The majority of police officers are never involved, during their entire careers, in a fatal shooting. But between 2003 and 2011, Officer James Peters was involved in six of them. No alarm bells went off at the Scottsdale Police Department, so Peters remained a member of the SWAT team, which increased his chances of being involved in more shootings. In each of the cases, an internal investigation determined that the conduct of Peters was “justified.” And in February of this year, he shot and killed yet another suspect – this one, John Loxas, was unarmed and holding his grandson in his arms.

Last week the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in United States District Court on behalf of the survivors of the latest shooting victim. An ACLU attorney described the fatal event as “unnecessary, gratuitous and illegal use of a deadly weapon.”

We understand that certain situations call for the use of deadly force on the part of the police. On the other hand, we don’t believe in coincidences, and when you examine the history, it appears at this point that the need to protect the public was all but ignored in this case.

According to police, after the shooting, a search revealed a loaded pistol near Loxas’ body, a shotgun, ammunition and an explosive. But no one claims, even the investigators, that Loxas was armed at the time of the shooting. In that regard, it is important, we think, to look at what the police knew just prior to the shooting.

A call had come in from someone claiming that Loxas was threatening neighbors with a gun. When police arrived, Peters says he thought he saw something in Loxas’ hand. Based solely on those two “facts,” he then proceeded to draw his pistol and fire, hitting Loxas in the forehead and instantly killing him. That’s it. No gun in the suspect’s hand, and no threats to the police; only a phone call and the perception that the suspect had something in his hand. And the result was a fatal shot that might have been prevented had the Scottsdale PD not buried its head in the sand.

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