A tragedy out of South Carolina has jaws dropping around the country. At a traffic stop, a deputy named Terrence Knox opened fire on 70-year-old Vietnam veteran Bobby Canipe after mistaking Canipe's cane for a shotgun. The veteran was driving back home to North Carolina from the Daytona 500 in Florida when he was pulled over by the deputy in York County for an expired license plate.
At the stop, Canipe got out of the car, reached for something in the back of his pickup truck, and Knox -- thinking that Canipe was reaching for a weapon -- shot six times, striking the vet once in the stomach. Ugh. When Canipe told him it was only a walking stick he had been reaching for, the deputy immediately realized his mistake, collapsing into tears.
Now, distressing video from the deputy's dash cam, which illustrates the entire harrowing scene, has been released. Warning: It is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Just watching this, it is hard not to feel shaken. And it's clear not only Knox but his colleagues -- including York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, who defended his deputy’s use of force -- feel extreme remorse. The department said it released this video because of "demoralizing" public outcry over the shooting. There is definitely a difference between simply hearing this story vs. seeing it play out before you. Bryant explained:
This officer felt at the time he pulled the trigger that his life was in danger, and I stand behind this officer. These officers must act to protect their own safety ... Think about what they are seeing.
Although I'm not sure why Knox felt he had to shoot so many times (wouldn't once, maybe aimed at Canipe's leg, have been more appropriate?), I feel like his judgment may have been skewed by the heat of the moment. And I agree with Bryant and Knox's colleagues on the scene that he just did what he felt he had to do. He was acting in self-defense, and upon realizing his devastating mistake, he was obviously ashamed, distraught, inconsolable ... At the same time, this should serve as a lesson to other law enforcement that what they are seeing -- although potentially and often very dangerous -- isn't always what it appears to be.
Thank goodness Canipe survived. Knox is currently on administrative leave, but I do hope he is able to keep his job, and I'm grateful to hear he's been offered counseling to cope. Really, it seems nothing is more to blame here than basic human error.
What's your reaction to this story?
Image via HerryLawford/Flickr