Some accidental shootings are just the breaks!

Recently I wrote about the tragic accidental shooting of an innocent grandmother by a carjacking victim who happened to be a concealed carry permit holder, and who fired at the carjacker. At the time I said this:

Imagine if the same criminal had robbed a police officer who was inside the same house, and managed to carjack his police car. If the officer gave chase and opened fire, would he be facing charges? I doubt it. And if he did, the news media would not be blaming "the bullet."
It appears that they are planning to charge the carjacking victim (who is in jail) with homicide and the family wants him charged with murder.

A few days ago, Detroit police accidentally shot and killed a seven year old girl during a raid. A civil lawsuit has been filed, and while the attorney claims it wasn't accidental, no one is calling for criminal prosecution of the police officer whose bullet killed Aiyana Jones.

In either of these cases, the legal standard ought to be the same, right? So why are they so quick to jail and charge a civilian who shoots at a carjacker and hits someone else, but when a police officer mistakenly shoots an innocent person during a raid, that's just unfortunate?

I think there is a double standard here. My question is, should there be?

posted by Eric on 05.18.10 at 12:08 PM










Comments

There is a double standard and it should not exist, but government is a large collective and as such will always be more powerful than a single individual. It is not useful to ignore this fact or lament its existence. In general, if you chose to carry a firearm, it is best use it only as a last resort and only when someone's life is in imminent and serious danger. That said, there will always be mistakes and there should also be just consequences.

TomA   ·  May 18, 2010 1:42 PM

Same shit different day. Double standard has been SOP since day one of the inception of the first PD EVAH. And whenever anyone has pointed it out, both the government *and* the judiciary has come running to the aid to protect law enforcement with statements extolling the virtues of having to give more power/protection because LEOs "put their lives on the line everyday."

Case in point: If you take a long look at 4th Amendment search & seizure cases over the past 10 years alone, you'll see that the trend has been and continues to be to bestow even more power on law enforcement while decreasing accountability. We do, in fact, live in a police state, but since it hasn't been reported by the corporately consolidated media, no one but a few have noticed. And when anything is said about it by these people, the apologists immediately shout them down with cries of "but they put their lives on the line everyday." Like I said, same shit different day.

Peyton Farquhar   ·  May 18, 2010 3:19 PM

There should be a double standard, but it should run the other direction. A private citizen who is forced to defend himself with violence should be held to a lower standard than a trained police officers initiating a violent encounter.

Phelps   ·  May 18, 2010 4:38 PM

To Phelps:

I think Eric's post above is in reference to a legal standard under which the law will pertain to any act by any person, be they a member of law enforcement or a common citizen. Once a law becomes biased it loses its validity.

TomA   ·  May 18, 2010 6:30 PM

The establishment of Peel-model civil "police" in this country was a severe mistake from which it may never recover.

Regards,
Ric

Ric Locke   ·  May 19, 2010 12:45 AM

Great point, Eric.

And I bet you dollars to doughnuts the police were pushing the idea of prosecuting the carjacking victim.

TallDave   ·  May 19, 2010 11:31 AM

I am sick of the excuse we give some government workers: "if they had to contend with lawsuits they wouldn't be able to do their jobs"

My father, as a public defender, was constantly bombarded with post convition lawsuits. it didn't interfere with his job.

When these cops and prosecutors not only make mistakes but in some cases break the law, they should be subject to more than just administrative punishment, but be subject to criminal prosecution just like everyone else.

plutosdad   ·  May 19, 2010 12:28 PM

"post conviction" I meant.

plutosdad   ·  May 19, 2010 12:36 PM

As a CHL holder who often carries in public I don't think this is an example citizen use of a weapon that should be defended. The facts seem to be:
- Robber robs victim
- Robber flees in victims car
- Victim pursues robber
- Robber wrecks victims car and flees on foot
- Victim shoots at fleeing robber and kills innocent bystander

There are several problems here:
1. Victim broke one of the cardinal rules of weapon handling - know your target and what is beyond.
2. In many states it is illegal to use deadly force to protect property. Even in those states where it is legal, e.g. Texas where I am, it is discouraged by CHL instructors. Who wants to be responsible for any death, especially the death of an innocent bystander just to protect your property? Then there's the lawsuits.
3. Once the robber had abandoned the car and was fleeing, the victim was no longer protecting either his property or his life. Why was deadly force necessary? In many states to justify the use of deadly force the victim must have made a reasonable effort to retreat from harm. I don't agree with this but you need to know the law before you start firing a weapon and endangering innocent people.

Related points:
- Police do have different duties and responsibilities. They "must" protect life and property. They should probably get different consideration in accidental shootings. How different I don't know.
- What kind of ammunition did the victim use? There are two main reasons hollow points are preferred for defensive carry 1. They stop bad guys much more effectively 2. They don't penetrate through walls and such very well and harm people you can't see.

MarkC   ·  May 19, 2010 6:08 PM

Seems to me there's a lack of crucial information regarding both incidents. If the carjacking victim was defending himself and did not shoot unnecessarily, then the bystander's death is a tragedy, not a crime. If the cop intentionally or negligently discharged his weapon (as opposed to having the weapon go off during a struggle), then the bystander's death is a crime, not a tragedy. The police should be and typically are held to a higher standard in terms of their internal regulations on the use of firearms, but the standard for criminal charges should be the same in each case. Was there criminal intent? Was there negligent behaviour with a deadly weapon? These questions hang on whether the carjacking victim was defending themselves, or just shooting at a criminal, and whether the cop's gun was poorly controlled and went off, or discharged while wrestling with a suspect.


hiraethin   ·  May 19, 2010 9:42 PM

MarkC

"2. In many states it is illegal to use deadly force to protect property. Even in those states where it is legal, e.g. Texas where I am, it is discouraged by CHL instructors. Who wants to be responsible for any death, especially the death of an innocent bystander just to protect your property? Then there's the lawsuits."

That's one opinion. Here's another: the time I spent working to earn the money to legally acquire that property represents a portion of my life, of me. No one has the right to make me their slave by stealing it. Getting shot ought to be a risk you run when you try to enslave someone else. And yes, that includes the government enslaving me to their collective.

SDN   ·  May 21, 2010 11:21 PM

SDN

That's one opinion. Here's another: the time I spent working to earn the money to legally acquire that property represents a portion of my life, of me. No one has the right to make me their slave by stealing it. Getting shot ought to be a risk you run when you try to enslave someone else. And yes, that includes the government enslaving me to their collective.

Me
While I think your reasoning is a little over-the-top I totally agree. We have the right to use deadly force to protect both our life and property and should be legally protected when doing so. I also belive that the occasional exercising of this right is a major deterrent to crime.

But with that right comes the responsibility to exercise it with good judgment. When you fire a weapon in defense of life or property there are a lot of things that can happen - most of which are bad in some way. Best case - you stop a perp without killing him, no one else gets hurt and he rots in prison. Worst case a lot of other people's property gets destroyed and you and/or other innocent bystanders get injured or killed, the perp gets away.

Two highly publicized cases here in Texas:

Houston
- Man wakes at night looks out when to see thief taking his car.
- Man gets rifle shoots and kills thief
- Thief turns out to be a repo man legally repossessing the car

East Texas
- Man whose property has been burglarized/vandalized several times sees and hears someone in his yard
- Man shoots out the window at the intruder
- Intruder flees.
- Intruder turns out to be a neighborhood teen who may or may not have been involved in any burglary
- Teens mother rushes him to the hospital where he dies.

Neither of these shooters was prosecuted criminally - rightfully so. I'm not sure about any civil lawsuits.

I don't think that either shooter showed good judgment in exercising their rights. I doubt they are happy with the outcome. I wouldn't want to be them. Hence my caution above about using deadly force solely to protect property.

MarkC   ·  May 22, 2010 11:08 AM

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