Years ago, in the dead of winter, I toured a wood panel manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (up North). The lumber yard representative and I had to get into our cars to visit a distant part of the facility (a 15 minute walk in the dead of winter is distant) and, when he saw me unlock my car to get in, he noted to me that his pick-up was four years old and he had never taken the keys out of the ignition. (Incidentally, he also was a decorated war veteran and a sniper (before becoming a guy who worked at a wood panel manufacturing facility)).
My point is many people in rural United States do not follow widespread safety precautions throughout most of the United States, like taking your keys out of your car and locking your car. And, if you are a decorated sniper or a cop, all the more reason not to worry, right? What sort of lunatic would pull a stunt like stealing YOUR car?
Crookston Police Officer Don Rasicot and rural Minnesotans in general will now take note: in Crookston, at least, a city ordinance makes it “unlawful for any person to leave a motor vehicle unattended while the engine was running unless all of the doors were locked.”
It is tragic but fair to say that Officer Rasicot’s failure to lock his police car when he went into a bar to arrest Ricardo Mello resulted in the death of 78 year-old Eddie Briggs and the injury of his wife Patricia.
It turns out that Mr. Mello was quite resilient to tasers, that Crookston police officers were more immobilized by their own pepper spray than was Mello when they tried “Plan B,” that Mello ran out of the bar, hopped in the police car, and crashed the police car into the Biggs’s.
I have sympathy for Officer Rasicot. It is clear that he intended no harm. It is clear that this misfortune would count as a “freak accident.” Still, though, the Court has to have gotten the decision correct, in my view, because law enforcement officers, more than anyone, have to be held responsible for following the laws and responsible for not following them, as well.