Did Phoenix Police Need to Kill Zachariah Pithan?
Pithan was declared indigent by the court and assigned an attorney, who moved for a mental evaluation of his client, writing in his motion that, "Defendant exhibited signs of mental instability and reported that he is undergoing mental health treatment."
The results of his examination by two doctors were sealed by the court. Ultimately, the judge found Pithan competent to assist in his own defense.
I contacted Pithan's parents for comment. In response, the family released the following statement:
"We are all shocked and deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected loss of our son and brother, Zach Pithan, who was shot and killed by Phoenix police on Saturday April 20, 2013. Although Zach struggled for much of his life with mental illness, he was a good person with a great heart, and he was taken from us far too soon.
"We trust that the authorities who are investigating the circumstances surrounding Zach's death will do their duty, and many of our questions will soon be answered. As a family, we ask that the public and the media please respect our privacy during this difficult time as we grieve for Zach."
(Please note: A friend of the family has set up a memorial page, asking supporters for donations to cover expenses related to Pithan's death.)
The state statute that covers the use of deadly force by law enforcement is pretty broad, and may even cover threat by table leg, as far as I can tell.
But as with the Rodriguez slaying, one can't help but think that the PPD should have been able to take Zach into custody without firing a shot.
Especially when we're talking about four highly-trained law enforcement officers facing a 22 year-old with a table leg.
I know there are a lot of people out there who want us never to question the police. No matter what occurs, they give the cops a pass.
And there is the other camp, which demonizes police officers.
I decline to join either camp. Still, I'm left to wonder: Was Zachariah Pithan's killing necessary?
It is evident from messages posted to Facebook and elsewhere by friends and relatives that Pithan was loved and is grieved over.
Whatever the results of the investigation, Pithan's death is a tragedy for those who knew him. They deserve our condolences. They have mine.