The Officer’s Bullet

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Q: I was playing with my baby and socializing with neighbors near my home.  We heard gunshots.  The neighbors went fleeing.  We lay on the ground behind a sport utility vehicle that was two cars away from a van.  Behind the van, a suspect was hiding: I looked under the SUV and saw him lying on the ground.  He was shooting at a police officer across the street.  An officer’s bullet struck my elbow.

A: The ‘professional judgment’ rule insulates a municipality from liability for its employees’ performance of their duties where the conduct involves the exercise of professional judgment.  The broader interest in having government officers and employees be free to exercise discretion in their official functions, unhampered by fear of second-guessing and retaliatory lawsuits, outweighs the benefits of imposing liability.

These officers apparently had probable cause to fire their weapons at the suspect: they were in pursuit of an armed individual who had opened fire on them on a public street, endangering the lives of the officers and the public.  A police officer is not required painstakingly to survey an area to see if bystanders are present, before firing.  It generally suffices that the officers had a clear view of the suspect, but saw no bystanders in the area.

During this skirmish, you were not in the actual line of fire.  The raw fact that the officers did not observe you, hiding behind the SUV, does not establish that they unnecessarily endangered an innocent person.  Did the officers exercise their judgment when confronted with an armed suspect firing at them?  So far, you have pointed to no evidence that they failed.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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