I was shocked to discover that Richard Poccia, whom I had profiled here earlier, was shot last year by a Napa police officer.
Rich, who had many years martial arts experience in a number of different martial arts and was one of the Bay Area’s most gifted students of the martial arts. From reading the various published accounts, someone called in a police report about a martial artist who had been acting strangely and had “weapons” at his home. Although it is not clear what happened next, at one point during this encounter Rich was shot and killed.
The purpose of this column is not an indictment of the officers who were involved. I have many friends who are in law enforcement and have profiled a San Francisco Police Officer here earlier. What I will point out is that there is apparently a critical gap missing in the education and training of officers that becomes blatantly evident in a senseless shooting such as this one.
If this was an isolated incident, that is one thing. But it is unfortunately not. Recently, a young man was shot and killed in his family’s car by local Sheriff’s Deputies who responded to a distress call by the boy’s parents asking for help with him. Some years ago, in a nearby community, a despondent Oriental man waving a broom handle was shot and killed by the police in his city. They assumed because he was Oriental he knew martial arts and was therefore dangerous.
If Rich’s senseless death can provide any lessons it is hoped that law enforcement officers will receive more mandated training when dealing with a depressed or despondent individual or individuals. And this is also a lesson to all martial artists: That if you ever find yourself in a situation where law enforcement personnel are requesting you follow their instructions, please do just that. Do NOT show them your “folder” or try to make any special “moves” that you think will “work.” Just do what they are requesting you to do. If you have questions or issues with the situation, you and your lawyer can sort it out later.
I will miss Rich’s smile and his rough New York humor. I will also miss the special bond we had and shared as fellow travelers on this path that can demand and yet also give so much. I will miss our mini training sessions in the Square in Sonoma with kids and families laughing around us. And I hope that wherever he is now, he has found peace and joy. And my heart goes out to his family, close friends and students.
Information about Rich can be found on his Facebook page and here.
Rest in Peace, Brother.