Think about the situation that Jesse Kidder found himself in last Friday. He’s basically a rookie cop, with only a year on the job. He is the first to arrive at a scene in which a double-murder suspect “could have a gun under the seat and may be threatening suicide-by-cop,” according to dispatchers.
When Kidder, a former Marine and an Iraq War veteran with a Purple Heart, exits the car and begins to confront the suspect the suspect not only refuses to comply with Kidder’s instructions to “Get your hand up right now,” but the suspect, identified as 27-year-old Michael Wilcox, begins to charge Kidder with his hands in his pockets while yelling, “Shoot me.”
However, Kidder shows extreme self-control and refuses to comply with Wilcox’s request.
“I was trying to open a dialogue with him. ‘I don’t want to shoot you, get on the ground,’ but he wasn’t having it. He kept repeating, ‘Shoot me.’ At one point, he said ‘Shoot me or I’ll shoot you,'” Kidder told WLWT.
While Kidder waits for his backup to arrive, he is forced with a very difficult decision. To shoot or not to shoot Wilcox, who later confessed to killing his fiancee and is suspected of murdering another person.
But then, the situation worsens. Kidder falls to the ground while backpedaling away from Wilcox.
“He got towards my face right as I lost balance,” Kidder told WLWT. “I’m thinking at this point that if he goes into attack me, that I’ll have to use deadly force to defend myself.”
However, instead of attacking, Wilcox stops charging and stands down. Kidder regains his footing and begins to order Wilcox to the ground. Perhaps realizing that Kidder will not oblige Wilcox’s death wish unless the situation gets physical, Wilcox begins to follow Kidder’s directives.
“Law enforcement officers all across the nation have to deal with split-second decisions that mean life or death. I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force,” explained Kidder on his decision to withhold fire.
Following the confrontation, Wilcox was arrested. He is being held in Brown County Jail on $2 million bond.
As for Kidder, his superiors commended him for his decision-making under extreme duress.
“For him to make the judgment call that he did shows great restraint and maturity,” New Richmond, Ohio, Police Chief Randy Harvey told WLWT. “This video footage, it eliminated all doubt that this officer would have been justified if in fact it came to a shooting.”
In a climate where the media is champing at the bit to broadcast stories where police officers and gun owners are arguably too quick to pull the trigger, it’s refreshing to see a story where an individual exercises discretion before firing.
But then again, one could argue that Kidder put his life in unnecessary danger by not shooting Wilcox. With hindsight being 20/20, it’s easy to say that Kidder made the right call because everything turned out all right. Yet, what if Wilcox had a gun and what if his threats to shoot Kidder weren’t empty? What would have happened if Wilcox would have jumped on Kidder as he fell to the ground?
There are a lot of questions and it’s easy for us, those who weren’t there, to play armchair quarterback. But I wonder if Kidder, in the back of his mind and after watching the video (assuming he has), questions his call not to shoot Wilcox when he began charging. I wonder if he thinks about the many “What ifs” that the situation raised.
What are your thoughts? How do you imagine you would have responded?