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Could police have used a Taser on 15-year-old instead of a gun?
Police say his teenage son came out of a house in Haymarket holding a crowbar, aggressively approached the officers, and refused all their commands.
Peggy Fox, WUSA 6:32 PM. EDT September 22, 2017
PRINCE WILLIAM CO., VA (WUSA9) - There wasn't actually a bomb. That fact has had some asking this question, why did the officers have to shoot a 15-year-old boy?
Why couldn't the officers use a different way to apprehend him, like a taser?
Oscar Urbina, the father of Rubin Urbina who was shot and killed by police last weekend, asked that question in a letter to the Prince William County officer who shot his son.
WUSA9 filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with Prince William County Police asking whether the officers who responded to the Haymarket home last weekend were equipped with Tasers (electronic control devices) and whether any of them had received Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). No response has come as of yet and officials in the department declined to comment on the matter.
For perspective on how police handle dangerous situations and people, WUSA9 reached out to Fairfax County Police Chief Ed Roessler. He agreed to speak on Fairfax County cases, not the the Prince William County case.
Getting as much information prior to police showing up is critical, says Roessler.
"That's tactical dispatch. So when a call for service comes in, you don't want a call taker just getting the basic facts and then dispatching the officers to the scene. What you want to do is stay on the phone line with the person and continue to develop rapport to learn as much detail as possible," said Roessler.
On March 2, 2016, Fairfax officers responded to a home invasion-robbery in Franconia. The suspect fire shots at officers, yet officers never fired back.
"We don't know what the backdrop is. And in this particular case, if we miss, who else is in the house? Are there incident people? It was quick decision-making and the situation forced that. And we continued negotiations with the man inside the house," said Roessler.
A perimeter was set up to isolate and contain the situation, said Roessler. They established contact with the suspect through 911 and began a lengthy negotiations process. It was finally resolved peacefully with nobody hurt.
However, earlier in 2017, Fairfax officers did deploy deadly force in Herndon. The suspect there has set a house on fire after attacking a person inside and holding the person hostage. When the suspect opened the door, he was armed with knife. Roessler said officers had to shoot him to save the other person inside.
"Every situation is different," Roessler said. That applies to using Tasers, or electronic control devices as well. Not all officers carry them, but if they do, they must go through extensive training. When confronting a dangerous person, officers may have to decided i a split second whether to deply a Taser, or use deadly force.
Using a Taser required close proximity.
"There's probes and they have to make contact with the person's skin in two different places in order to have the desired affect to bring someone down to the ground," said Roessler.
If a probe doesn't hit right, or it it misses, it won't work, and if there's a deadly threat, the officer's life could be in danger.
Deciding whether to use a Taser, depends on the situation.
"It might not be safe to deploy it. It might not have the desired affect," said Roessler.
"Every case is different," said Roessler,. "You cannot generically take one case and lay it on another case."
In the Haymarket case, the Rubin Urbina was about 10 feet away from officers when they say he charged at them brandishing a crowbar over heard. Earlier, the boy had called police himself and told them he had a bomb strapped to him.
He had a jacket on, so police could not tell whether he had a bomb or not, said Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert. Ebert determined the shooting was justified because of the deadly threat.
Ebert said police were not told that the boy attempted suicide the day before.