Former Army Ranger Thomas Owen Baker knows something about using deadly force in the line of duty. Baker, who served for nearly nine years as a police officer in Phoenix, was responding to a domestic violence call June 8, 2009, when he ordered a man holding a large, bloody knife to drop the weapon. The man yelled, “Let’s go, motherfucker,” raised the knife and ran toward Baker, who fired two shots into the man’s chest, killing him and eliminating the threat.
After an internal investigation, officials determined the deadly force was justified and ruled it a “clean” shooting. In a recent essay for The Guardian, Baker wrote that after his superiors lauded and rewarded his performance, he began to feel uneasy about taking a human life.
In 2014, he left his career in law enforcement behind and turned his focus toward researching police culture and use of force. He is currently working toward a doctorate in criminology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and was selected by the Pat Tillman Foundation in 2018 as a Tillman Scholar.
Baker, who hosts the Discipline and Punish podcast, provided Coffee or Die an exclusive professional analysis of the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha police officers in Wisconsin Sunday.
Thomas Owen Baker is a doctoral student in the department of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, a Pat Tillman scholar, former police officer, and podcaster. Follow him on Twitter @thomasowenbaker.