It was approximately three years ago that Santa Clara police officers fatally shot a young man at a house party. Since then, the young man's family has been fighting a number of court battles after filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department. Now, the case is being heard in front of a federal appeals court.
Any fatal accident is a tragedy as well as a difficult time for the family and friends of the accident victim. Questions such as "how did this happen?" and "could this have been prevented?" swirl in their minds as they struggle to grasp their loss. For this young man's family, the biggest question they have been asking is whether it was necessary for the police to shoot him that night.
The young man had been at a house party when witnesses reported he turned violent. The local police department was notified but when they arrived at the house, the young man had hidden in a bedroom, refusing to come out. According to the report, the young man had stabbed two individuals with a knife. The police stated that when they burst into the bedroom, the young man tried to attack them with the knife.
But could shooting him in response be considered excessive force? Currently, the department's policies regarding these types of situations are being kept sealed until the case comes to a close. But the appeals court has agreed to look at the case because it raises some concerns about the way police use deadly force in these types of situations.
The lower court had already ruled that the police did not use deadly force. But the young man's family still believes that the police did not act appropriately given the situation. Did the police need to break into the bedroom? Couldn't they have tried to reason with the man and calm him down? Should they have exhausted all other options before shooting him?
It the family wins the wrongful death claim, they could be entitled to financial compensation for the loss of their loved one.
Source: Mercury News online, "Federal appeals court to consider Santa Clara police shooting case," Howard Mintz, 18 July 2011
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