12/13/06 — More to the story: Wilmington shooting was a preventable tragedy

View Archive

More to the story: Wilmington shooting was a preventable tragedy

It is easy to feel sorry for the parents of Peyton Strickland. Their 18-year-old son is dead because a sheriff’s deputy made an error.

Any story that ends in the death of a young man who has not yet seen his 21st birthday is indeed, a tragedy.

But there is more to consider in this story, especially as we listen to Strickland’s family members and others call for justice against the sheriff’s deputy who pulled the trigger.

Strickland was wanted in connection with the beating of a Wilmington college student and the theft of two Sony PlayStation 3s. Two alleged accomplices were also accused in the case.

Officers were worried — rightly or wrongly — about serving the search warrant at Strickland’s home because of pictures they had found on the Internet of one of the suspects posing with friends and guns.

On the day of the arrest, the deputy in question heard a police battering ram and thought he was hearing gunfire, so he fired.

He was wrong — and when the entry was over, a young man had lost his life.

There is reason to be looking closely at the rules that govern the execution of search warrants and to further examine the facts of any case in which an unnecessary death was involved and to take appropriate action.

But this is not a case of an innocent bystander who just got caught in gunfire. Peyton Strickland did not deserve to die, but deputies were at his home for a reason. And they could very well have been in danger, too.

There will be no judge or jury in this case. No one will ever be able to speak to the guilt or innocence of this 18-year-old. So, one can only mention responsibly that while this teenager might very well have been involved in a violent crime, he deserved the chance to prove his guilt or innocence.

And the officers involved in the execution of the search warrant on his home had every right to make sure they were safe, too. An officer never knows what he will encounter when performing his duty. Many have died in just such a situation. Caution is self-preservation for an officer of the law. That doesn’t make what happened right, but it does offer some insight on why it might have occurred.

So while the initial outrage expressed by the family and calls for justice for their son’s “murderer” might seem understandable, it is important to remember one simple fact. Had there been no beating, no theft, the officers would not have been there in the first place.

This is a tragic, but preventable, accident, with many lessons to be learned for all involved.

Published in Editorials on December 13, 2006 11:29 AM