Police do have to use their judgment in dangerous situations that require the use of force. In some situations where the threat of death or serious injuries are imminent, police can use violence or even deadly force to prevent further damage from occurring. However, even when police are allowed to use force, there are still questions as to whether the amount of force used was excessive based on the circumstances. They are trained to use only the minimal amount of force required to resolve a situation, which should rarely involve killing anyone.
A pursuit of a dangerous criminal in North Las Vegas shows how even when some amount of force may be necessary to arrest a suspect, police officers can go overboard.
Man suspected of murder and kidnapping is shot multiple times while police tried to apprehend him
The North Las Vegas Police were looking for a 37 year old male suspect who had apparently murdered a woman and kidnapped and assaulted others. One of the victims escaped from his home on Glider Street to report the crimes to a nearby police station. When the officers arrived, the man attempted to enter an SUV to flee, hitting one of the police cruisers in the process. During a standoff, a crisis negotiator began to speak with the suspect. He revealed that he was armed, but it seemed that no weapon was spotted up to this point. Based on their heightened awareness from this piece of information, officers fired a large number of shots in his direction in the moments shortly after the man told the negotiator he was armed. The suspect was hit at least 18 times and died on the scene. If he had survived, the man would have likely been charged with crimes related to murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.
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While a victim such as this may not seem sympathetic because of the crimes he had committed, it is difficult to justify firing dozens of shots at someone who made a verbal threat of being armed. That level of force would be considered excessive by most measures. It is also improper when police use lethal force to decide someone’s fate rather than leaving this process to the courts. Even if someone is going to be sentenced to life in prison or given the death penalty for their crimes, the police are only supposed to bring them into custody and leave sentencing to the appropriate actors in the criminal justice system rather than executing them on the scene.
In police brutality cases, the crucial issue is whether any use of force was justified and reasonable or excessive based on the surrounding circumstances. In this particular incident, the suspect should have been considered dangerous because of the serious nature of the crimes he had committed. However, the specific events that unfolded in the moments before his death included only a verbal statement that he was armed along with no shots fired or physical violence used against the police on the scene. It is possible to imagine a scenario where the man surrendered after revealing that he was armed and speaking further with the negotiator, but the police responded with lethal force quickly. Firing enough shots for 18 of them to connect does in fact seem excessive based on the suspect’s actions.
An excessive use of force claim can be filed in federal court to compensate a victim for their injuries or a family for a person’s wrongful death in situations where lethal force was used. When these cases resolve, the level of compensation that is paid out is typically related to the severity of the injuries and amount of harm caused by the police.
Speak with a police brutality lawyer in North Las Vegas
If you believe that the police have used lethal force or excessive force while trying to apprehend a suspect, there is legal help available. A lawyer who specializes in police brutality cases can give specific guidance based on your situation.