CLOVER, SC — A senior citizen was shot during a traffic stop when a police officer stopped him for expired tags and mistook his walking stick for a gun.
The incident occurred on the evening of February 25th, 2014. As 70-year-old Bobby Dean Canipe drove down Highway 321 with a female friend, he was pulled over by a young deputy for having an expired license plate. The two were driving through South Carolina on a return trip from Florida back to North Carolina. The pair had watched the Datona 500 together.
Mr. Canipe, a veteran of the Vietnam War, stopped his truck when signaled. Without being prompted, he then proceeded to step out of his pickup truck to see what the problem might be.
Lacking the strength to walk properly, Mr. Canipe then reached into his truck to pick up his walking stick, as he had done countless times before. But this time was different. Canipe was in the presence of a police officer.
“Sir… Sir… Woah, woah!!” the deputy yelped. He opened fire on the man, firing multiple rounds toward the truck.
Mr. Canipe slumped against the truck. “Drop the gun!” the deputy shrieked. When the septuagenarian doubled over, wobbling on his cane, the deputy realized what he had done. He rushes in to help.
“I’m disabled and I was trying to get my cane out,” Canipe explained, as his female friend becomes frantic.
“That’s all I ask I ask of you Lord, is please help him and take care of him Lord,” the woman is heard saying on the video. “We were just innocent people going home. There wasn’t a thing wrong with us.”
‘The times we live in’
Bobby Canipe had been shot in the stomach. He would survive his wounds after being hospitalized and put through surgery.
The 24-year-old deputy was attentive to the victim as soon as he realized his horrible mistake. He radioed for help, assisted Mr. Canipe, and finally broke down and cried. “You’re solid,” another officer said in comfort. “You done what you had to do. You felt like your life was in danger.”
The culpability for the deputy is yet to be determined. He is on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation. The department has already made statements leading us to the conclusion that he will be cleared.
“It does appear at this time that [the] actions were an appropriate response to what he reasonably believed to be an imminent threat to his life,” said police spokesman Trent Faris. He said the deputy believed he was facing what he “perceived to be a long barreled weapon.”
Except it wasn’t a long barreled weapon, it was a cane.
“Its disturbing that it happened so close,” said Joe Ashwell, who works at a neighboring pizzeria and heard the shots. “But it just goes to show you what times we live in.”
In the times we live in, how can an innocent senior citizen expect to survive encounters with today’s breed of erratic, hair-trigger police officers? It cannot be said that Mr. Canipe did anything malicious or wrong. There is not a law against stepping out of a vehicle during a traffic stop. A man of Mr. Canipe’s years can probably remember a time when a person could get out of their vehicle and talk to an officer like a man.
The only thing that Mr. Canipe did wrong was make too many movements in front of a nervous cop. He should have obeyed the unwritten rules of dealing with police, including don’t exit the vehicle, don’t talk back, and don’t even budge. He should have, but he didn’t. He grew up in a different time.
The lesson to be drawn from this situation is that every single solitary interaction with the police can be a life-altering experience. Things can become violent and deadly on a moment’s notice, without any actual malice or even disrespect on the part of the civilian. Each and every law on the books has the potential of causing death or serious injury when the police apply it to the lives of the public; everything from a license plate infraction to an ordinance regulating grass length.
So tread carefully, because even the nicest cops “want to go home at night.” These are the times we live in.
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