On March 11 in Cleveland, Ohio, a black man named Theodore Johnson was shot and killed by police. The events leading up to his death were all caught on video, thanks to an officer, David Muniz, wearing the type of body camera that is increasingly worn by United States police forces, and is making its way to Canada. Mr. Johnson's killing was controversial. Given the current climate in the U.S., many people assumed the police, and not the deceased, were at fault. But the video, made public last week, completely exonerates the officers.
Mr. Johnson, a man with a lengthy criminal record, had been threatening his wife and landlord with a gun. When Officer Muniz arrived on the scene, Mr. Johnson fired two shots at him; one struck the policeman in the chest. Fortunately, the officer was wearing a bullet-proof vest. The cop declined to fire back. Instead, video shows Mr. Muniz – who had just been shot – and his colleagues trying to talk Mr. Johnson into surrendering. The agitated man repeatedly demands the cops kill him.
"I know you shot me," replied officer Muniz, "but I'm not going to shoot you."
Mr. Johnson eventually stops begging the officers to take his life, and points his weapon at them. They have no choice but to fire.
Officer Muniz and his colleagues showed exceptionally bravery in dealing with a man who was suicidal, but also armed and dangerous. The incident is a reminder of the value of putting cameras on cops. Yes, video can reveal when police misbehave. But it can also show when they deserve thanks for going beyond, sometimes far beyond, the call of duty.