Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski, who was on the scene of the shooting and in command within a few minutes of the 911 call is on the defensive. People are asking the obvious questions:
-- Why did police wait an hour or more to enter the building, even though the shooting was over by the time they got there two minutes after a critically wounded receptionist called 911?
-- Would any of the 13 gunshot victims who died have been saved by prompt emergency treatment?
The county prosecutor has jumped in to back the Chief with some sweeping assertions that some people are going to find hard to accept:
"No decisions by the police had any bearing on who died," Broome County District Attorney Jerry Mollen told reporters Sunday.
The first officers arrived at the American Civic Association about three minutes after the first emergency calls were made Friday, according to a timeline by the Binghamton Police Department.
Officers did not enter the building for about 40 minutes, police said.
"No one was shot after police arrival, and none of the people who had been shot could have been saved, even if the police had walked in the door within [the] first minute," Mollen said. "The injuries were that severe."
I'm sorry but I'm not buying it just because Mollen says so. Frankly, it lacks credibility to say that not one victim might have had a chance to survive if treated immediately. People often survive grave wounds, even gunshots to the head. And many gunshot wounds lead to death by bleeding and shock. In any case, it's not for a prosecutor to be making such judgements, particularly in a small community like Binghamton and the surrounding Broome County where the police chief and prosecutor are close working colleagues.
Mollen went on to say that aid the issue of the police response was "an obvious question" that will be investigated, but "now's not the time."
Why is now not the time? As any prosecutor knows, the time to collect and understand all the facts surrounding a crime of this magnitude is as soon as possible -- while the evidence, including the recollections of witnesses, is fresh. The same certainly holds true for understanding a closely related event like the police response.
This is a job for an appropriate, credible outside authority -- perhaps a special commission appointed by the Governor. The point of such a review would not be to punish anyone; such after-the-fact finger-pointing about decisions made under pressure is never helpful. The goal is to find out exactly what happened and why, in order to improve the future ability of police departments everywhere to respond more effectively to such terrible crimes. We had been led to believe that the lessons taken from the Columbine rampage had shaped better police planning. Perhaps it did and nothing needs to be changed now. Then again, we should not be taking Mr. Mollen's or Chief Zikuski's word for that.
What's your opinion? Post a comment.