crime

2 police officers acquitted in fatal shooting of robbery suspect during getaway

37 Comments

The 74-year-old mother of a man fatally shot by two police officers on Wednesday expressed her anger and dissatisfaction at the trial that resulted in the acquittal of the officers.

In a landmark case, the two police officers were committed to trial by the Nara District Court after they shot and killed Sojitsu Ko, 28, who was about to flee with an accomplice from a robbery in Yamatokoriyama in September 2003. The officers were tried under the lay judge system to determine whether they intended to kill Ko and if the use of lethal force was necessary, NTV reported.

The two officers, together with another policeman, fired eight rounds at the suspect's getaway car after it got wedged between two police cars. Ko died in the front passenger seat and the driver was injured.

Ko's mother initially filed a criminal complaint, following which the Nara District Public Prosecutor's Office decided not to indict the officers. In 2010, she asked the district court to examine the case, and the two officers were indicted, according to NTV.

In its ruling handed down on Tuesday, the Nara District Court said there was no evidence that the police officers intended to kill the suspect who had been ordered to get out of the car for questioning over a robbery. When the car pulled away, the officers had no choice but to fire at it, the presiding judge was quoted as saying.

At the press conference, Ko's mother said, "This trial was a mess. They didn't hear any opinions from this side of the debate. It made me extremely angry." She has vowed to appeal the verdict.

© Japan Today

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37 Comments
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He was a guy running from the police who refused to give up when ordered and tried to run them over. If he would have succeeded and got away, we would hear how the J-cops were incompetent. They did their jobs, and he paid the price for his stupidity.

The fact that they had to go to court sets a bad precedent. If they were just out joy riding and shot an innocent person, then I can understand. But this guy was in the process of stealing, and they were in the process of capturing him. I can see an Internal Affairs investigation, but you send the wrong signal to rank and file police offiers that they can expect criminal charges if they harm someone who is trying to harm them.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

Good judgement, horrible mother for not educating her son better...

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I have to agree that this should have never gone to trial and the old biddie is truly warped American style if she thinks her criminal son shouldn't have been shot. If he had been home watching TV none of this would have happened, would it have, mom?

7 ( +9 / -2 )

A criminal got shot trying to flee the scene of a robbery, and the bleeding hearts are crying for him, damn it, if he wasnt out doing crime and robbing people he wouldn't have got shot, so who is to blame here. NOT THE COPS they did there job. The world is a better place now without this thieving bugger running round.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

To most of the arm chair detective here, until you are placed in the position that these police were put in, you would never know what you would have done. Someone mentions why eight shots, well from what I read three cops were shooting, that narrows it down to 2.6 shots per person if that was the case. In the heat of the moment there is no time to discuss who shoots, who will not and how many rounds of fire. I was a cop for three years and only had to pull my weapon once; fortunately I did not have to fire. The rules were simple in the academy, don’t pull your weapon if you don’t intend to fire. In other words, clear and present danger exist . Japan policy is much more complex as mentioned by another blogger here. Oh by the way, someone mention you don’t shot someone unless they have a gun, well a 1.5 ton car driven toward you with intent to run you down constitute as a weapon. If I remember the story right, they were trying to hit the police. My sympathy for the loss of the mother’s adult child, but her adult son chose this criminal path in life and he is no longer here with the living.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I'm not saying that the decision was valid, but here are some things that I have been considering:

The J-cops have little or no experience in using a gun, specially on live targets. Since the suspects were gunned down after they were wedged between 2 police cars, the suspects may have been trying to force the car to break free of the wedge.

Might be a bit excessive, considering 8 bullets, but as I said earlier, the cops shot the suspects, and not any bystander, or fellow cop ... so I guess they did okay.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

They didn’t hear any opinions from this side of the debate.

Unless any of the people from 'her side of the debate' were actually there at the robbery escape, there is probably a very good reason the court did not listen to their opinions. The court was probably more interested in actual facts rather than opinions.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

the cops had no right to fire unless the suspect had a gun or was aiming at them.

So if the car was about to ram into other officers, they can't shoot to protect their lives or others?

How about shooting the tires out instead of the people in the car? The police just panicked. Simple.

Man you guys watch too many movies. It's like when I hear people say the police should shoot a suspect in the arm or leg to wound him. Pure Hollywood.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

These guys were fleeing the scene of a robbery, usaully robberies are commited by armed suspects, perhaps the passenger was armed and was drawing his gun on the coppers.

Perhaps the coppers knew the suspect as being a bad ass and wern't taking chances on him being placid, who knows, the fact is the crim got shot, who really cares.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

In its ruling handed down on Tuesday, the Nara District Court said there was no evidence that the police officers intended to kill the suspect

When you pull a gun, aim it at a person, and shoot you intend to kill whatever you're aiming at. That's basic gun safety rule number one. But I see the court's viewpoint.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

It is common knowledge that law enforcement officers here carry weapons, so when fleeing from a crime scene and ignoring the police, you are putting yourself at risk. It seems like lethal force was not justified to me (from the scant details in the story) but I don't create the laws or train the police here in Japan - merely obey the laws and practice common sense.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Badge As funny as it may seem to say something like that, most movies get stuff like "shoot out the tires" or "shoot them in the leg" from real life police stories or military stories. If you shoot someone in the leg it is more likely that they will live than if you shoot them in the chest. Police are train to shoot and are required to do targeting practice in most countries. Shooting out the tires of a stationary vehicle makes perfect sense, specially if the criminals inside are unarmed.

The guys should have been apprehended to face trial not shot. From the way the article reads the car was trapped. The first thing the police should have done was disable the car.

In addition, did the officers fire warning shots and tell the two guys that they would shoot? One in the tire then tell them the next will go through the window.

I mean of course the criminals are at fault for being criminals but the officers have to take some responsibility. I dont think they intended to kill him but they had many options. Specially in Japan, i would imagine that they would have various nonlethal methods to apprehend the bad guys. Good old rubber bullets and bean bag shot guns.

The big question is were they armed or not? The mother just wants someone to blame and that is understandable and she has the right to have to situation investigated. Although, the Gov. should be the ones really investigating this matter.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I dare say there is a lot more to the details of the incident than is stated in this article. Japanese police don't pop off rounds without good reason. However, one could argue why they shot at the perps and not at the tires. I am glad the cops were acquitted though. The simple fact is, if lady's son was not committing a robbery he would still be alive today. If this woman wants to be angry at anyone she should be angry at herself for bringing up a criminal degenerate. Sorry lady! It is more your fault your son is dead than the two cops that were just doing their job.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

this is an instence when the j-cops deserve to be bashed for their incompetence.

If this ever happened there wouldn't be any cops left around.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Its interesting to see the many comments/opinions readers have. I agree with a few but disagree with many of the postings. First off, if you pull a fire arm out, it is to kill plain and simple. I have qualifications on multiple weapons and never once was I taught to aim for a leg an arm, it was always taking core shots. Though I will not deny aiming at legs , arms and head. Shoot the tires, the radiator was mentioned... that only works in the movies. No need to give the perp a chance to get on a foot chase to endanger anyone else. I'm sure the article is missing many details so it looks like too much force was applied. No bleeding heart here, I praise the courts for allowing the police to do their jobs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He was a guy running from the police who refused to give up when ordered and tried to run them over

No. He didn't try to run them over; he wasn't driving.

And this story doesn't indicate that the driver tried to hit them (or even that any officer was in the vehicle's path) either.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

usaully robberies are commited by armed suspects,

But they're usually armed, in Japan, with knives, not automatic weapons.

Eight shots by three policemen at a stationary car. They hit both their targets, killing one. And one bullet doesn't automatically mean one dead suspect.

who really cares.

Evidently his mother.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

There are lots of guns in japan mostly held by crimminals and often used in armed robberies here, as i said maybe the coppers knew the guy was a bad ass and didnt want to take any chances.

Point is dont rob and steal and the chances of getting shot while leaving a robbery will be nill. His fault for being a dirt bag end of story. Bleeding hearts - sheesh.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

To paraphrase the theme song from 'Baretta,' don't do the crime if your mother's gonna whine about the cops not getting time for putting two in your behind.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

For once a couple of cops do their job and they get criminal case against them. This country is messed up!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

@Frungy

Thanks for reading my thoughts ! I couldn't have said it better !

0 ( +3 / -3 )

How is a wedged car any danger to anybody? And even if the car was moving (which it obviously wasn't) Just because the car was wedge does not mean it was not moving or about to be unwedge due to the attempts of the driver clicking on the accelerator.

Shooting a sitting man behind the wheel of a stopped car needs only one. Again in practical reality that isn't the case, too much watching Hollywood films.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Al Stewart

@Badge As funny as it may seem to say something like that, most movies get stuff like "shoot out the tires" or "shoot them in the leg" from real life police stories or military stories. If you shoot someone in the leg it is more likely that they will live than if you shoot them in the chest. Police are train to shoot and are required to do targeting practice in most countries.

A couple of problems with your theory there Al. 1. if you are trying to stop an armed suspect that is coming towards you shooting them in the leg will not always stop their forward momentum. Leaving the officer or bystanders in danger. 2. It is far to easy to miss when trying to hit someone in the legs small target and moving. As opposed to the torso which is a large area and is more inclined to stop them. 3. Have you ever shot a gun of any type? It is extremely difficult to hit a moving target let alone hit one in a small area like a leg, then factor in stress / adrenaline if they are coming at you. This is why despite being trained to shoot most if not all police are taught to aim for the torso. Might work great in the movies or by a specially trained sniper but your average police officer isnt going to make that shot.

Shooting out the tires of a stationary vehicle makes perfect sense, specially if the criminals inside are unarmed.

Again you are forgetting a few things, handguns are not overly accurate. You miss the tyre and get a ricochette and look out any bystanders. Again great for the movies but real life hmmm.

I mean of course the criminals are at fault for being criminals but the officers have to take some responsibility. I dont think they intended to kill him but they had many options. Specially in Japan, i would imagine that they would have various nonlethal methods to apprehend the bad guys. Good old rubber bullets and bean bag shot guns.

Al they where in a car, a rubber bullet or bean bag aint gonna stop a car. But given they where fleeing the officers then what was the immediate threat to the cops? Why if the suspects where fleeing did they feel the need to shoot, something doesnt sound right here. If the cops or passersby where at risk yes the shootings justified but if the suspects where merely fleeing then a bit of excessive force there.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

PsyopsMar. 02, 2012 - 12:06AM JST never once was I taught to aim for a leg an arm, it was always taking core shots.

I agree, if the intent is to kill then the torso is the logical target, it is a bigger target area and a lethal shot is likely. However these guys couldn't even hit that, instead the hit the guy NEXT TO the driver. Sit down in your car and measure the distance between your chest and your passenger's chest. That's a yard off target. No-one who can't land 90% of their rounds inside a standard shooting range target at 10 meters should be allowed to hold a gun, and certainly not a police officer who might be forced to fire in public where a missed round might mean some kid is hit.

Shoot the tires, the radiator was mentioned... that only works in the movies. No need to give the perp a chance to get on a foot chase to endanger anyone else.

... and in real life. A flat tire makes the car very difficult to handle at anything above a very slow speed. A blown radiator means it will overheat quickly and won't get far. These shots won't "kill" the car, but they will make the top speed about 20 miles an hour. :

Even the most hardened robber will get the point that the cops are serious if they start shooting. There is no need to proceed directly from "draw gun" straight to "kill someone" unless they someone has a gun of their own, and guns are sufficiently rare in Japan that it would definitely have been mentioned had there been one involved in this incident.

No bleeding heart here, I praise the courts for allowing the police to do their jobs.

These cops didn't do their jobs, they did the jobs of the courts. They were judges, jury and executioners. For what, a robbery? Please. I'm not a bleeding heart, if they'd done this to a murderer I'd be quietly applauding them saving the government the cost of an execution, but these guys would probably have got 5 or 10 years and been out. They didn't deserve a death sentence, and that's what they got.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Cops did their job! Mother should try to ascertain the facts, no one, especially the courts cares about her "opinion". She should head to the local library and begin studying books on parenting to try to ascertain where she failed as a parent. As to all of the hoopla regarding this criminal getting shot. This wasn't a T.V. show or a movie. This was real. As has previously been pointed out by many, situations like this happen quickly. So quickly that even training can't count for reactions to all of the stimulus input. It helps, but is never 100% effective. For all of those who blithely say the cops must have been crappy marksmen, I would like to point to a severe lack of information provided in this article. The car could be assumed to have been moving at some point in order to become wedged between police vehicles. Would it be so strange for an occupant of a car to be flung about when the vehicle goes from moving to a dead stop? Would it really be too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that in this case the possibility exists that the criminal in the passenger side of said vehicle could have been tossed into a line of fire centered at the driver? Let's try not to get too carried away and say the police were inept just yet. However, if the car sat there unmoving for 15 minutes and then the police decided to open fire I could begin to lean towards the murder/manslaughter charge side. Sorta seems like that wasn't the case though, so I'll trust that the police did what they were supposed to do in that situation, and that the courts backed them up on it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No. He didn't try to run them over; he wasn't driving.

@ Sioux Chef: You are correct, I made a mistake. But they do have a device on cars that unlocks doors. He could have used that to open the door and get out with his hands up in the air, since the article states the car was immobile. Or, he could have just given up after the police arrive. People tend to second guess the police in these situations, and that is reasonable to a point, but the criminal has a part in this too, and it was his own actions of stealing which eventually led to his death. I don't think the police just randomly go around and shoot people, and if they did, then they should be tried for such in this case. But the guy got caught stealing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just think the policemen did it right. And why shoot the tires instead? If you are in their place will you ever take chances for your own life? And yes, will you limit the number of firings each should do? The police are authorities and I believe anybody who challenge that authority have something to hide or flee about. And as one poster said, the suspects did a " crime " and perhaps had some sort of weapon. At that very moment will the policemen do some second thoughts that the weapon the suspects had was just a kitchen knife bought from a 100 yen shop?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The car got wedged in and wasn't going anywhere and there was no intent to cause fatal injury to the cops. The key question here is whether they pointed the gun and commanded them to stop and raise their hands above their head. J-Cops have protocols just like in the US, so unless they felt fatal endangerment to themselves, they had no right shooting them. The robbers were in a panic and like anything, they will flee like a bat out of hell, but that doesn't mean they possessed a weapon nor other serious crime.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

8 shots into a pretty much stationary car, not really aiming at anything in particular.... that's murder. I agree that cops generally have a difficult time and that in some countries this would be a sensible precaution since the suspects would probably be armed and its best to shoot them before they're shooting at you, but in Japan the situation is completely different.

Firstly, unless there was a strong reason to suspect that these criminals were armed, then they posed no real threat to the police or to bystanders. No threat means that lethal force is not justified.

Secondly, the car was wedged, the criminals weren't posing a threat and there was no reason not to slowly and carefully take aim at the tyres, radiator, engine, or anywhere else and take a single well-aimed shot. Hell, in these circumstances there was no reason not to pop into the nearest grocery store, buy a potato and ram it into the exhaust pipe, thus neutralising the car. The police's response was panicky and overkill.

Thirdly, if you have a gun it is your obligation to know how to use it properly. If the driver had been killed, well, there might have been some justification, particularly if he was trying to ram the police cars, but they killed the passenger, a passive participant. That means their shots were a yard or more off target... a yard. Think about that for a moment, on a firing range that would be missing the target entirely. No police officer entrusted with a gun should be that lousy a shot. It was only sheer luck that they didn't hit pavement and ricochet into a granny walking across the street.

In summation, these cops knowingly drew firearms they weren't competent to use in a low-threat situation and shot someone other than a legitimate target. Manslaughter, clear and simple.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

The suspect was cornered and told to give up but decided to step on the accelerator and tried to ram the blocking police car. The police then decided to shoot.

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

This woman is stupid, she raised a very bad son and he paid with his life, period!!

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

ultradork.

Not at all.

The Japanese Police has very strict guidelines under which they can draw their guns and even stricter as when they can discharge them. The verdict took those into consideration as any court would do.

Bit of research and talking to a cop helps. ;) The crims are usually better informed than the cops as to what the cops can do legally as are their lawyers worldwide.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

did they intend to kill KO? maybe no. was it excessive force? heck yea! first, the guy was a in a ROBBERY. he didn't murder anyone at the scene. second, he's a passenger in the car, not the one driving. if anyone should have died, it should have been the driver.

this is an instence when the j-cops deserve to be bashed for their incompetence.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

How about shooting the tires out instead of the people in the car? The police just panicked. Simple.

the Nara District Court said there was no evidence that the police officers intended to kill the suspect

OK, so instead of a murder charge it should be a manslaughter charge. Duh.

Final Verdict: The judge protected the police.

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

fired eight rounds at the suspect’s getaway car after it got wedged between two police cars.

How is a wedged car any danger to anybody? And even if the car was moving (which it obviously wasn't), how does shooting a passenger stop it? Eight bullets? Shooting a sitting man behind the wheel of a stopped car needs only one. Japanese police displays it's well-known skills again. I guess the police instead has been watching way too many movies.

The message here is that Japanese police can kill without repercussions. Another example of the Japanese DIY death sentencing.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

the cops had no right to fire unless the suspect had a gun or was aiming at them.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

Shoot at the tires like the do in CSI

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

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