May 27, 2011
After reading the report from the Criminal Justice Branch on its decision not to lay charges in the death of Wilbert Bartley, one thing stands out that in a sense explains everything: the entire incident took 30 seconds.
During those 30 seconds:
» Police pulled up alongside Bartley’s vehicle to talk to him.
» One officer got out of the police vehicle.
» The police driver pulled back behind Bartley’s vehicle.
» Bartley drove in reverse and slammed into the police vehicle so hard that it tipped off two of its wheels.
» Bartley drove forward toward the officer who had originally got out to talk to him.
» The officer shot Bartley.
» Bartley’s vehicle veered off and struck the building.
I’m not sure if things move that fast even in the movies.
If this string of events, as related in the report, is to be believed then the officer was not just contending with a vehicle driving toward him, but a vehicle that had just got finished bashing into another vehicle. It doesn’t take much imagination to believe that the driver did not have the safety of others uppermost in his mind. At the very least, it would be justified for the officer to conclude that the driver was out of control and that lives were at risk. We’ll never know what Bartley’s actual intentions were, but it’s clear that he could not be allowed to continue.
The question that arises is whether shooting him was the best way to stop him. Again, let’s remember that all this happened within a space of 30 seconds.
Police, and the rest of us, are entitled to take action to defend themselves if they feel that they or others around them are at risk of being killed or seriously injured. In this case, the officer’s reaction was to fire his gun at Bartley.
Could he have done something else? With only seconds to make up his mind? When it was a matter of life or death? The fact that he had the presence of mind to do anything at all is amazing. Most of us would likely have been frozen with fear, done nothing — and be dead.