Incident Breakdown: Chicago Cop Justifiably Kicked Shaquille O’Neal’s Head
I’ll get this out of the way now. The officer in this video is a hero. The officer hasn’t been publicly identified yet, but there is already an outcry of hatred directed at him.
Let’s start with the video and break it down from there:
The scene opens with Officer 1 on the ground, attempting to arrest an aggressively resisting drug dealer, Shaquille O’Neal. You may not see O’Neal throw any punches, but his level of resistance is considered aggressive because he’s not just trying to get away, he’s grabbing at Officer 1, attempting to control his actions. When a suspect attempts to physically control an officer, and the officer fails to quickly gain control of the suspect, suspects will usually escalate to a full on attack against the officer. To make things worse, there’s a crowd of hostile bystanders who may decide to jump in and help O’Neal any time. If any of the bystanders decided to get physically involved, Officer 1 would be fighting multiple suspects while he’s on the ground; he would be in clear mortal danger.
Officer 2 arrived and quickly assessed the situation. As the second arriving officer on scene Officer 2 is the cover officer and he has two jobs:
1. Protect Officer 1 by keeping all bystanders from getting close and becoming involved.
2. Ensure that Officer 1 doesn’t lose the fight.
While you might expect Officer 2 to immediately jump on top of O’Neal and help wrestle him into custody, that would have left both officers vulnerable to getting attacked by any bystanders. Officer 2 made the right decision by staying on his feet so that he could control the bystanders.
Shortly after the arrival of Officer 2, you can hear Officer 1 tell O’Neal not to bite him, which is a good indicator that the fight is escalating and O’Neal is attempting to harm Officer 1.
Officer 2 continued to do his first job of keeping the bystanders back. Then something suddenly changes and Officer 2 kicks O’Neal in the head. This is what has the nation crying out, “Police Brutality!” They ask, how could Officer 2 ever justify kicking O’Neal in the head while he’s on the ground? It’s simple, Officer 2 was performing his second job: Ensure that Officer 1 doesn’t lose the fight.
What you may have missed in the quick action of the video was that Officer 2 looked over to see Officer 1 getting choked by O’Neal. This was not just momentary, and Officer 1 was unable to quickly break away. O’Neal clearly had a strong hold on Officer 1’s throat. Officer 1 wouldn’t only have trouble breathing in that situation, he was in immediate danger of being killed by having his throat crushed. O’Neal’s hold would also cut of bloodflow from the brain, which would have rendered Officer 1 unconscious in a few seconds.
Let’s examine the options available to Officer 2. Less-lethal equipment would not have been appropriate in this situation, and we won’t cover those options because these officers clearly weren’t in possession of less-lethal equipment.
Legally, the use deadly force by a police officer is governed by case law (Tennesee v Garner.) Police officers are legally justified in using deadly force to stop a person who is posing an immediate danger of serious physical injury to any person. Based off of the clear evidence in the video, O’Neal was posing an immediate danger to the life of Officer 1. Officer 2 would have been legally justified in putting a gun to O’Neal’s head and pulling the trigger.
Something that is rarely considered is that law enforcement officers don’t want to kill people. Even though Officer 2 would have been legally justified in taking O’Neal’s life, Officer 2 clearly demonstrated a strong desire to not only save his partner’s life, but save O’Neal from having to be killed.
Officer 2 needed to immediately stop the threat that O’Neal was posing to Officer 1. Shooting O’Neal would have been both effective and legally justified, and almost certain to result in O’Neal’s death. Kicking O’Neal in the head may have legally be considered lethal force, but was unlikely to actually result in the death of O’Neal, while still effectively stopping him. Officer 2 delivered a well-placed kick to O’Neal’s head, which rendered O’Neal unconscious, saving both his life and the life of Officer 1.
O’Neal reportedly had no lasting injury from the kick besides a bruise. He had several bags of heroin on him when he was arrested.
“I don’t know what happened after they said he kicked me, I just woke up in the hospital, that’s it,” O’Neal said.
But O’Neal said he’s okay now.
“I am all right, I’m all right, I’m all right, they didn’t do too much to me,” O’Neal said.
A female relative with him chimed in, “He good, he good, They ain’t hurt him, they ain’t break a real man.”
Ironically, Black Lives Matter is holding this up as an example of police misconduct. Even though O’Neal was a black drug dealer who tried to kill a cop, Officer 2 decided that O’Neal’s life mattered, and his quick thinking prevented O’Neal’s death.
The fallout of this incident is going about as you would expect in today’s anti-police climate. O’Neal was taken to the hospital and then released from police custody two days later without any charges, despite the fact that he tried to kill a police officer and was in possession of controlled substances. O’Neal took this as vindication, he did nothing wrong and would likely sue Chicago Police Department. Later on, when the facts were reviewed, and it was obvious what had happened, charges against O’Neal were re-filed and he was arrested.
Officer 2 was stripped of his law enforcement powers and placed on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Thousands of angry people are calling for Officer 2 to be fired and prosecuted for his heroic actions.
Don’t just stand by and let this hero get thrown to the wolves. Share this story with everybody on social media and counter the false narrative being spread about his officer.
You can contact Chicago Police Department’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) here, and let them know that you support our hero’s actions: http://www.iprachicago.org/ipra/homepage/contact.html