Taking a human life

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Duffie Taylor, a young reporter for The Roanoke Times, visited Floyd County week before last to work on a background story on Vincent Lumia, the young Patrick County man killed by a Virginia State Trooper during an incident at his mother’s house in this county.

The story , printed in Saturday’s Times, has restarted discussion on the shooting on this web site and packed my email box with thoughts angry and considered from both sides.

I met with Duffie when she came to town and tried to provide some background on the county, its cultures and Lumia, whom I met when he came by the studio to talk about video production.

Her editor assigned the story to try and answer the question of what caused a young man with so much promise and talent to die in an incident with a peace officer. Such stories stir emotions and some reactions have been strong.

Virginia State Police still have not identified the officer but just about everyone in Floyd County knows who shot Vincent Lumia. This is a small county with only one
"27-year-veteran" on the State Police detail and the name was out within hours. I do feel the State Police practices a double standard when it comes to concealing the identity of one of its own.

I’ve been asked why I haven’t done more to (1) identify the officer and (2) dig into the story of what happened at the home on that afternoon.

I’ve talked to a lot of people who knew Lumia and some who claimed to have inside knowledge of the case. I’ve heard a lot of gossip. Some who said they knew "what really happened" provided information that didn’t check out. When a cop is involved in a shooting there are always those who say the shooting was unjustified or that the victim didn’t have to die.

But let’s let the investigation conclude before passing judgment. A confrontation that involves a suspect who may be out of control because he is bi-polar is tense. A few years ago, a federal sky marshall in Florida killed an airline passenger who claimed to have a bomb. It turned out the passenger was bi-polar and off his medication and did not have a bomb.

What happened to V.J. Lumia was tragic and the investigation, we hope, will answer the question of whether or not the shooting was necessary. We should also remember that the State Police Officer who fired the fatal shot had never before killed a suspect in the line of duty. Anyone who has killed as part of their job or for their country remembers with horror that first time.

A killing may be justified or not. It is still the taking of a human life and that violent, final act takes its toll on everyone involved.