Police shooting demands full disclosure

June 18, 2013

People the world over are demanding government in all its forms be held ac­countable. They are also demanding transparency: that government clearly communicate its activities to the people it represents.

Yet as the case of Keith Schueller demon­strates, accountability and transparency are not easy to come by.

Schueller was shot by police following first a car chase, which ended when he crashed into another vehicle, and then a foot chase, ending when Schueller was shot. The once-fit personal trainer is now confined to a wheel­chair.

Police say Schueller was threatening a pursuing officer when he was shot; Schueller, who admits he had recently used drugs, says he was fleeing from officers when the bullet struck him in the back.

Regardless of the circumstances, state po­lice still refuse to say a trooper shot Schueller in the back, relying instead on the term “upper body.”

Technically, that wording is defensible; the bullet remains lodged next to Schueller’s spine right at the waistline. Yet few people would understand from that term that Schueller was shot in the back.

It was only after the Cape Gazette obtained medical records showing where the bullet en­tered that the location of the wound became clear.

A state police spokesman has said there was no attempt at a cover-up. Still, the vague term “upper body” covers up the actual location of the wound.

If the police account is true, then why cloud the location of the bullet? Cloudiness is the opposite of transparency; it is the absence of transparency that raises questions and invites charges of a cover-up.

Police are armed; they are permitted to use deadly force. This extraordinary power de­mands that when deadly force is used, police owe the public a total and complete explana­tion of their actions.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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