The police forces that protect American citizens swear to protect and serve, and put their lives on the line every day to protect law-abiding citizens from criminal elements. Their training dictates that deadly force should be a last resort, and only when a suspect poses a clear and present danger to the officer, his partners, or bystanders. There are four generally acceptable circumstances for police to use deadly force:
- Self-defense. A police officer may use deadly force if a suspect or criminal poses an immediate threat of violence against them.
- Defense of others. Police officers may need to resort to deadly force if a suspect poses a threat to another officer or nearby citizen.
- Preventing a crime. In some situations, a police officer may need to use deadly force to stop an individual from committing a crime, usually one of a violent nature. An example of this would be someone attempting to detonate explosive charges to injure other people.
- Law enforcement. If a suspect requires immediate apprehension and poses a legitimate risk to arresting officers or other people nearby, the police officer may need to resort to deadly force to prevent their escape and further criminal acts.
In all of these cases, deadly force must still be the last resort. If a police officer negligently injures or kills someone, the victim or a deceased victim’s family may be able to claim compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. However, if the victim was clearly engaged in dangerous illegal activity at the time of the shooting and this is proven beyond a reasonable doubt, compensation may not be possible.
Growing Concern about Police Shootings
There has been a huge public outcry in recent years about the frequency of police shooting deaths. In 2015, 990 people were fatally shot by police officers. Twenty-six of those deaths took place in the state of Missouri. Most were the result of an attack in progress, but the growing number of innocents caught in the crossfire and unarmed suspects killed by police shootings are disturbing for many members of the public.
The recent protests in Ferguson after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown drew the nation’s attention to Missouri, and citizens across the country demanded more accountability for police officers and stricter regulations concerning acceptable uses of deadly force.
What You Can Do about Police Shootings
A police shooting will likely result in the death of the suspect, so if the surviving family members and loved ones believe that excessive force was used, they will have to file a wrongful death claim. The police force will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect posed an immediate danger to the officer or someone else nearby, and that deadly force was indeed the last resort. This may be difficult to prove in some cases, and many state and local governments have taken to requiring police officers to wear body cameras that must be kept recording at all times to remove any potential doubt from shooting cases.
If your loved one was fatally shot in a police altercation, you should be aware of your rights and be certain that deadly force was the last resort and the police officer had no other option. At the law offices of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann, we have represented clients since 1912 in Springfield, Mo., and the surrounding areas, and have extensive experience with wrongful death claims.
If a police officer was negligent or intentionally used excessive or deadly force, they need to be held accountable for their actions and the damage they caused. Reach out to the legal experts of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann if you have any questions about a police shooting or questions about your case.