BILLINGS, MONTANA — Put yourself in this situation. You’re a cop, pulling someone over for a traffic violation. You go up to the door, and the individual is acting strange. As though they don’t quite acknowledge your presence. You tell them to put their hands where you can see them, but the person leaves his left hand in the area along his waste where you can’t see it. What do you do? Or, what do you say you do?
That’s exactly the position that Billings officer Grant Morrison encountered in this video, taken on April 14th of last year. Morrison stopped the vehicle Richard Ramirez was riding in for a traffic infraction, and went around to the passenger side to ask questions. He immediately places his hand on his gun, and leaves it there. For no specified reason, he begins looking into the vehicle from the rear seat, where Ramirez was sitting. He then opens the door next to Ramirez to look inside.
From there, the terror-thon started for Morrison:
“It was his left hand that was most concerning because he repeatedly refused to follow my commands to keep his hands up,” Morrison said. “He continued to reach down to the area along his waste that I couldn’t see whatsoever. I couldn’t see what he was reaching for. I couldn’t see where his hand was, it completely disappeared from my view and it was making me more and more afraid.”
And Morrison responded by stepped back, his hand gripping his gun.
“The hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I wish I didn’t have to make it. I wish I just knew he didn’t have a gun, but I couldn’t take the risk. I couldn’t take the risk of him having a gun. And I wanted to go home to my family and I wanted to see my son grow up.”
He opened fire on Ramirez. The hardest decision of his life took approximately 1.5 seconds to make.
Ramirez was later found to have not had a gun, but to have had high levels of methamphetamines in his system. Meth — the official drug of Montana — would explain why Ramirez failed to keep his left hand where the officer wanted it. Amphetamines do have a strange tendency to make one absent-minded.
It took a coroner’s inquest jury a mere 30 minutes to clear Morrison after seeing the video. Montana Police Law Enforcement Academy Instructor Mike McCarthy gave this statement…which might be a bit chilling, if read in a certain way:
“I believe whole-heartedly that any officer, knowing and feeling what officer Morrison knew, would do the same thing.”