When someone points an AK-47 rifle at you, there’s only one response. If you’re armed, you shoot, hoping your shot hits home first.
That’s what happened early Monday morning in a McDonald’s parking lot in Charlotte Harbor when Charlotte County Sheriff’s deputies faced off with an armed man.
According to eyewitnesses and police reports, George Lyman Smith of Arcadia pulled into the restaurant’s lot, followed by a person who noticed him driving erratically and called 911. According to the 911 call tapes and the witness, Smith told the police to “come get” me. And warned, they should come “prepared. Tell them if they don’t take me out, I’ll take them out.”
As it turned out, those words were an ominous warning of what was to come.
According to Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell, and reporting by the Sun’s Anne Easker, as many as 10 deputies arrived on the scene and ordered Smith to put down a rifle he had snatched from his front car seat.
That’s when all the training and practice kicked in for those law enforcement officers.
No one turned cowboy. They first fired bean bag rounds at Smith. They hit him with the non-lethal ammunition, but it failed to faze him.
Then, when he raised his rifle and prepared to fire, a deputy shot him four times. Smith was transported to a local hospital but was likely dead already.
Police shootings have been big news for the past few years. The public always has a question if shooting someone dead is the right thing to do. Why not wound them? Why shoot in the first place?
In this case, one might question why four shots. Why not one or two? But when someone is aiming an AK-47 at you and the fellow officers you train with, know and respect, there is little time to think. You react.
In this case, unless there are details the media is not privy to, the officers did what they were trained to do. They prevented a possible fire fight that could have injured innocent people.
We have had issues with Sheriff Prummell in the past. Even today we question why he refused Monday to release the names of officers involved, stating he did not “want their names plastered all over the news.” That is a common policy for Prummell, who has failed to release the names of officers involved in deaths in the past.
But give credit where credit is due. Prummell’s officers are well trained. They know policy. They know what to do in a life-threatening situation. We cannot imagine any law enforcement officers anywhere would have handled Monday’s situation much different. In fact, we doubt few would have dealt with the situation as well as Prummell’s officers.
It’s devastating anytime a person is killed, whether is by at the hands of an attacker or by law enforcement. Life is precious. The fallout can be calamitous to those directly involved and to family and friends who must deal with the loss.
Let’s be thankful for the well-drilled officers who derailed a confrontation that could have possibly resulted in multiple deaths Monday. They did their job and did it well.