Knoxville Chief Talks About Split Second Decisions Officers Make

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KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- With police under the microscope for their actions after two fatal shootings in Louisiana in Minnesota, Chief Losada is speaking out about the life and death split second decisions officers have to make under difficult circumstances, and why he believes some encounters with police end peacefully and others do not.

“In these type of cases, our officers are justified in pulling their own weapons. In this particular case, they did not do that,” said Knoxville Police Chief Dan Losada. “A lot of it depends upon victim cooperation and suspect cooperation."

The Knoxville Police Department had its own recent encounter with an armed man that ended without incident. Officers were called to the Casey's at 203 South Lincoln Street just after five o'clock Wednesday morning. A woman there had called the cops, claiming that Jonathan Lee Decker was armed with a Hi-Point CS .380 with a loaded magazine, and that he had threatened to use the gun against her.

In the complaint and affidavit, Officer Eric How states, "After speaking with the victim, I spoke with Jonathan. I asked Jonathan to step out of the vehicle so I could pat him down for weapons. At that time, Jonathan admitted he had the gun hidden inside his waistband, covered by his shirt. Jonathan admitted he did not have a concealed carry permit. The gun was recovered from Jonathan and was still loaded with the magazine."

“We were very fortunate everyone was cooperative. If this person had been uncooperative and maybe rolled up the windows of the car and locked the car doors. Now we have a potentially armed person sitting in a vehicle, where we have to do something about it. So, how do we control that? We can’t just let them drive away."

Decker was charged with going armed with intent and carrying weapons. He was taken to the Marion County Jail and has since bonded out. Chief Dan Losada says the situation could have turned out differently, had Decker reacted differently.

"If the person had been silly and when the officer asked, do you have a gun? And he had reached and grabbed for the gun, now what? Is he reaching to grab the gun because he`s gonna hand it to the police officer? Is he reaching to grab the gun to shoot the police officer?" said Losada.

Those are the difficult situations officers are faced with; one of which Losada once faced himself. It's an incident that still haunts him to this very day.

"Earlier in my career I had a case where I stopped an individual early in the morning hours for a traffic violation and when I asked him for his registration from his vehicle, he reached in the glove box and pulled out a handgun. Everyone survived that night, but come to find out the handgun was a BB gun. When I asked him about it after the incident was done, he said that he knew when he opened the glove box, to get his registration out, that I might see the handgun and he just wanted to show it to me so that he could show me that it was just a BB gun, just a toy and I wouldn’t get nervous, but his way of doing that was to grab it and start bringing it over to point it toward me. Fortunately, I was able to back away and using commands, get him to drop the weapon and the case resolved peaceably. If I had chosen to squeeze the trigger, I would have been legally justified, but I could have seriously injured or killed somebody for having a BB gun, but I didn’t know it at that time," said Losada.

Unlike that encounter, which ended with a peaceful resolution, Losada recounted an incident that went the other way, in May of 2008, in which 51 year-old Frederick Dean Wright lost his life at the hands of an officer.

"In Knoxville, several years ago, we had an individual that one of my police lieutenants was attempting to stop for a license plate violation, ended up in high speed pursuit. When the pursuit ended, because the person blew a tire in his car, the officer went to contact him and the person came out with a gun. The result of that incident was that man being shot and killed. If he had just stopped the car, he would have gotten a warning for a traffic violation," said Losada.

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