Cover Story: Inside the mind of a cop

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - Funeral services Tuesday for 15 year old Yvette Williams, the victim in an officer involved shooting last week in Rock Hill, SC.   A lot of the attention has been focused on the victim's family and understandably so.  But there's another side anytime there's a tragedy like this -- that often goes untold.

In our world today, people are shot and killed unfortunately all the time.. but rarely do they receive as much attention as when an individual is shot by police.  Now, we show another side.. and we turn the microscope on ourselves.

No matter the town or the situation.. anytime there's an officer involved shooting.. there's community outrage.. and the media's all over it.

We cover the vigils.  And the funeral.

But what if you had to walk in an officer's shoes, and were confronted by a suspect with a gun and you had to make a split-second decision?

Will Grubb (here with his grandson who's about the same age as the victim in the police shooting) has walked in those shoes.  A former police officer in Rock Hill.. retired 21 years ago, and he served in the military in Vietnam.

After Yvette Williams' death.. his thoughts were not only for the family.. but for the police officers involved as well.

"The police officer they have to live with what happened.. after it's said and done.. everything's done the police offier has to live with what happened and the decision he made," says Grubb.

It's a burden he says officers carry with them the rest of their lives.

"No one wants to do.. that's probably the worst thing in a police officer's career is to take someone's life."

And when the suspect is a young person.. like it was in the Rock Hill case, "It weights heavy on your mind because they're kids and you just don't want to do anything to hurt their life or interfere with their getting older."

But as his training in the military taught him.. the same training in law enforcement teaches.. when your life is threatened you must respond appropriately.

"Sometimes it's either you or them.. and preferably it's the bad guy."

Grubb says the media tend to rush to the victim's side.  The public sees their suffering.  But the same public that wants protection can tend to punish police for doing their job.. which can have a chilling effect on cops.

He says, "They give them the authority to protect themselves and to protect the citizens and whenever you take that authority out of their hands a lot of times it'll make a police officer think twice about what he's doing."

Not respond with force.. and the officer could wind up dead.. and our communities have experienced that before.

If only the past could be rewritten.

"If she'd come out of the store.. they would have confronted her. The police officer said put your weapond down.. to lay it down.. it would have been over. Everybody'd been safe. She didn't choose to do that. She chose the wrong road," says Grubb.

Anytime we have one of these-- the question always comes up.. why don't cops shoot suspects in the leg or arm.. just wound them?

Police tell us they're trained to shoot to kill.. shoot in the biggest area.. center of the body.  Whenever you shoot someone in the arm or leg there's still the potential to have the weapon in their hand to do damage or harm to the officer or to any civilians in the area.

Additionally, in the Rock Hill police case, SC Law Enforcement Division has been called into to investigate, which is standard procedure anytime there's an officer involved shooting.  SLED will release its findings in the coming weeks.