Sometimes, as in the case of Decker's killing, the reaction is too swift.
Gun incidents that kill or severely injure people, unless circumstances paint the victim in an extremely unpleasant light, are often considered senseless tragedies that could have been prevented in some way. While public expressions of sympathy pour out to the families of victims, gun incidents involving peace officers and children, both of which Minnesota has found itself dealing with in the last month, garner even more attention. Law enforcement agencies are especially quick in their attempts to apprehend suspects in such criminal cases.
Maybe too quick, sometimes. In the case of Cold Spring Police Officer Tom Decker’s ambush killing on Nov. 29, authorities immediately took a suspect, Ryan Larson, into custody, but released him five days later after determining there was no cause to charge him. While details released to the public have been sketchy, it was revealed that Decker and another officer had been dispatched to check on Larson because he was reportedly suicidal, which he has denied.
In the rush to solve the murder, a person's life is now in shambles. Larson, who has not yet been ruled out as a suspect, says his life is ruined because the court of public opinion has already convicted him for the shooting and he's not allowed to return to his home near the crime scene. Although he might have initially appeared to be the guilty party when officers found him lying in bed with a legally-owned firearm, because he was never charged his name should been kept under wraps.
The investigation in this case appears to be severely flawed due to a number of factors, this being one of them. When and if an arrest is made, authorities had best make sure the right person is in custody.
What happens when both the victim and shooter are toddlers who innocently thought they were playing with guns? Who’s to blame there?
The Hennepin County attorney's office in Minneapolis has, after weighing the options, decided to charge Kao Xiong with two felonies – second-degree manslaughter and endangerment of a child – in the accidental shooting death of his 2-year-old by his 4-year-old son, the boy's brother. The criminal complaint says four rifles and four semi-automatic handguns were found in the family's home, some of which were secured in cases, but all accessible within reach of the boys. Xiong said the handgun used was wedged between the mattress and pillows of a bed. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the safety on the gun wasn't working.
How could Freeman even consider prosecuting this father who's grieving over such a horrific loss? Well, he admitted that Xiong has already paid a heavy price, but also maintains, and rightly so, that he broke laws on gun safety and must be held accountable for these. Of course, this father did not intend for such a tragedy to occur, one that will probably haunt his surviving son for the rest of his life. Nor did he illegally possess both his hunting guns or the semi-automatic handgun. Xiong did, however, exhibit a wanton disregard for his children's lives by not clearly thinking through his actions in regard to storing and securing the weapons.
So how could Freeman not consider charging him?