According to Florida Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan in a CNN interview Thursday, the police officers who fired 15 shots at 60-year-old Roy Middleton in the driveway of his and his mother’s home acted entirely within their limits in response to a 911 call for a suspected car theft. For his late-night excursion to grab cigarettes out of his mother’s car, Middleton is now recovering from a bullet wound in his leg, along with bullets piercing his mother’s car and the side of the house.
On Thursday, Morgan defended the officers’ actions as standard procedure because Middleton “did not comply.” Asked by CNN’s Chris Cuomo how police could justify 15 shots at a 60-year-old man, Morgan said the officers saw a metallic object in Middleton’s hand as he made a “lunging movement” toward them. Middleton explained this in his account: He turned around because he thought the entire thing was a practical joke played by a neighbor.
“Right now we are comfortable from a training perspective that our officers did follow standard protocols,” Morgan said. “I believe the standard we use and train to is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case which is a reasonable test.” The officers are on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation.
Although he described the situation as a tragedy, Morgan also noted “This is a common occurrence. We live in a very violent society.” That much is true, particularly for black men stereotyped by police. A study from psychologists at the University of Chicago found that racial bias can lead civilians to make the wrong assumptions in fast-moving simulations, and without proper training, it plays the same role for police. Over the years, dozens of unarmed black men have been shot by law enforcement.