Virginia IHOP Shooting, Ct’d…

Friday, March 3rd, 2006

An editorial in today’s Washington Post asks the important questions:

Under those circumstances, why would Mr. Stowe try to stop a moving vehicle — let alone an SUV — in the first place? Why not just take down the license number? Alert the police with the vehicle’s description? Did Mr. Stowe needlessly put himself in harm’s way? And did he really fire at the Cherokee as many as five times, as a passenger told WRC (Channel 4) and as Mr. Brown’s parents (quoting the police) told The Post?

Are Mr. Brown’s parents also correct in quoting the police as saying that one bullet hit the rear door on the driver’s side and another hit the rear quarter-panel? Did Mr. Stowe fire at the vehicle from the side as well as from the front? Five times? Over a possibly unpaid check?

Alexandria police policy allows officers to shoot at a moving vehicle only if their lives are endangered, no other means of defense works and it is impossible to move from the vehicle’s path. How would that square with bullet holes in the side of the car?

Mr. Brown — a college student, an Eagle Scout, a guitar player — had no criminal record. Neither, as far as we know, did anyone else in the Cherokee, although the 19-year-old driver, Stephen J. Smith, was charged with driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. Alexandria’s police chief, Charles E. Samarra, told Mr. Brown’s parents and the City Council that the police investigation would be “complete and honest and thorough,” guided strictly by the evidence. “[We] will investigate this case as I would if it had been my son in this unfortunate tragedy . . . and when we are finished, we will reveal the details of the investigation and whatever the findings are,” he said. That is precisely the standard to which the inquiry should and will be held.

You’ll have to pardon my skepticism. If this officer faces even disciplinary action, much less criminal charges, I’d be shocked.

Here’s the background.

The right-wing talk radio around here has been absurd on this case. Callers to a few shows I’ve caught have actually said that Brown “had it coming” for being out too late, possibly ducking out on a $30 tab (though that hasn’t yet been established), and being out with friends who were drinking while under age. For these things, apparently, the kid deserved to die.

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