While police officers need their firearms to protect the public from criminals who are also armed, there are many cases where people are shot under questionable circumstances. It is most common for those with mental health and substance abuse issues to become the victim of a police shooting. An event in Columbia County shows how such exchanges can occur.
Mentally ill man shot by deputies in Columbia County
An incident where Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputies shot a man began with the victim, Justin Ferguson, becoming suicidal and drinking alcohol. He was standing on his porch and made comments about ending his own life after finishing his drinks. He had threatened to either shoot himself or run at the deputies on the scene so that they would fatally shoot him. A report of the incident alleged that Ferguson did eventually dash off of the porch and point the gun he was holding at the officers on the scene. This action resulted in one of the Columbia County deputies discharging a shotgun and injuring him, which required hospitalization. Ferguson was also charged and convicted of assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.
Ferguson had previously had mental health issues, along with an episode of drug abuse shortly before this encounter that had possibly caused additional brain damage. The fact that he warned the police beforehand should have also made it obvious that he was more of a threat to himself than anyone else, yet he ended up shot before he could be detained without violence.
How to report a police shooting
When police discharge their firearms and cause injury or death, there a number of actions that can be taken. In Florida, the FDLE handles most investigations into police using deadly force or inappropriately discharging their firearms. Any citizen who has had an incident involving the police can formally file a complaint with this state agency or the local department that employs the officer, such as the county sheriff. The main drawback of this method of disciplining police is that the investigation and any measures taken against the police are out of the victim’s hands once it is reported. Many investigations essentially come to a dead end where the officer is either never sanctioned or receives a short suspension and then returns to work.
A lawsuit is the only way to be repaid
After an incident such as this, medical bills and continued treatment can be very costly. Most shootings are going to involve at least one trip to the hospital along with additional instructions from an emergency room doctor. In instances where the police fatally shoot someone, funeral expenses and their lost income become a source of great concern for the family, along with continued emotional trauma. All of these expenses can be used by a lawyer to show evidence of the damages which were caused by police actions. The lawyer can then argue for a jury verdict or settlement that compensates the plaintiff accordingly. In cases that involving someone dying, there is a special type of lawsuit called a wrongful death action where a lawyer can argue that the surviving family members should be compensated with all of the wages and services the person could have potentially provided if they had lived to an older age.
A lawyer can help after a police involved shooting
People who have been injured by a police shooting can receive more detailed information about exactly what they should do from an experienced lawyer. Koberlein Law Offices is a firm that has been helping injured people in Columbia County and surrounding parts of Florida with these kinds of claims. They can provide individualized advice about how to proceed with either complaints to an agency or a possible lawsuit against the police.