Why Shoot Looters?

Why shoot looters?

After reading an article about the "shoot to kill" order that cops may or may not have gotten in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, I began wondering: Is it necessary to shoot looters?

First, we have to distinguish amongst armed gangs, random people with guns, and looters.

I'm referring to people that, during a disaster, go into stores and take food, water, shoes, TVs (not a good idea), and such.  I'm referring to people that are taking merchandise.

Now, in New Orleans, there is footage of people taking stuff they needed from WalMart, but they weren't violent or armed. The cops in the stores just made sure people don't start fighting and hurting each other. In this clip, the cops were doing just that:

This seems the proper way to handle the situation to me.

How would turning that scene into a killing field help me, or make me safer?

At what point is the "shoot looters on sight" order legitimate? How can someone stealing, DURING A DISASTER, become such a threat to others that they need to die . . . and die right then?

What if someone had taken a loaf of bread . . .  literally. He couldn't get out of the city, found a bakery, and took a loaf of bread. How is that punishable by death?

And just to be snarky, isn't that what insurance is for? Stolen merchandise?

How is stealing water-soaked property worth someone's life?

Now, I'm not talking about people breaking into your house while you're there. I'm talking about people taking things they need to survive from abandoned businesses. How is killing the bread thief protecting me?  Or you?

Hell, how is killing some idiot taking a TV protecting anyone from violence?

The energy that goes into killing looters should be used to load trucks with food and water and hand it out to people in the street. That energy should be used to find people in the street, place them into vehicles, and take them out of the city.

By all means, the police should fight armed people hurting others. But explain how the bread-stealing guy had to die? And, while you're at it, explain how a woman stealing food deserves death at that point.

That is my question.

Explain that one to me.



  1. Not.Your.Average.JoeOctober 16, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    I shall.

    To begin with, I have to attack your premise: it is sometimes perfectly acceptable to shoot looters, even the occasional female looter stealing bread. (…though I must admit I remain puzzled as to why you’re on this fictional woman-with-bread kick, when there were no foodstuffs being looted on the video in question. We can safely assume that essentials such as food & potable water had already been looted. I digress.) Obviously, people were looting; whether during the 1992 LA riots or post Katrina as exemplar is immaterial. On the video in question, not one person was taking “stuff they needed.”

    When those looters are armed, however, whether with fists or TEC-9's, and are approaching me with an apparent intent to do harm to me or my property, or another or their property, I am not going to fire a warning shot into the air. My first warning shot will be into the brainpan of the guy in front. That will serve as the necessary and sufficient “warning” to those behind him. Whether he is/was desiring the mountain of recently-baked wholegrain bread behind me (or the flatscreen TV behind that) is irrelevant - I perceived an imminent threat.

    Within the same paradigm, just because there is a disaster does not make it acceptable to steal. Humans, with our adrenals too large & cortexes too small, will probably default to such barbaric behavior as is likely to keep us alive when threatened with starvation. I get it. Were the Wal-Mart to have been protected by armed guards, they have a right (nay, obligation) to defend property & life. Had they perceived a threat, it would have been acceptable for them to act a priori. (That means shoot first, just like Han did.)

    The Asian shopkeepers during the LA riots were defending their property and none were indicted, IIRC.

    So if that’s true, quod erat demonstratum.

    Your question was about the cops.

    Police responsibilities include preserving order. Given their paucity and the nature of the situation, they must triage their reactions to maintain what order they can.

    The cops in the video made no attempt to do anything. Well, that’s not entirely true – they were looting as well. Somehow, you laud this behavior. “This seems the proper way to handle the situation to me.” WTF??? This means that you are an enabler with a strange concept of acceptable police procedure. Those cops abrogated their responsibilities and abetted felonies, and I hope they at least lost their badges for it.

  2. Not.Your.Average.JoeOctober 16, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    “How would turning that scene into a killing field help me, or make me safer?”

    It depends on who gets killed. It is not the act of stealing, per se, which constitutes the threat; it is the method. We know from experience that sustained police inactivity leads to chaos and mob mentalities (which encourage looting), as do other things such as unmitigated rage or trying to survive a Cat 4 hurricane.

    What deserves death? Being perceived as threatening the safety of another, especially while looting, especially during a State of Emergency, does.

    “How is killing the bread thief protecting me? Or you?”

    You seem to still be stuck on this bread thing. I again saw no bread – it had already been taken.

    “Hell, how is killing some idiot taking a TV protecting anyone from violence?”

    The Darwin Awards come to mind, especially given the obviously shallow gene pool which generated the objectionable TV-absconding behavior in the first place.

    Your comments about the utility of poorly-spent police “energy” aren’t exactly accurate. Trust me, two uniformed cops with two guns and only one bullet could have secured the entire store in about 15 seconds.

    Had I been one of the cops, I would not have been looting. I may have drawn my weapon on the guy with the TV. Had he resisted, I would have beaten him mercilessly. Had he raised a weapon instead, he would have died. While I concur that during this time bread theft may have meant survival, TV theft is still theft with no circumstancially moral justification. But woe to the one who even raised a fist at me while attempting to take either...