Officer shows ‘great restraint’ not shooting charging suspect, chief says

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By Eliott C. McLaughlin

CNN

(CNN) -- Police shootings stoke controversy as the public dissects the details of each incident and decides whether the use of force was unwarranted or if the officer acted in self-defense in the face of a truly dangerous criminal.

This isn't one of those cases.

On Thursday, Officer Jesse Kidder could have opened fire on a man in New Richmond, Ohio, and likely would never have heard a breath of the protest that followed the shootings of Eric Harris and Walter Scott.

What might have been a "suicide by cop" ended in the suspect's arrest and booking, thanks to what Kidder's colleagues say was his "great restraint."

If there were a checklist for when it's OK to shoot a suspect, Kidder could have ticked most of the boxes.

Double homicide suspect, check.

Possibly armed, check.

Verbally threatening police, check.

Refusing to remove hands from pockets, check.

Charging at an officer, check.

"Law enforcement officers all across the nation deal with split-second decisions that mean life or death. I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force," Kidder told CNN affiliate WLWT.

In the incident, caught on Kidder's body camera, the officer gets out of his car, his gun trained on a suspect who had allegedly killed his fiancee and best friend before leading police on a multicounty chase through Kentucky and Ohio.

The officer's body camera -- which Kidder's family bought for him after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri -- captured the suspect rushing toward Kidder, unfazed by the officer's handgun. Dispatchers had told Kidder the suspect might have a gun under his car seat and might attempt to commit "suicide by cop," WLWT reported.

"I jumped out, and he's running toward me. I had my firearm already drawn on him, and I tell him to put his hands up in the air, and he was screaming, 'Shoot me! Shoot me!'" Kidder said.

Kidder backs away from the suspect, who puts one hand in his jacket pocket, then another. Still, the officer declines to pull the trigger.

"My eyes are watching that hand right now, nothing else," Kidder said.

Kidder yells, "Get your hands out of your pocket now!"

The suspect continues to advance, walking swiftly, hands still obscured.

"I was trying to open a dialogue with him. 'I don't want to shoot you; just get on the ground.' But he wasn't having it. He kept repeating, 'Shoot me!' At one point, he said, 'Shoot me, or I'll shoot you,'" the officer said.

Kidder keeps his composure, even when the suspect charges to within a few feet, forcing Kidder to tumble backward to the ground, his upended feet coming into the body camera's view.

As Kidder gets up, backup arrives and the suspect surrenders, turning around and lying on his face in the street, his arms extended from his body.

Sgt. Les Smith, who has been with the New Richmond police for 33 years, told CNN that even though Kidder is green -- he's been with the department for only about a year -- he's an excellent officer.

The former Marine, who served two tours of duty before joining the force, works as a resource officer for a New Richmond school, and his $400 body camera comes in handy when issues arise there, Smith told CNN.

The video demonstrates that if Kidder had felt compelled to shoot the suspect, he would've been justified, Police Chief Randy Harvey told WLWT, adding that he hopes to find funding to outfit all of his officers with body cameras.

"For him to make the judgment call that he did shows great restraint and maturity," the chief said.

CNN's Joe Sutton contributed to this report.

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