View Poll Results: From what you see here, was it justified?

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  • Killing Zagar was justified.

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  • Killing Zagar was not justified.

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Thread: Cook County Officers Kill Man

  1. #1
    State Researcher
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    Apr 2007
    , Indiana, USA

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    Justified shooting death still rattles LAWSUIT | Jury took only 10 minutes to decide case that has been called 'suicide by cop'
    November 19, 2007 BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter/ A Cook County jury took only 10 minutes to decide Chicago Police Officer Clyde Brandenburger and his partner were justified in killing Joseph T. Zagar.
    Brandenburger said he's happy the lawsuit is behind him. "This really put us in a bad light," he said.

    Now-retired Chicago Police Officer Clyde Brandenburger says shooting victim Joe Zagar (inset) “was nuts, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”
    (Jean Lachat/Sun-Times)

    Yet the split-second decision to shoot Zagar still haunts Brandenburger.
    "Joe shows up in my bed all the time," Brandenburger said. "He was nuts. But it doesn't make it any easier."
    In an interview, Brandenburger provided a rare glimpse into how officers decide to take a life -- and what they go through later.
    Lawsuits stemming from police shootings have cost the city more than $27 million in the last five years, records show. None of those shootings sparked an officer's firing, raising questions about the way they were investigated, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis published Sunday concluded.
    Zagar's family sued Brandenburger and his partner, claiming the shooting was reckless.
    But Mark J. Frazel, the jury foreman, said the evidence in the April trial clearly showed the officers were justified.
    "It took us about 10 minutes, and everyone agreed this was not wanton disregard of his rights," he said.
    Cops thought man had a gun Brandenburger and his partner, Officer William Gorman, killed Zagar about 9:45 p.m. on May 3, 2000, at the Morgan Park home Zagar shared with his mother.
    An unidentified man, now thought to be Zagar, had called 911 saying an attacker cut him on the face with a knife. The caller sounded drunk and said he planned to get a .45-caliber pistol to make the attacker leave, police said.
    When the officers arrived, Zagar, 39, was sitting alone on the home's darkened porch.
    Zagar lifted his shirt with his left hand and with his right hand removed an object the officers thought was a gun, police said.
    They drew their weapons and shined a flashlight on Zagar. He lowered the black object before raising it to his chin as if he were going to shoot himself, police said.
    They ordered Zagar to drop the object, but he allegedly aimed at the officers, who shot him.
    Police said the object was a cordless drill battery pack.
    Zagar -- a 6-foot-3, 295-pound high school dropout -- was often friendly, neighbors said. He mowed their yards and shoveled their snow for free.
    But he was a nuisance when he was drinking, they said. And he suffered from mental illness, his family said. Over the years, Zagar was convicted of assault, impersonating a police officer and telephone harassment, authorities said.
    On the night of his death, Zagar's blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit for driving, officials said. His police scanner and a can of beer were found near his body.
    Brandenburger said he thinks Zagar's death was "suicide by police." He thinks Zagar summoned the officers to the home to kill him.
    Brandenburger pointed to a December 1999 incident. Then, Zagar also pointed a battery pack to his chin, warning two officers he would shoot himself, police said. They coaxed Zagar to drop the object, and he was taken to a hospital for mental treatment.
    After Zagar was killed, the Police Department's initial inquiry, called a roundtable, determined the shooting appeared to be a proper use of deadly force.
    Brandenburger said the events leading up to the shooting happened lightning-fast.
    "We go up to interview him, and he said there was a black guy on his porch with a knife," Brandenburger said. "He lowered the gun [which turned out to be the battery pack] at Bill, and we shoot him."
    Brandenburger said he did not know until later about Zagar's previous calls to the police suggesting he was suicidal.
    "If I knew it was a suicide, I would have set up a perimeter and called the bosses to make a decision."
    He said four of his shots and eight of Gorman's shots hit Zagar.
    "Our training kicked in," he said. "As soon as his arm went down, we started firing. I lit him up."
    Despite the April jury decision, Zagar's family still thinks the shooting wasn't justified.
    "Officers are supposed to protect the community and have special training to defuse a situation," Zagar's brother Edward Zagar said. "In this case, deadly force was used without taking any sort of precautions."
    'A split-second decision' Frazel, the jury foreman, said he felt the defense wasted time insinuating that the officers planted the battery pack.
    After the verdict, Frazel stayed behind to speak to the judge and the attorneys. "I think I said I'm sorry that we had to sit here for six days," he said.
    "I would emphasize that in these circumstances, the police made a split-second decision," he said. "It's a tragedy on so many levels. For the officers to have to relive this in the courtroom again I am sure was a terrible experience."
    Frazel said he agrees with Brandenburger that the shooting was "suicide by cop."
    Brandenburger, whose son is a rookie Chicago Police officer, said he tells him "it's a great job if you want to make a difference and help somebody."
    Now his son will not have to live with a blemish on his father's career, Brandenburger said.
    "They can't say, 'I hear your dad was a good cop, but too bad about the Zagar shooting.' "
    Brandenburger also said he thinks of Zagar every day.
    "Joe's dad died a few years before [the shooting], and I hope he is in heaven with him," he said.

  2. #2
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    Mag-bayonettes!, Virginia, USA

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    I don't know if I'd ever fault a cop for suicide by cop. There's just no choice in the matter. If this is certainly what happened, outlined by his previous calls to 911 and his mental history, then yeah, while sad, I can only imagine what the officers responding must be feeling now.

  3. #3
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    , Indiana, USA

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    unrequited wrote:
    I don't know if I'd ever fault a cop for suicide by cop. There's just no choice in the matter. If this is certainly what happened, outlined by his previous calls to 911 and his mental history, then yeah, while sad, I can only imagine what the officers responding must be feeling now.
    I wouldn't fault a police officer for suicide by cop either.

    I can see why the parents/family is angry, its obvious, their son was shot dead. I think the anger they have is blinding them of what really happened here. I can sympathize with them for their loss, but I do not think they are looking at this in the correct light...

  4. #4
    Regular Member MetalChris's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    SW Ohio

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    It sucks that the dude had to die, but I think the cops were justified in their actions in this case...I mean if visibility is extremely limited anda subject isyelling that they have a gun and reach into their waistband, I'd expect the cops to shoot at that point. IMO they actually showed restraint in waiting for the guy to raise the object...

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