On Witnessing a Double Homicide.
I saw a shooting on the street years ago. After that, the military police engaged in a shoot-out. Tragically, two people died. I watched the whole event from a balcony, which kept me safe.
From my memory, it went something like this:
We heard two gunshots and saw a man staggering out of a building across the road. He fell and a pool of blood formed. A second man came out and started stamping on his head and kicking his torso. The victim wasn’t moving. I shouted at the gunman. He then headed towards the building I was in, holding a gun. A policeman and two other people rushed to help the man who was shot. The shooter threatened to shoot them and they put their hands up. One man ran away. Suddenly, ten military police officers arrived on five motorbikes, each officer carrying an AK47. The shooter tried to highjack an SUV, but was shot by the military police.
I had never seen someone die before that night.
I’m shocked that my shout was one of the last things he heard before the military police shot him with AK47s. He died within a minute.
The sight was shocking: ending someone’s life was so simple. I had seen the military police on street corners for years. They were usually sleepy and harmless. But now, they bravely faced a gunman and ended his life in seconds.
This was a reminder of how far Cambodia is from Europe. I take my safety for granted daily, yet a random ricochet bullet could change that.
After the shooting, I felt wrong being in a club with my friends, laughing and cheering, when two people had their lives taken away just a few blocks away. We didn’t even know their names.
Life is fragile. We are mere bags of skin, flesh, and organs, and we are easily harmed by a car, a bullet, or a punch. In a world of seven billion people, one death hardly matters – except when it does.
This event made me think of my own death. Will it be sudden, unexpected, or slow in a hospital bed? For men aged 18-45, the leading cause of death is suicide.
This made me realize that every day is a gift. We must take actionable steps to live the life we want now, not in the future.
The World Is a Crazy Place
I’ve been pondering how far off course some people can be led. People act in ways they believe, consciously or subconsciously, to be right. The shooter I saw thought it was okay to shoot someone and then try to hijack a car to evade the police.
This is not rational behaviour, yet philosophers have argued that humans are rational creatures for thousands of years. My experience contradicts this statement. Of course, one incident doesn’t disprove the whole argument, and we could also blame drugs and alcohol for strange behaviour.
In the last few days, I’ve tried to imagine what was going through the shooter’s mind in those last minutes. He had just killed a man and threatened to kill two or three more.
Humans are often said to be hedonistic, seeking pleasure. But why did this man behave as he did? He held several people, including a policeman, at gunpoint. Adrenaline surged through him as he tried to figure out what to do. This is not the behaviour of someone who is seeking pleasure.
I don’t know what sparked the shooting, so I can’t comprehend the shooter’s motivations. But the behaviour is so alien to me and everyone I know that it almost makes me wonder if there are two kinds of humans on Earth.
Brandishing a gun in public is so hazardous, careless and plain foolish that I cannot fathom a rational person doing it. I think that perhaps anyone who commits this type of serious crime is automatically mentally ill – and so this would mean that we would never be able to charge people with murder because they would always be a partial defence available to reduce the charge to manslaughter.
Is Killing Ever Justified?
I wonder if there will be an official inquiry into this event, which happened in a developing country. Is it right for police to shoot a gunman? Is killing ever justified?
Yes, I believe the police had a minimal choice in this matter. The shooter had already demonstrated the capability to take someone’s life and was running with a gun. It was easy to predict the outcome.
Yes, the killing can be justified in some cases. Every legal code in the world reflects this by classifying homicide (ending one person’s life by another) into different types, some of which are pardonable, and some are criminal offences with harsh punishments.
I’ll leave you with this small excerpt from Cicero’s On Duties:
There could be no more terrible crime than to kill someone who is not merely a fellow human being but a close friend. Yet surely someone who kills a tyrant, however close friends the two men have been, has not committed a crime.