(CNN) — Shortly after 9 a.m. on Friday, a man identified as Jeffrey Johnson shot a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building with a .45-caliber weapon. A courageous civilian saw what happened and alerted two NYPD officers. After the police caught up with Johnson, he pulled his weapon out of a bag and pointed it at the officers who had been performing counterterrorism duties. The officers fired 16 shots, killing Johnson. In the exchange of fire, nine bystanders were injured.
As a rule, it takes a lot to get NYPD officers to fire their guns at anyone. Despite a handful of isolated, but highly publicized, exceptions to this rule when officers have shot unarmed individuals over the past decade and a half, New York’s 35,000-officer force remains a worldwide model of firearms restraint and veneration for human life.
The nation’s largest police department instills in its officers that the decision to fire a weapon is momentous and should only be considered after every reasonable alternative has been exhausted. Only when officers feel that a suspect is a clear and imminent danger to them or others can they resort to using their firearms. Then, they must take care to not needlessly endanger innocent people who might be in the way.
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