From the week of August 16, 2001

Under the Gun

Cheap shot: A police officer has the right under some circumstances to kill ("A Life That Almost Happened," Amanda Scioscia, July 26). With this awesome power comes great responsibility. This does not mean that each and every time a police officer shoots someone that he was correct in doing so.

The prior two letters ("Give cops a break," "Wrong place, wrong time," August 9) display a troubling need to manufacture facts to excuse the police. Some people want (no, more accurately, need) to believe that the police never make mistakes. The previous letters demonstrate the willingness of people to make up facts when they uncomfortably interfere with the fictions that they constructed. The previous authors have done so in an effort to excuse an officer who, wrongly or rightly, killed an innocent bystander.

The first letter states that Alfonso Celaya was "pointing" the gun at someone. The vast majority of the witnesses stated that he was pointing the gun down at the ground and not at anyone.

The second letter makes a string of incorrect assumptions. The assumptions, labeled "facts," within the letter are:

1. He never should have been there. (The author implies that since he was underage he shouldn't have been where he was shot. The letter also seems to imply that he was drunk. The autopsy showed that Alfonso Celaya's blood alcohol was .00 and he was on a public street when he was shot.)

2. He never should have touched the gun. (At the time that Alfonso touched the gun, there were two people fighting over the gun, one of whom had shot it two times in an attempt to kill the other. If Alfonso had not grabbed the gun, he and others might have been shot.)

3. He should have lain down on the ground as the police approached. (Almost to a person, all who were there agree that there was no verbal warning when the police arrived. Alfonso was shot from the side. He never saw or heard the police who shot him. If the officer had given a warning, Alfonso should have dropped to the ground. No warning, no reason. Without ESP, why should he have dropped to the ground?)

If you don't know the "facts," please don't make them up to fit your view of the world. There are great police officers; there are bad police officers. Sometimes even the good ones make mistakes and, when they do, they and their employers should be held accountable like everyone else.

Joel B. Robbins
via Internet

Support your local cops: Amanda Scioscia, you have just attempted to glorify the life of a young man who did not have the sense to stay away from bars until he was old enough to frequent them or with the good sense to make better choices when choosing his friends.

You have just announced to the entire community the working schedule of the officer involved, who was doing his job to protect your community as well as his own life. You have failed to care about how this has affected all of the families involved with this unfortunate incident. Furthermore, you have neglected to inform the readers that Sergeant Spalla and the other off-duty police officers were hired by the owners to protect the patrons of the bar because of incidents like this one. They were not hired to stand outside, on their off-duty time, to look the other way when the safety of others and themselves was at risk.

Sergeant Spalla, Officer Mayer, Officer Escoto and Officer Wubker did not "quickly become Phoenix police officers, with weapons drawn, approaching a potentially deadly scene." They were, in fact, Phoenix police officers from the moment they arrived at their position at the bar, regardless of the fact that they were working "off duty."

Next time get your facts in order. You may have seen another side to this nightmare that affects not only the victim's family, but the police officers' families as well, each time they are chastised for taking the life of another human being who is clearly a threat to the police officer and to others.

Did you ever once consider the fact that Sergeant Spalla's life was also in danger and that he, too, has a family that loves him and worries about him every day that he goes to work, protecting us from this very sort of "good boy"? That we, too, dread the 1 a.m. telephone call that might tell us that he will not be coming home because he was killed in the line of duty?

This article is nothing but a one-sided rendition of a young man who claimed to have aspirations of a law enforcement career, but who did not have the good sense to go to a movie on Saturday night instead of frequenting a bar he had no business being at in the first place, with friends who choose to carry guns. Shame on you, Amanda.

Name withheld by request

Shelter Skelter

Barking lot: I do not blame Ken White for objecting to a grant for a no-kill animal shelter ("Pet Peeves," Maria Luisa Tucker, August 9). Will this be available to everyone? Who will be the fiscal agent for all this money? How will it be distributed? There are many more questions, and why wait until the money is spent before those questions are asked? I think there are more restrictions than we want. I have asked for something in writing about the fund and have not received anything to date. I would need more information on this.

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