About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Manslaughter Charge Suggests Officers Need Better Training

Freemansburg Police prepare ID cards for area kids
Last night, communities throughout the country celebrated National Night Out (NNO). It's a time for first responders and the citizens they serve to come together. Police make ID cards for kids so that if they ever get lost, mom or dad can give officers something that gives them an idea what the child looks like and some other physical characteristic, like height. Firefighters are also a big hit, as they demonstrate how they put out fires. In communities like Freemansburg, it's an opportunity to get fed, too. Borough Council members drop their gavels for spatulas,and turn out dogs and burgers with food supplied by area grocers. Yesterday, NNO coincided with a day in which Lehigh County DA Jim Martin filed manslaughter charges against South Whitehall Township police officer Jonathan Roselle. Their National Night Out had been postponed as a result of flooding, and that's probably a good thing.

After Martin's announcement, I spoke with a career prosecutor who told me she knows of no other profession in which momentary bad judgment in a crisis situation can lead to homicide charges. But my concern all along is that the officer had available to him other means to subdue the man he killed. He had a baton, taser and mace. According to the statutory definition,
"(a) General rule.--A person who kills an individual without lawful justification commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he is acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by:

(1) the individual killed; or

(2) another whom the actor endeavors to kill, but he negligently or accidentally causes the death of the individual killed.

(b) Unreasonable belief killing justifiable.--A person who intentionally or knowingly kills an individual commits voluntary manslaughter if at the time of the killing he believes the circumstances to be such that, if they existed, would justify the killing under Chapter 5 of this title (relating to general principles of justification), but his belief is unreasonable."
The officer felt at that one moment that he needed to use deadly force, but Martin's investigation concluded that belief was unreasonable.

Should Officer Roselle choose to go to trial, that will be a question for the jury. I personally believed he could have used less lethal means or waited for back up.

One officer told me last night that what happened underscores the need for better training. He said interactive training simulator shelp officers recognize when deadly force is warranted, and told me he believes the Allentown Police Academy has one of these.

I also spoke to a retired police officer -a big guy - with 30 years of experience. He said you never know how you're going to react until you're in a real situation.

It's an unfortunate situation for all involved. Lehigh County DA Jim Martin was unfairly attacked in the middle of an investigation. A police officer will never work in that capacity again,regardless of the outcome of the criminal case. Some feel that there was latent bias in the officer's decision to pull the trigger. Others are using what happened as an opportunity to express their bias while solemnly denying it. But the biggest loss is for Santos' children. They will grow up without a father.


Anonymous said...

I always thought Hamiliton was an EW corridor. Martin kept referring to N and S.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the officer panicked. Maybe he could or should have had more training. One of the things that concerns me is that if this trained police officer could have panicked or overreacted or whatever and shot someone five times, what happens when the person with the gun is a teacher in a classroom or crowded hallway? Or a plain ol' civilian in a coffee shop or a parking lot?

Bernie O'Hare said...

One of the many reasons I won't carry is precisely bc of the point you are making. If you carry a firearm, it is very important to practice frequently and have good marksmanship. I believe most police officers practice regularly. I don't think a teacher or a civilian in a coffee shop does. While we may have the right to carry, I would hope those who do will practice. I will admit I do like guns. My friend Ron Angle collects them, and many of them are works of art. But I never liked firing them or cleaning them.

Anonymous said...

No one knows how they will react under pressure. Training, seasoning, experience, maturity all enter into this.

A few years ago, a Freemansburg officer failed to shoot and it cost an officer his life; in this case, the officer appears to have over reacted.


the other Ron said...

(With regard to "north-south" or "east-west" language:) At that location, Hamilton Blvd. is also Route 222, and Route 222 (according to PennDOT) goes "south" from Allentown to Reading, Lancaster, and beyond.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton blvd and 222 actually go Northeast and Southwest not strictly either North-South or East-West

Anonymous said...

After watching the newly released videos of Santos riding on the driver's side of a white vehicle, then climbing onto the hood of the police SUV, I can see why the officer felt his life was in danger. That display of bizarre behavior coupled with failing to get on the ground and walking to the officer made for an intense situation. Like a Monday morning quarterback, I am sure the officer regrets throwing the ball instead of calling a run play. Does that mean he made a mistake? He made a judgment call, and 12 citizens from Lehigh County will decide it if was a mistake. Like Bernie said, it will be in their hands. Reasonable or unreasonable, that is the question. Incidentally, 2 NJ police officers were recently fired for not engaging a youth who was jumping and stomping on the hood of their police vehicle. So much for 'restraint' going in favor of an officer.

Anonymous said...

"Better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6".

Anonymous said...

A voluntary manslaughter charge is a slam dunk acquittal.

Anonymous said...

We still need the toxicology report. If Santos was hopped up on speed, that could explain his erratic behavior. He was violent and unpredictable. The officer feared that although he was walking slowly towards him, he could have bum rushed him. Santos was a large scary guy who already demonstrated insane, destructive behavior. Pepper spray would not have stopped him. And a taser may not have been effective if he was hopped up on drugs. He failed to obey the officer's commands three times. He had no intention to surrender. The cop was not only protecting himself, but the frightened motorists Santos was terrorizing. The jury will conclude that the shooting was justified, and the officer will be acquitted.

Anonymous said...

You're hopped up. Cop was a pussy.

Anonymous said...

Bernie @9:47,
Police officers recertify their marksmanship on a regular basis. It called "qualifying".

Anonymous said...

The jungle cleanses itself

Anonymous said...

"Cop was a pussy"? An asinine statement. He was not only protecting himself, he was protecting the lives of terrorized motorists. You would have run away from the guy like a mouse.

Anonymous said...

Clean kill

Santos was the prime mover. This whole situation is one of Santos' children, as it were.

Reginal Denny is the example of what can happen to a motorist when Damien "football' Williams types run loose in the streets.

Remember the images of that brick hitting Denny's head after he was dragged from his truck because he came to a stop so as not to hit disorderly individuals in the street.

Reginal Denny, feared the police and the consequences of protecting himself more than those who beat him, this officer took the opposite approach.

Anonymous said...

courtesy of our local news

"Big-screen simulators to give Easton, Allentown police experience in life-and-death situations"
October 23, 2007

"Allentown cops go high-tech to train for life-or-death situations"
April 20, 2017

Anonymous said...


Lot of tough guys out there. Never wore a uniform or badge though.

Anonymous said...


Guns, guns, guns.
Mostly in the wrong hands. But Hey!. I can Monday Morning Quarterback from my recliner.

Anonymous said...

so the act of property damage results in a non trial execution?
If a trained officer with baton and taser with backup on the way can not handle a situation then the police need to rethink their procedures.

Anonymous said...

Cop was a pussy.

Anonymous said...

at 8:09PM
It looked like a car jacking and potential assault to me, and that can get you ran over and killed. Or do you think we should nerf the corners until car jacking is a safe thing to do?

Anonymous said...

Without all the facts yet before a tribunal, no judgement one way or the other here on this case. That being said, watch the recently released video of the 2017 shooting of Troopers Kelly and Seiple and ponder all the things that can happen within seconds in such confrontations.

Anonymous said...

Even after a tribunal the escalation of that incident isn't clear at all.
First he's a speeder, then sees what his ticket costs an asks how in the hell do I pay for this, and then he's became a drunk, but can still get the best of two cops, still shoot straight and drive himself to the hospital.

That whole thing seemed unclear, strange, and avoidable.

The speed of commerce on 33 is ridiculous, which if targeted, would slow down those freely traveling.