About one out of every three fatal police shootings involve individuals who were trying to evade an arrest. These numbers tell the story: it is never a good idea to try to flee from the police. Surely, an arrest would be a better outcome than a shot in the back.
When is the Use of Deadly Force Justified?
Without question, deadly force is sometimes necessary. Certainly, the lives of officers have value, and when those lives are in peril because there is an immediate threat of serious bodily harm to that officer or to another person, deadly force is understandable. Even in situations when a suspect is fleeing, if that suspect is believed to have been involved in dangerous felony activity that caused serious injuries, deadly force is justified under the law. But we continue to hear cases of non-threatening people being killed by police when they are running away. How is that justifiable?
State of Mind
The Supreme Court has given more leeway to officers who are involved in fatal shootings over the years, saying that an officer’s state of mind and level of fear during a particular incident must be weighed in determining whether or not the use of force was justified. That means if an officer believes a suspect was reaching for a weapon, it can justify the use of lethal force. Even when a weapon is not discovered after a police killing, the event may be ruled as justified. That is right—an unarmed suspect may be killed even though there was absolutely no real threat.
633 individuals were killed by law enforcement officers in the first half of 2022; 202 of them were in the act of fleeing when they met their deaths. Prior to 2022, one person was killed in police encounters every single day. Some of those include:
- A pregnant woman who was shot in the passenger seat of a car that was fleeing police;
- An unarmed man who was fleeing police in Ohio when he was shot down;
- A man who ran from an unmarked police vehicle and was fired at by a California officer;
- A man who was being stopped for riding a bicycle at night without a light and was shot in the back of his head after a struggle;
- A man who was shot dead while sleeping in his car.
Who are the Victims?
The startling fact is that Black people who are on foot make up as many as half of all fatalities involving victims who are killed while on the run, even though Black people comprise just 13% of the population in this country. Continue reading