The video opens with the dash camera view of the stopped pickup truck, which appears to be a 4WD vehicle — it’s relatively tall. The driver’s door opens and Canipe slowly steps down. The video is not clear, but he is obviously elderly and slow; his movements are halting and unsteady. From the moment his first foot touches the ground until the first of six shots are fired, only about seven seconds elapse.
About two seconds after both of his feet touch the pavement, Canipe takes a few halting steps toward Knox, turns his right side to his vehicle, reaches into his vehicle and withdraws his cane. Keep in mind that the video is not nearly as sharp as the vision of one at the scene. As Canipe does this, a beam of light, possibly the spotlight by Knox’s door or a flashlight, plays toward the right side of the pickup and then on Canipe. Knox’s vehicle obviously has “takedown” lights in the light bar — lights focused to illuminate stopped vehicles at an appropriate distance from a police vehicle. Canipe and his vehicle are clearly visible.
Simultaneously, Knox is saying, loudly, “Hey Sir…Sir…Sir…” He is apparently trying to get Canipe’s attention, but he is not giving him any commands; he is not, in any way, telling Canipe what to do or what not to do.
At this point, Canipe is turning fully toward Knox and is swinging his cane — in his right hand — downward from the vehicle to the ground; his left hand remains braced on his truck. Knox clearly does not recognize that it is a cane, and therefore, no threat, and says, in a voice laden with shock and surprise: “Whoa!” As he begins shooting, he screams words that sound like “Oh hey.” He fires a fast fusillade of what sounds like 3-4 shots, there is a brief pause, and then two additional shots, with a bit of space between them, are fired. At least one of the shots in the first fusillade appears to strike the back window of the truck, approximately where a driver would be seated. The video does not have sufficient resolution to tell where the other shots hit.
After being shot, Canipe remains standing, but begins to bend forward from the waist, moaning in pain. He is clearly leaning on his cane, yet Knox yells, “Drop the gun; drop the gun,” and Canipe, finally understanding what Knox is yelling about, tells him it’s his cane. At this, Knox runs into the view of the camera to Knox and a woman, who was in the truck all the time, steps out and around to the driver’s side of the vehicle.
An AP/ABC News story has the Sheriff’s reaction:
Before showing the video, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant urged reporters to put themselves in the moment and see how Canipe doesn’t respond to the officer and pulls out the object in the dark. He said officers in South Carolina are allowed to use deadly force if they think their lives are in imminent danger.
‘I would have had to take the same action he did,’ said Bryant, who has been in law enforcement for 42 years.
Bryant said his officers get extensive training, even taking part in exercises where people emerge with cellphones and other items and pellets are shot at deputies,
‘You watch the action of the walking cane. He was hollering at the man,’ Bryant said. ‘You can’t wait to see a muzzle flash before you take action because when you see the muzzle flash, it’s too late.’
According to the ABC story, Knox was standing “out in the open with no cover” and was trying to get to cover as he was shooting.
ANALYSIS: Would a reasonable police officer, in the same circumstances, reasonably believe that he was in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death?
Despite Deputy Knox’s emotion upon realizing he shot an elderly man wielding nothing more dangerous than a cane, despite the explanations of Sheriff Bryant, who would have shot Canipe too, the answer has to be “no.” This was not a legitimate use of deadly force. In fact, Deputy Knox did little right and Canipe and his female passenger are alive only because of Knox’s poor and panicky marksmanship.
Knox apparently positioned his vehicle properly, but removed himself from cover and was obviously not thinking about it as Canipe got out of his vehicle. Police officers virtually always want people to stay put during traffic stops, but Knox does not tell Canipe to stay in his vehicle as he exits, nor does he tell him to get back in his vehicle when he steps outside. Instead, he ineffectually repeats “Sir,” which is no more a command for Canipe to follow than repeatedly saying “hey.”
In other words, Knox was not controlling events; events were controlling him. Rather than immediately getting behind his car door — and the engine block — when Canipe began to exit the vehicle — he had the time — he stood there, unsure of what to do, saying “sir” three times.
As Canipe reached for and grasped his cane, Knox was already panicking. Taking him at his word, he thought he saw a gun, but he was wrong. Watch the video. Canipe is not holding the cane as one would have to hold a shotgun. It wasn’t the size, weight or configuration of the shotgun Knox claimed to have seen. It obviously wasn’t as heavy as a long gun, because if he’s going to fire it at Knox, he’s going to do it one-handed while his other hand is helping to hold him upright by grasping his truck.
Does Canipe actually point the cane at Knox? Only for a fraction of a second, and it does not appear to actually be pointing at Knox, only vaguely toward the rear of the vehicle. From the moment he pulls the cane free of the truck, it begins to swing downward to the ground while keeping his left hand in contact with the truck, and at about the same time as Canipe is hit, the tip of the cane touches the ground and Canipe begins to lean on it, the realization that he has been shot dawning on him.
Knox yells “put the gun down” twice, but by this time the “gun” has its muzzle fully in contact with the pavement and Canipe is leaning on it. Virtually as soon as Canipe tells him it’s a cane, Knox realizes his mistake and runs to him.