Exactly. I always go back to Massad Ayoob’s example of showing you don’t really know what’s going on: You come across a man wrestling a woman on the ground and she is screaming rape. You draw on him. It turns out he is a vice cop trying to arrest a prostitute and she is screaming rape, because that is what actually happens. You have now assaulted a police officer, interfered with an arrest, etc. because you didn’t have all the information. You blew it on the “to the innocent” part of the justification for use of lethal force.
If we step back from the racial component, as I understand it Mr. Floyd was being apprehended for a minor crime. He resisted getting into the patrol car because of claustrophobia. What was explained to me many years ago was that police are permitted to use any level of force (shy of lethal force) to get you to comply with their instructions. Mr. Floyd failed to comply with Chauvin’s instructions to get in the patrol car, and Chauvin escalated the force level attempting to gain compliance until he used a technique that was ultimately lethal. So now you, Mr. Good Citizen, come across the scene at some point and see Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and assume that it is an illegal apprehension and that you will intervene? The only problem is that you have no idea if you are in the legal portion of the arrest cycle or the portion where it has crossed into a crime. Indeed if Mr. Floyd had not died then the crime was a potential police brutality charge, something that Chauvin sadly was apparently very familiar with. You as Mr. Good Citizen could have supported Mr. Floyd in pressing a police brutality case as a witness, or with financial support. But to directly intervene you would have had to know when Chauvin’s right to use force to compel compliance crossed into clearly criminal territory. It might be pretty easy to see in hindsight, but not in the heat of the moment.
And now, because I’d be remiss in ignoring the racial component, I will add it back in. Everything is the same in the example right up until Mr. Floyd refuses to get in the patrol car saying he is claustrophobic. If Mr. Floyd is White does Chauvin take a different approach? Call for a larger vehicle? Call for an ambulance? Etc. But because Mr. Floyd is Black, Chauvin chooses to escalate force to gain compliance. That’s the hypothesis, right? Sorry, I don’t really want to debate that all here. I didn’t want to ignore it either.
Bottom line is that you will almost never have enough information at your disposal to really know if a police officer is doing something illegal to a third-party that could justify your interfering with their actions in real time. You do have the ability to file a complaint, or support someone elses, after the fact.