A Policeman’s Sister Speaks

Last night I wrote about an incident in St. Paul earlier this month, in which two police officers fatally shot a man named William Hughes. The St. Paul police have released body cam video of the incident–generally viewed as fully exculpating the officers–which I embedded and commented on. The video shows the dangerous conditions and life and death decisions that law enforcement officers must confront. In my post, I wrote:

To me, the most affecting moment in the videos is just after the officers have shot Hughes and one of them screams, “Goddamn it!” What happened to Hughes was not the outcome that these officers, or any officers, hoped for. From that officer’s perspective, the encounter with Hughes was a failure. No policeman wakes up in the morning hoping he will get to shoot someone that day.

This morning I received an eloquent email from Kathryn Adams, the sister of one of the St. Paul police officers involved in the incident. She did not intend her communication to become public, but now has graciously agreed to allow us to post it. Kathryn provides a perspective that is too often missing from public discussion of law enforcement issues.

Mr. Hinderaker,

I’m writing to you in response to your recent blog post on Power Line, “So You Want to be a Police Officer?” My younger brother is Vincent Adams, one of the St. Paul police officers involved in the death of William Hughes. He is also the officer that you hear on the body camera video yelling “Goddamn it!”

I have watched that video many, many times since it has been released. Although I practically know it by heart now, my stomach clenches and my heart races every time I watch it. Even now, with it just playing in my head as I write this, I feel that way. I am heartbroken for the family of Mr. Hughes. After all, they have lost a loved one in a terrible way. But my heart breaks even more for my brother, because he is, after all, my baby brother. And, like you, hearing him yell out that way after the shooting affected me. It affected me in a way that I won’t soon forget, because I know that Vince was upset and disappointed that he had been pushed to the point of choosing between his life and Mr. Hughes’, and I know that’s a choice my brother never wanted to have to make. That was a choice forced on him and one he will have to live with for the rest of his life. That makes my heart ache for my brother in a way that I had hoped would never happen.

I can’t think of a single time in the past that I have written to an author in response to something they’ve written, but something in your post compelled me to reach out to you. I felt like I needed to say thank you. You see, this situation isn’t about me, not even a little bit. But it does affect me. I have read everything I have been able to find on the death of Mr. Hughes. Some of it has made me very angry, because of unfair insinuations about my brother and Matt’s decision that night. Some of it has made me sad–the information about Mr. Hughes’ life leading up to his death and the sadness his family is feeling. I have wanted to respond to or comment on some of it, but have kept quiet for fear of creating more discord or drawing further unfair scrutiny on my brother. But it’s extremely difficult to watch someone you love so deeply and who you know so well be treated unfairly and feel there’s nothing you can do to set the record straight.

Your post is the first that I have read that really struck a chord with me–the first that made me feel that someone actually understood and cared. While many others have picked apart the video, some calling the shooting justified, others questioning the decision of Vince and Matt, yours was the only one to have recognized the anguish in my brother’s voice and to point out that it indicated that he didn’t want to make that choice. Even after being faced with the possibility of never seeing his wife and one year old son again, he still hated to have had to make that choice. Thank you for saying publicly what so many others have failed to say and what those of us on this side of the situation feel like we must stay quiet about, so as not to bring further scrutiny.

You don’t know my brother, which is unfortunate for you and everyone else who doesn’t know him. He is a kind, gentle, giving, and funny man, who loves his family and friends like no one else. He does his job with pride and out of a sense of wanting to keep people safe. Although he was fully aware of what his job might entail when he started with SPPD five years ago, never in a million years would he have WANTED this to happen. Had he felt that there was any other way out of that situation that night, he would have taken it. I want you–and everyone else in the world–to know that.

I do not know how you typically handle emails of this sort, but just in case, I’d ask that you please keep this confidential. I am not writing you for any reason other than to let you know that I read your post, and it meant something to me, and to express my gratitude. My brother does not know I’m writing this, and the last thing in the world I want to do is to bring more public attention to him than he’s already experienced.


Kathryn Adams