Tragic. It’s the only word that can even come close to describing the events surrounding the death of Wetumpka High School Senior, Haley Wingard, last week at the hands of an obviously troubled ex-boyfriend. I have no inclination to delve into why this young man made such a terrible decision or engage in any rumors and/or hearsay. What I would like to address are some of the opinions I’ve heard since that terrible night regarding how law enforcement officers handled the situation.
I know virtually none of the details of what transpired that evening, but what I do know is this: Every police officer, deputy, EMT, and first responder’s objective that night was to rescue Haley. Every action they took or didn’t take that night, every decision they made was made with the sole intention of getting her out safely and defusing the situation. Tragically, that didn’t happen. Perhaps, in hindsight, there are some things they would have done differently. Perhaps not. I’m nothing resembling any sort of expert or authority on negotiating hostage situations. I don’t know when negotiating should cease and use of force should commence. The men who were there that night do. They train regularly for situations just as this. Whoever made the call to go in did so based on that training and their own experience. Whoever fired the shots did so based on that training and their experience. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say they are more than a little distraught over the way the situation ended. Who wouldn’t be? They’re human just like you and I, after all. They risk their lives every time they go on duty for a public that seems to have less and less respect for them with every incident that doesn’t end well such as this one. Never mind that this particular team has been faced with at least 207 similar incidents which ended peacefully.
I will leave the discussion, debate, and second-guessing to others who feel the need to do so. Until someone teaches me all the ins and outs of hostage negotiation and rescue and until I’ve been involved in a few myself, I’ll leave it to the professionals. They are good at what they do even though things don’t always go the way they want them to. I’m sure they struggle and hurt and second guess themselves enough when things go wrong. They don’t need anyone to pile on. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to make a split-second decision in the heat of such a stressful, tense, dangerous moment. Most of us will never have to do it because these guys decided they would. For that, what they deserve is respect and thanks from those of us whom they protect. Spare me the armchair quarterbacking. I really don’t want to hear it anymore.