouette. If you want a high probability of actually hitting your target, you’re not going to aim for low surface area extremities. You’re going to aim for center mass. The student in this altercation just got lucky.

  5. As someone who, due to unforeseen circumstances found himself opening the door to a full armed swat team (I was babysitting for someone who turned out to be fooling around with an underage girl; they were after him, I knew nothing) the simple fact of the matter is when a cop or anyone, really, tells you do to something…DO IT. If you refuse, or worse, attack, then you get what you deserve. My action when confronted with this nightmare scenario, which was when I opened the door because I heard something and thought it was the person I was working for, was to drop my phone, turn, and fall straight to the floor and not to move or talk unless told to. I survived. Why? Because I’m not black? Nope, because I didnt argue, fight, run, reach into my pocket or jacket. It’s really quite simple. A person with a gun is in no mood to argue and you won’t win the argument anyway.

    1. Jesus, what a trigger-happy culture you live in. Land of the free? Really?

      My response if opening the door and seeing an armed mob of the law would be “What the hell is going on”. I wouldn’t find it necessary to immediately grovel on the floor and surrender all my civil rights for fear of being beaten up or shot.

      But then, I live in New Zealand, not USA.


  6. A terrible response. What is making people act this way? Lack of respect for the police is one major cause and is justified in many cases. Still, this is no excuse not to examine every incident independently and fairly. It is hard not to be embarrassed for the Left and worried about how such incidents will be used by the Right.

  7. I think it obvious why the protest is out on this; they have their very own Saheed Vaselli. They wanted outrage and settled for this.

    If that officer really did aim for his shoulder he needs to be retrained; if you are in a situation where deadly force is required you shoot to kill. Aiming to wound will often result in you or other innocents dying.

  8. “We argue that many of these details—whether the student charged the officer, whether the officers ordered him to drop the pipe he was holding—ARE IN FACT IRRELEVANT to the undisputed facts and the crucial concerns they raise for our community.” UC faculty saying that facts are irrelevant? Yikes! Not having read the whole op-ed, did they mention the possibly irrelevant fact that the guy was caught in the act of violently destroying other people’s property? PCC(E), you are justly proud of UC’s stated values, but with faculty like these, it’s on the way to becoming a Social Justice U. Sigh, condolences.

  9. As one who has had weapons and use of force training, that round wasn’t aimed to disable, it was happy luck. Most law enforcement officers, on the street, are trained to kill if a firearm is used; there is no such thing as “attempting to wound to disable.”

    I detest the use of deadly force, except to defend one’s or loved one’s life in immediate extremis. Unfortunately, training now dictates that firearms are unholstered regularly and for confused reasons. I would like less “bad” shootings by police, of course. But to reach that change, we must find the political will to change policing as a whole. Good luck with that.

    The need of immediate knee jerk responses of the public to castigate police in violent outcomes needs to join the need for police to defend indefensible actions of officers acting widely, or even minimally, outside the parameters of policy and humanity on the trash heap of bad ideas.

    I’m glad he wasn’t killed but I know that this result was blind luck.

    1. Totally agree. The only fix to avoid incidents like this one is to change the rules of engagement. I don’t hear much talk about that and, like you, doubt it will happen any time soon.

        1. We don’t allow crowbars at our dinner table! But seriously, I assume by “start at the dinner table” you mean it needs to start with public opinion which, of course, is what PCC(E)’s post is all about.

      1. What sorts of changes to the rules of engagement do you have in mind?

        I don’t think most people enjoying their cozy, safe worlds fully appreciate the pressure cops are under, when they must in a split-second make a decision that, if wrong, can cost them their own life. Which is why the unofficial rule of engagement is ‘better to be judged by twelve, than carried by six.’

        1. Unofficial rules are for schmucks, cowboys, pirates, and any other person that acts as a rogue. A professional acts by a code, policies, and a deeply-held underpinning of basic decency.

          Unofficial rules are for animals, not civilized humans.

  10. In the video, I noted that the officer who fired began by retreating, trying to maintain distance between himself and the man with the rod, until the latter accelerated his approach. I was reminded of the repeal, in many states, of the “duty to retreat”, a legal doctrine that states that a person should seek to retreat from or avoid an attacker, and use force only as a last resort. (The alternative doctrine, “stand your ground”, has led to many killings of civilians by civilians.) It seems proper procedure for police to avoid physical confrontation when, as in this case, the suspect’s weapon can only be used at very close range, as opposed to “shoot first”, ask questions later.

    With regard to the shot hitting the suspect’s shoulder, I doubt very much that this was a precisely aimed shot. Police are just not that trained as marksmen (nor are most military). In the recent case of the man killed in his backyard by police in California, he was hit by only 8 of 20 shots fired, even though one of the first shots took him to the ground, and he lay there as the remaining shots were fired.

    And, finally, although I’ve not been visiting the University of Chicago neighborhood at night much lately, when I did, I always felt safe there. U of C friends assured me that the crime rate was low and minor within the “perimeter” patrolled by the UCPD, and I used to see, and appreciate, UCPD patrol cars when walking there late at night.

  11. “We demand UChicago fully fund mental health services, including responders trained in trauma-informed crisis intervention.”

    Answer begging the question – there’s no reason to presume that the uni’s MH services are under-funded.

    Further, expecting ‘crisis intervention responders’ to rush out to deal with a vandalism 911 is sheer lunacy.

    Finally, who the hell do all these self-created ‘coalitions’ think they are, that they get to demand? The coddling of these temper-tantrum-throwing brats has to stop now.

  12. Eric ‘Bicycle Lock’ Clanton was another advocate for ‘restorative justice.’

    It’s just another cloud-castle delusion along with abolishing the police, reparations, and direct democracy popular among the extreme leftist anarchist whackos who we also saw completely bollox Occupy. That so many college students’ minds have been polluted with with such unrealistic stupidity, is very discouraging.

    1. Yes, thanks for mentioning Occupy. They lost me when they announced they didn’t have specific requests for change. Might as well announce to the world they were just having a tantrum and to just move along.

          1. HOLY SHIT. I thought that was a joke at first. Like, I knew the hand signals were a thing, but I thought the video was mocking the fact that these people think they’re rough, tough, fighting revolutionaries. That video is entirely serious! Doing silly “twinkles” while Anarchy in the UK plays and they use visuals that scream “LOOK AT HOW EDGY WE ARE.”

            That’s bonkers. I’m saving this as my number one example of the folly of youth and silly people in general.

          2. Oh, and I love that they chose that song for a video where the laboriously explain the complex set of rules and hand gestures required to participate at their meetings.
            Raawwr! Anarachy!!!

      1. I still giggle when I think back to the videos of their meetings, where they can’t even decide what they’re meeting about or who gets to speak when. It was like a Monty Python skit.

  13. The immediate protesters are a perfect example of the motto – Ready, Fire, Aim

    Why not wait for facts to actually be established before going off like this. College level people? Sure does not look like it. And how is it that no nothing civilians are the ones who always jump out of the woodwork to condemn something they know nothing about?

    I say the police did exactly what they are trained to do and accomplished it well. Had this guy hit some other student in the head with this pipe they would be screaming what happened to the cops who are suppose to be protecting us. The student reactions to this event are reprehensible.

  14. Questions:

    1. Doesn’t the University of Chicago have the second largest, public or private, police force in Illinois? Due largely to the fact that the area in which it is in is among a handful or 2 of the most crime ridden/murder prone areas in any first world country?

    2. I do wonder the degree to which the calls to disarm the police isn’t a function of how well UC’s police department protects its students.

    3. Looking at the video, I thought it was a white student. And how would anyone know that he was supposedly having a mental breakdown?

  15. Eric Zorn, a liberal columnist at the Chicago Tribune, has posted a long analysis of the incident. He squarely comes down on the position that the actions of the U of C police were justifiable. He concludes: “What’s outrageous is a knee-jerk response to all police shootings that ends up blunting the message and confusing the issue when police do cross the line.”

    1. Eric Zorn’s column on this is spot on, carefully analyzed. One point he makes is that while many are demanding that the UCPD should have used a taser, that police use of tasers are in fact a big national issue. He also reports that UCPD is not armed with tasers.

  16. I don’t recall visiting any college where the campus police carried guns. I could be wrong about Fordham which is in the Bronx. The police handled this as best they could from what I could see in the videos. Maybe a good thing for campus safety and police officers to carry instead of tasers is tranquilizer guns. I believe they can penetrate clothing and would be just enough to take someone down and into custody.

    1. So what happens if the guy they send you to get has a gun? Which by the way, is the case most of the time. You want to be the cop carrying a Tranquilizer gun in Chicago at night. I think you have a short career.

          1. I am only suggesting reality. Where do we get this idea that the police have some kind of tranquilizer gun that can be used at distance instead of the gun they are already carrying. Attempting to determine what a guy is carrying is hard enough in the dark, let alone if he is going to shoot. Let us just nail him with this tranquilizer at 40 paces and see what happens.

            1. Scientists have been working on solutions to this problem for years so we shouldn’t give up hope. Eventually we may find a technology that disables a person instantly but leaves no (or little) permanent damage. Phasers on stun, perhaps?

              1. Yes! Works for me.

                I am still amazed by how many commenters here are satisfied with a “justified shoot” conclusion and look no further. They seem to have have a little interest in non-lethal methods but, since the shooting was justified in this instance by the current rules of engagement, why bother looking further? End of story!

                While we don’t know that the bar-wielder was mentally ill, we also don’t know that he wasn’t. There are other possibilities. Perhaps he was under the influence of some bad combination of meds, prescribed by a doctor or not. Does that guy deserve to die for what might be some mistake, possibly not even his own? I respectfully submit that there should be a stronger urge to preserve human life.

              2. Put another way, do the police have the authority to execute citizens? It seems they do not and we have due process. Yes, citizens may be killed in protecting themselves or others but it’s a fine line.

              3. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone here say that we shouldn’t be trying to find safer methods of protection, paul. It’s just that, considering what we have now, what the officers did was justified. Whether or not the assailant was mentally ill or on drugs or whatever else really has no relevance, as he was given ample time and warning and attacked with a lethal weapon.

                Of course, we should be trying to find safer, better alternatives to shooting a suspect who is threatening with deadly force. I hope we can make phasers that can be set to stun, if only because it will bring me one step close to living in TNG-world.

    2. Here in Iowa City the University of Iowa police are sworn officers just like the city police and sheriff’s deputies. They have the same training and carry the same weapons — they even have a bomb squad, a SWAT team, and canine officers. As they should — they are responsible for a community of 40,000 to 50,000 people and an area of many square miles.

      As for issuing tranquilizer darts… Um, no.

  17. We demand community safety for all, from community members to students on the South Side of Chicago.

    Community safety is a worthy goal, but I don’t know how you make it a specific demand. Why don’t they just demand that everyone live happily ever after?

  18. One thing you didn’t mention that I think is REALLY important: In the video, you can see the officer backing away. This is HUGE. Far too many officers have been trained that backing away shows “weakness”. But especially when dealing with someone unstable, backing away and assessing the situation can frequently defuse things.

    The officer didn’t discharge his weapon until the perpetrator charged him with a weapon. That’s the correct point to fire. From what I can see, the officer was completely correct, and this is a big win for bodycams, imho. Without the cam, we couldn’t see what actually happened.

    1. Having watched the video I’m at a loss at how any reasonable person could have come to a different conclusion.

      I mean, running towards an armed cop swearing and wielding a crow bar???

      It’s hard to think of a more justified instance of a cop shooting. (And I in no way like ANYONE being shot, by cops or otherwise).

  19. As part of a “citizen’s police academy” course I had a go at a police firearms training simulator. It’s a room set up with a video projector, which shows a scenario that can be controlled by a training officer. I was given a real pistol that had been modified to shoot a blast of compressed air (to simulate recoil), and the system could keep track of where I aimed on the projection screen.

    The scenario was almost exactly like this one: in dark alley at night, some maniac was coming at me with a weapon (in the moment I thought it was a metal bar but was later told it was a machete). The only difference was he was holding a baby as a shield. He rapidly came towards me swinging the weapon despite my commands to stop and drop it. But I noticed that as he swung the weapon, the baby would periodically leave his body exposed, so I timed my shot and put a simulated bullet right between his eyes. I had developed a reputation as a bit of a skeptical smartass among the instructors but all agreed I had handled the simulation remarkably well.

    Police are trained to aim at center mass and keep firing until the threat is eliminated, so I would agree with other commenters here that in this case, the police officer exercised remarkable professionalism and restraint and the perp is lucky to be alive.

  20. The protest demonstration illustrates the current pop-Left attitude that the police are always wrong whatever they do. Sometimes, this mentality goes so far as to explicitly propose abolishing the police altogether, as I recall an article in The Nation did a few years ago.

    As for the the idea of disarmed, perfectly harmless police, this experiment has been carried out 8 years ago. “SEATTLE (CBS/AP). Surveillance cameras captured the brutal beating of a 15-year-old girl in a downtown Seattle bus tunnel while three security guards watched without ever intervening.
    The guards’ actions during the Jan. 28 brutal attack prompted an outcry from Metro Transit and King County authorities, who said they wished the guards had broken up the fight even though they were just following orders not to interfere.”

    Full account at:

    The account is at:

    1. Don’t forget what happened during the firefighter and police strike in Montreal in 1969. All hell broke loose, as Steve Pinker has pointed out. Those loony anarchists like Dan Arel who call for abolishing the police need to address what happens when they suddenly disappear.

      From The Blank Slate, p. 331:

      When law enforcement vanishes, all manner of violence breaks out: looting, settling old scores, ethnic cleansing, and petty warfare among gangs, warlords and mafias. This was obvious in the remnants of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and parts of Africa in the 1990s, but can also happen in countries with a long tradition of civility. As a young teenager in proudly peaceable Canada during the romantic 1960s, I was a true believer in Bakunin’s anarchism. I laughed off my parents’ argument that if the government ever laid down its arms all hell would break loose. Our competing predictions were put to the test at 8:00 A.M. on October 17, 1969, when the Montreal police went on strike. By 11:20 A.M. the first bank was robbed. By noon most downtown stores had closed because of looting. Within a few more hours, taxi drivers burned down the garage of a limousine service that had competed with them for airport customers, a rooftop sniper killed a provincial police officer, rioters broke into several hotels and restaurants, and a doctor slew a burglar in his suburban home. By the end of the day, six banks had been robbed, a hundred shops had been looted, twelve fires had been set, forty carloads of storefront glass had been broken, and three million dollars in property damage had been inflicted, before city authorities had to call in the army and, of course, the Mounties to restore order. This decisive empirical test left my politics in tatters (and offered a foretaste of life as a scientist).

  21. I have actually had to call the police to my residence near a college campus when my housemate, a student, was having a psychotic break and posing a direct and immediate threat to a friend of mine. The student was unarmed so the three or so officers were able to physically subdue him, but if he had been armed they would have been right to do whatever was necessary to protect the many innocent people in the area.

    The UCPD officer in this case took a big chance not aiming for center of mass (if the shoulder shot was intentional), and the student should be thankful to be alive. In fact, that choice may be a violation of policy and best practice. The officer may well deserve more criticism for that than anything else he did. If he had failed to disable the attacker he may have suffered injury or lost his weapon to a person apparently willing to commit violence.

    The trend of thoughtless reaction to events by students is a perfect illustration of the dangers of ideology. When you tie yourself to an ideology you can find yourself dragged in unpredictable and undesirable directions.

  22. I’ve noticed for a long time that students (and people in general) are unwilling to accept that death happens and is sometimes necessary. For example, deer populations will be limited by something. Populations are non-human predators aren’t big enough to do it in much of North America, so deer populations will be limited by starvation, disease, or hunting. No other choice. Hunting leaves the unaffected deer healthiest. Therefore, I strongly support hunting deer, although I don’t hunt and my personal opinion of the average deer hunter (formed as a rural landowner who has dealt with them) is very low.

    Sometimes, police choices to shoot and kill are appropriate. Not always, and we should watch carefully so see, but sometimes.

    1. Around here they get by cars or die of disease in town. Doesn’t make them less dead and isn’t likely less cruel than death by 2 or 4 legged predators.

  23. I think the protesting students and faculty are acting crazy, so I’d agree with them about the need for more efficient mental health care, but their sort of madness will most likely prove resistant to treatment.

    As for Thomas, the incident is his big chance. Regardless of whether he has a mental problem or an addiction problem, he must address it urgently. And I think his colleagues who are screaming that the problem was not his are doing him a disservice. I know many cases when colleagues and even trade unionists are covering up for drinking workers, and not a single case when this helped.

  24. Sorry for only skimming the comments; some of what I’m saying may have already been said by someone else.

    1) The cop almost certainly did not “aim for the shoulder” to disable Thomas. A cop backing away (as this one clearly was) and under threat, would have almost no chance of shooting that precisely with a handgun. It was dumb luck that Thomas was hit in the shoulder, fortunate for all involved (can you imagine the outcry had he been killed?).

    2) A taser would not be the right choice here; a taser is not useful if an officer is facing anyone with a weapon (crowbar, knife, gun, etc) because it requires getting very close to the target, and tasers are notoriously unreliable.

    3) Thomas is very very lucky to be alive. Most cops, when they decide to shoot a gun, will shoot 10-20 times toward the assailant, often resulting in a dead assailant. Warning shots, shots-to-wound, one-at-a-time shots and reassessments… these are unusual from law enforcement and often against the training cops receive. The U of C officer here either got different training, ignored his training, or let his instincts tell him that a single shot was appropriate given the circumstances, but the cop risked his own life showing restraint against an armed assailant who was running at him.

  25. I will not comment on the justification for the shooting or lack thereof.

    However, two things IMO are needed:
    – Better mental health training for police in general; perhaps there could have been something early on in the confrontation that would have succeeded
    – More importantly, however: more research into “disabling” weapons. Tasers, beanbag guns, etc. all have limitations. Nothing is going to be perfect, but the idea is to reduce the margin of error, and not rely on chance to make sure someone gets through the confrontation alive.

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