How can we avoid tragic shootings?
When does being drunk and irrational, acting belligerently and possibly suicidal, and being armed with a three-inch knife deserve a death sentence?
It turned out that way for 18-year-old Lukus Glenn early Saturday when he was shot by two Washington County deputies in the front yard of his parents' Tigard home. Deputies arrived at the scene with a Tigard police officer after Glenn's mother called 9-1-1 about 3 a.m. She requested help because her son, who arrived home intoxicated, had become violently angry and was possibly suicidal.
What prompted such anger in Glenn? Maybe being told that he that he was in no condition to ride his dirt bike and that he should go to bed? Instead, he started threatening himself and others and began breaking objects - including the windows of family cars and the front door to his parents' home.
What other demons were inside the Glenn boy - besides alcohol - we will never know. Lukus Glenn can't tell us. He is dead - shot within four minutes of arrival by deputies who his mother thought had been dispatched by 9-1-1 to help her son.
This is a tragedy that should not be forgotten.
Tragedy affects everyone involved
The Glenn family certainly won't forget. We do hope that Lukus Glenn's mother will someday accept that her call to 9-1-1 was what any parent would do. She was attempting to help her child in a time of need. Her actions should not be questioned. Some members of the media have thoughtlessly pondered, 'What if she hadn't called 9-1-1?'
She did. Because that's what good parents do. They try to help their children.
The Tigard community won't easily forget either. Parents across the region have been negatively touched by this tragedy. So have students and teachers at Tigard High School who knew Glenn.
The two deputies and Tigard officer - and their families - are also marked by this tragedy. Police experts can say they acted appropriately when they shot Glenn - first with beanbag rounds, which did not subdue him - and then with live ammunition as he turned to enter his parents' house. Regardless of what a Washington County district attorney's investigation determines in this matter, these officers will long remember what happened Saturday morning.
We're unwilling to say much good can come from tragedies such as this. Violent death should not be a lesson.
But we hope teenagers and young adults - many of whom already think they are unbreakable - will stop and learn. Accidents and tragedies happen. They can happen to you, as they did to Lukus Glenn.
Police must review their practices
We must be confident that a full and impartial investigation will be completed.
But in addition, local police agencies should immediately review their procedures in situations similar to the Lukus Glenn incident. This is the fifth recent officer-involved shooting in the Portland area. When is use of force and a decision to shoot a suspect not the best alternative? If beanbags are not effective, can more taser guns be made available, and officers provided the appropriate training to use them? Can the fire department be called upon to shoot high-pressure water at suspects to knock them to the ground? Are officers sufficiently trained in mediation and negotiation skills? Do police and sheriff's agencies routinely invite outside evaluations of their crisis procedures?
We understand that police officers are trained to protect lives, not take them. And we do not want to prompt a failure by officers to act - including appropriate use of deadly force. In some cases, holding fire may actually cost lives.
But the circumstances of Lukus Glenn's death should motivate everyone to imagine how to keep something like this from ever occurring again.