Many incidents of police brutality begin with routine investigations of crimes or traffic incidents. However, there are very few instances that justify police using high levels of force to detain or stop suspects.

One incident that demonstrates questionable use of force was when the Erie police shot and killed a suspect who had allegedly stolen a minivan.

Suspect shot dead as he drove away in a stolen van

There was an ongoing investigation from the night before involving a burglary at a Salvation Army location, and police believed that this stolen van was related to the same incident. Reports released by the department state that the officers approached the van late at night on East Third Street. They claim that the van suddenly accelerated and came close to them, and the officers quickly reacted by opening fire. The 46 year old male victim was pronounced dead at a local hospital shortly after midnight. An autopsy was also performed to determine the exact cause of death.

The two officers responsible for the shooting were placed on administrative leave, and the Erie police did not released their identities. The Pennsylvania State Police will investigate the incident and hand out any possible disciplinary measures. After the initial report, the Erie County District Attorney will have the final say regarding whether the officers’ actions were justified.  The local police chief also released statements regarding the victim’s lengthy criminal past and his repeated interactions with the department due to outstanding warrants and other crimes.

Are police allowed to shoot someone who is driving away?

While police officers are permitted to use lethal force to prevent death or serious injuries to others nearby, it may be difficult to justify that kind of action when only investigating a car theft . An analysis of lethal use of force usually focuses on safety and security of the officers or bystanders, rather than merely preventing flight of a suspect. In this incident, there will likely be some kind of conclusion at the end of the investigation as to whether it seemed that the suspect had intent to run the officers over, or if he was merely leaving the area.

What are the remedies available to a victim?

The victim’s family can file lawsuits related to excessive use of force and a wrongful death on behalf of the deceased person. Ultimately, the investigation conducted by law enforcement, along with the testimony of the officers and anyone else nearby will be crucial in determining whether their officers clearly violated use of force protocols. However, it is not always easy to win a police brutality case against a city or county due to their superior resources. Only the most aggressive police brutality attorneys will be able to collect a judgment from a government entity.

Get the right lawyer on your side

If you have been hurt by the police or experienced any other kind of injury, please contact David L. Hunter, Attorney at Law. David has won large amounts from both settlements and jury verdicts on behalf of injured clients over the years.