Just or Belligerent Behavior?

The Shooting of Richard Lee Richards

By Joseph Gray IV

Staff Writer

Pictured above: 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards

In Arizona, a tragic event unfolded in front of a Walmart that left 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards dead at the scene. 

Richards, a disabled man in a motorized wheelchair, was shopping at Walmart when he allegedly swiped a toolbox and attempted to leave the store without paying, reported by the New York Post. Ryan Remington, the on-duty officer on assignment at the Tucson Walmart, was alerted of the alleged shoplifting.

Remington approached Richards in the parking lot, asking to see his receipt. According to Police Chief Chris Magnus as reported by CNN, when asked to show his receipt, “Instead of providing the receipt, Mr. Richards brandished a knife and said, ‘Here’s your receipt.’” 

Remington stayed at a range from Richards and began to try and talk him into disarming himself. Richards slowly made his way through the parking lot of Walmart and Lowes as Remington followed him and repeatedly tried to cooperate with Richards. Richards would not comply with Remington and made his way towards the Lowes entrance with intent to enter.

A Walmart employee witness claims Richards had told Remington, “If you want me to put down the knife, you’re going to have to shoot me,” in response to his mediation. 

Another officer arrived on the scene and warned Richards, with Remington, to not enter the store. Once again, Richards would not comply, ignoring the officers’ instructions, and began to enter the store.

After yelling and warning Richards not to enter the store again, Remington opened fire on him, shooting him a total of 9 times and making him fall forward out of his wheelchair. Remington then proceeded to handcuff the unresponsive man. 

Police Chief Magnus quickly put out a statement after the tragedy, reporting that Remington had been released by the Tucson Police Department.

Magnus in his statement said, “To be clear, I am deeply disturbed by Officer Remington’s actions, his use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy and directly contradicts multiple aspects of our use of force training.”

Did Remington act accordingly or belligerently? That is a true gray area, as the beginning of the encounter was being handled well but fell apart quickly. While initially, I personally believed that Remington’s use of force was justifiable as Richards was attempting to enter a store with a knife, which was endangering those in the store.

However, the use of some force was justified but the  amount of force used by Remington was wrong and didn’t fit the situation. Richards was a 61-year-old in a wheelchair with a knife, not an armed intruder who posed a true threat.

This situation could have ended smoothly but Remington was scared and acted rashly, shooting Richards dead. Richards lost his life over a tool box while Remington’s release by the Tucson Police Department was quick and necessary. Remington did not access the threat level correctly and took someone’s life when nobody needed to die.

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