Should police be able to kill a man for shooting at a police robot?
Sherry Booth thought she had a good, if nosy neighbor, in the man who lived in the other side of her Grays Hill Court duplex. Then her daughter called her a little after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“She was scared to death,” Booth said. “The police (sic) was banging on the door. Told her to hurry up and get out because he had a gun.”
Kentucky State Police said a man met Shelbyville Police at his front door with a long gun when they tried to serve him a warrant for assault and menacing. Thursday, Shelby County Deputy Coroner Ittin Russell identified the man as Del Aukerman.
His Facebook page makes clear his fondness for exotic firearms, motorcycles and military memorabilia.
“The subject barricaded himself inside his residence and refused to cooperate with negotiators,” said Trooper Kendra Wilson, public information officer for KSP’s Frankfort post.
State police brought in the Special Operations Unit. A standoff ensued over the next five-and-one-half hours. It ended in gunfire, troopers say, after Aukerman opened fire on a remote-control robot trying to enter the home.
“It sounded like World War III,” said Tim Reno, a neighbor. “And you could tell when the first shots went out, it was most likely him. It was muffled, it was far away.”
“The return gunfire, the subject was killed,” Trooper Wilson said.
Aukerman was killed for shooting at a robot, and the police appear to be rather liberal with their gunfire.
Kentucky State Police shot up not just aukerman’s unit, but the other duplex unit as well. The neighbor’s truck parked outside was also shot repeatedly.
Aukerman was being served a warrant for terrorist threats and harassing communications to a public defender via five emails since April of 2013, including a threat to “smack the [expletive] out of you.”
It was of course absurd for Aukerman to put himself in this situation. He shouldn’t have sent the emails, and when the officers arrived to arrest him on relatively minor charges, he should have surrendered and gone willingly. He likely would have posted bail and been back home that night or the next day.
Sending in the robot after less than six hours into the standoff with an armed subject is a judgement call that the on-scene commander made and I don’t feel the need to second-guess that decision. I do, however, question the rules of engagement if officers were authorized to fire on Aukerman for shooting at the remotely-piloted robot.
If that is what occurred, the police baited Aukerman, turning a standoff into a shootout.