Law enforcement officers are well aware that whenever they fire their guns in the line of duty, they will be second-guessed. They also understand that such investigations will consume weeks, perhaps months, in coming to conclusions about decisions officers had to make in split-seconds.
Such an investigation is under way now. It involves a Belmont County Sheriff's deputy who fired two shots in a parking lot at Eastern Division Court in Bellaire last Thursday.
A Wheeling man, Sylvester Walker, was in court that day. After a judge revoked his bond, Walker fled the courtroom. He ran to a car waiting for him in the parking lot.
There, the deputy warned the car's driver, allegedly Walker's girlfriend, to stop. When the vehicle kept moving, the deputy fired two shots from his pistol, flattening one of the tires.
That kept Walker from getting away, though he managed to slip out of his shirt and elude authorities for a few more minutes. He was taken back into custody quickly.
Of course, investigations are imperative in such situations. It has been pointed out a number of bystanders were in the parking lot when the deputy fired.
But Sheriff Dave Lucas and Bellaire Police Chief Mike Kovalyk already are on record in judging the deputy was justified in using his weapon.
It certainly appears so. Walker has been arrested several times, most of the time on drug charges. He pleaded guilty in Ohio County Circuit Court to threatening his own grandmother with a gun. He was scheduled to appear in Ohio County magistrate court on a domestic battery charge. The deputy had every reason to worry that if Walker escaped, he might be a threat to the public and other law enforcement officers.
And the deputy did not merely fire his pistol without thinking. Hitting the tire of a moving vehicle is not easy; clearly, the deputy exercised care in making his shots.
Again, the episode should be investigated. But initial indications are that Lucas and Kovalyk are right - that the deputy acted to safeguard the public.