October 17, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Do you routinely carry a weapon? Imagine a dispute with your neighbor. Imagine exchanging words. Imagine that exchange getting heated. Imagine your neighbor throwing a few punches. What happens if you draw your weapon and fire? Well…it depends: are you a neighbor or a cop?
If you’re a neighbor, perhaps you end up charged with an aggravated assault. If you’re a cop, perhaps your neighbor ends up charged with a crime. To date, no charge has been filed on either, but that doesn’t mean something isn’t coming as police are continuing to investigate the neighbor.
A Houston police officer shot his neighbor during a dispute over a dog Thursday evening, Houston police said Friday.
According to police, off-duty Officer Jason Loosmore knocked on his 21-year-old neighbor’s door around 6:20 p.m., on Riderwood Drive in Westside, hoping to ask the man for medical and shot records for his German shepherd, which Loosmore told police attacked his own Pug mix that evening.
In Texas, a person is justified in using force to defend against unlawful force. Additionally, a person can use deadly force where self-defense was allowed and to the degree immediately necessary to protect himself from use or attempted use of deadly force. In short, when confronted with unlawful force, a person can generally defend himself with similar force. When confronted with deadly force, if justified in using force to begin with, a person may defend himself with deadly force. And there’s the caveat to deadly force: to be justified in using deadly force, the person must first have been justified in using self-defense.*
When Loosmore went over to discuss a problem, he was carrying a weapon – his off-duty weapon. If Loosmore was merely a neighbor, this is where he would have run afoul of the law.
Texas carves out an interesting exception to the use of force for self-defense.** Under Texas’ self-defense statute, one cannot rely on self-defense when he proceeds to seek out an explanation or discussion over differences while carrying a weapon. So generally, going over to someone’s house, while carrying a gun to talk about a problem, negates the ability to later claim self-defense if things go wrong during that discussion.
Here, Loosmore, the neighbor, carried a weapon while seeking out an explanation from or discussion with his neighbor. If Loosmore were simply a citizen going over to discuss a dog attack, he had to leave his gun at home when heading over to seek out his neighbor. And, this generally makes some sense under the law.
Texas residents love their guns, no doubt. But, they are not allowed to carry them when they intend to confront someone over a problem. Sure, if the confrontation begins unexpectedly, that’s one thing, but here Loosmore is headed over to the neighbor’s house specifically to address a problem. And there’s always a chance that things will get heated. Hence, the exception to self-defense.
But Loosmore is not just a neighbor. Loosmore is a police officer. As such, he is entitled to carry a weapon. And there’s the rub – is Loosmore a police officer or just a neighbor when he is taking care of his personal business and in a non-official capacity? Is he still able to claim self-defense after carrying a weapon while heading over to confront his neighbor?
The neighbor, who police declined to name, began “verbally cursing and yelling” through his closed front door, and Loosmore walked away and called 911 for assistance. It was then, police said, that the neighbor rushed out of his home and attacked Loosmore, punching him in the “head, face and upper chest area.”
Aside from the ability to carry a gun to seek out an explanation, this is certainly where being a cop comes in handy. More specifically, those magic words come in handy.
Police said Loosmore became disoriented from the blows, feared for his life and shot the neighbor in the chest and abdomen with his off-duty pistol.
Loosmore, the cop and not the neighbor, feared for his life. He was punched in the head, face and upper chest area. So he pulled a gun and shot the neighbor. Not only does he skirt the exception for bringing a weapon to a discussion, he brought a gun to a fistfight. Remember, deadly force can only be justified in response to deadly force or attempted deadly force. Unless, of course, you’re a cop fearing for your life.
Complicating the fact-pattern, a witness and Loosmore have different versions of what happened.
“(Officer Loosmore) had been struck repeatedly in the head,” Kese Smith, spokesman for Houston Police said. “We know that from the injuries he sustained.”
“So, he was being physically assaulted and he says because he was losing consciousness,” Smith said. “That’s why he was afraid that the suspect, whether he had a gun on him or not was irrelevant. The officer had one and the officer knew if he lost consciousness, that suspect would have access to that weapon.”
However, a witness, who did not see the initial dog attack, told KHOU 11 News the fight started when the officer charged the man shot. The two men struggled. Then, as the officer pinned the other guy up against a neighbor’s house, that man raised his fist to punch the officer and was shot four times in the chest.
So yes, Loosmore is a cop. He’s always a cop, on duty or off. It’s just interesting that he is afforded a different set of rules when dealing with his personal business than non-cops. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. And he will rely on those magic words to justify his personal actions. Perhaps that’s why he wore his badge around his neck as he knocked on the neighbor’s door. Maybe he turned his personal dog beef into an official act that ended with four bullets in his neighbor’s chest.