When a police officer is involved in a fatal shooting, the internal investigation can take months, even years, to reach any type of conclusion. The biggest question is often whether the police officer had good reason to shoot at the person.
One family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a Fresno police officer, the city police chief, and the police department. Initially their lawsuit was halted after the defendants argued that the police officer had reason to shoot at the individual but a District Court Judge determined that the family's lawsuit can move forward.
Court documents reported that the incident occurred when a Fresno police officer was informed of a driver who possibly had a gun. The driver had been stopped in his vehicle when the officer approached. Though the officer ordered the driver to show his hands, he did not and the police officer shot at the car multiple times, killing the driver.
There are certain circumstances when police officers can use excessive or deadly force with a suspect. Typically officers can justify a shooting response if the officer observes that the suspect has a weapon and is planning to shoot or if the situation becomes life-threatening.
The victim's family argued that there was no reason for the police officer to shoot at the vehicle. The judge agreed. There was no evidence that the victim had a gun, let alone was planning to use it at the time.
Whenever a police officer is involved in a fatal shooting, the police department conducts an internal investigation. But as mentioned above, this process can take a long time and leave the victim's family wondering whether the officer will be appropriately disciplined.
The wrongful death lawsuit is a way for the family to take action and hold the police officer responsible for his actions. Any compensation can help the family with many of the expenses that can come up with an unexpected death. The family is also hoping that this lawsuit elevates concerns regarding the police department's administrative policies and practices in these types of situations.
Source: Courthouse News Service: "Family Can Sue Officer, Fresno PD Over Shooting," Heather Johnson, Oct. 26, 2011
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