A suicidal man was shot by Pinal County police. It may or may not have been defensible. No one seems to care.
On Tuesday, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona released body-camera footage of the death of Lawrence Knudsen, who was shot and killed by police in late March. Officers arrived at the scene after Knudsen called 911 and told the operator he was “about to put a bullet in [his] head.”
In an extended back-and-forth with the operator, Knudsen told her he was armed and that his handgun was “on top of [his] tailgate” by his right hand. He added that he was “not looking to hurt any cops.” Eventually, his tone became more aggressive, and he goaded the operator to “just bring these motherf—ers [the cops] in.”
Three officers pulled up on a side street near Knudsen’s home. Two were on the scene before the third officer arrived. When the two officers already on the scene approached Knudsen, they told him to put his hands up, and he obliged. “My hands are up,” Knudsen said. He was holding a small black object in his right hand, later discovered to be a vape pen, and a cell phone in his left.
The female officer closest to Knudson howled at him to “Back the f—k up!” Knudsen kept walking toward the officers with his hands in the air. At this point, the female officer had her service weapon pointed at Knudsen, and the nearby male officer had his taser pointed at Knudsen’s chest.
“I’m doing this,” Knudsen said as he approached the officers. His right hand, still in the air, tilted forward slightly, at which point the two officers simultaneously discharged their weapons—the female officer fired three bullets from her handgun, while the male officer discharged his taser. Knudsen collapsed. He was taken to the hospital where he died from the bullet wounds.
The police officers were in a difficult situation. They were told Knudsen was armed, and they knew he was suicidal. It is hard to tell from the body-camera footage how much the black object in Knudsen’s hand resembled a firearm. It’s certainly possible the officers reasonably mistook the vape pen for a gun.
But the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office is not being made to sweat one way or the other. Knudsen was a heavy-set white guy from suburban Arizona. If he had been a black teenager? Come on.
Don’t expect any immolated AutoZones in Pinal County.
about the author
John Hirschauer is assistant editor of The American Conservative. He was previously a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review and a staff writer at RealClear.