Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Assault and murder?

I'm re-watching Public Enemies, and early in the movie, FBI agent Melvin Purvis warns Pretty Boy Floyd to stop. Floyd continues running, firing his Tommy gun to no use, since his pursuers are out of range. Purvis takes aim with his rifle and shots Floyd, mortally wounding him. Is what Purvis did licit? Or is it a sin? It could be argued that since he was out of range and fleeing, Floyd was not a threat to the lives of Purvis and the police officers. Even if a LEO is more like a soldier and has broader powers than that of a normal citizen, and is not only able to kill in self-defense, but is allowed to kill in defense of the community, even when his own life is not threatened, is it permitted for soldiers to shoot and kill the enemy when it is in retreat? This has happened frequently during war, especially if one believes the historical studies cited by Col. Grossman, but is it right?

A defense: Purvis is allowed to shoot in order to stop and prevent Floyd from committing another crime? But Floyd was not about to commit another crime, though he might do so in the future. How about stopping Floyd in order to apprehend him? Are any means acceptable in order to catch a fugitive? Or must the fugitive's "right to life" be respected, unless he poses an immediate danger to those seeking to catch him?

Can extrajudicial capital punishment be tolerated, for the sake of justice?

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