In limited circumstances, it may be appropriate for the police to shoot a suspect. However, shooting is only appropriate if there is no less forceful, injurious means of controlling a suspect. For example, shooting multiple times after a suspect is already down is likely wrongful. Police shootings can result in serious injuries or wrongful death. At Phillips & Associates, our civil rights attorneys represent victims of police misconduct and excessive force throughout New York City. In general, an injured person can pursue compensation not only from an officer who shoots him or her wrongfully, but also from an officer who declines an opportunity to intervene in a police shooting.Police Shootings and Excessive Force
Police officers are entitled to use as much force as a reasonably trained officer in the same circumstances would use. However, even those who are being lawfully arrested have a constitutional right to be free from excessive force. In some cases, a police shooting counts as excessive force, and it may be the subject of a lawsuit brought under 42 U.S. Code § 1983. Usually, all causes of action, including false arrest, assault, battery, and wrongful death, must be brought in the same suit.
In order to establish and win a § 1983 claim based on a police shooting, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant either intended the actions that resulted in a violation of civil rights or that the defendant acted recklessly. The issue is whether an officer intended to shoot, not whether he or she intended to wound or kill. For example, if a police officer shoots six times at someone suspected of a non-violent misdemeanor, this is an intentional police shooting that likely involves excessive force.
The children and spouse of a person who was shot by the police and died may be entitled to compensatory damages for wrongful death. Damages in a wrongful death action are limited to fair and just compensation for pecuniary injuries arising out of the death to the people for whose benefit the wrongful death action is brought. Pecuniary injuries are not only direct financial benefits, like loss of income from the decedent, but also loss of nurture, guidance, and care.
Under § 1983, punitive damages may be available after a police shooting to punish a police officer whose intentional or reckless actions wounded a person and infringed his or her civil rights. Punitive damages also may be available to deter future police shootings.
In some cases, police officers or other government officials can successfully defend themselves on the grounds of qualified immunity. Agents of the government have qualified immunity in performing discretionary functions if their conduct did not violate clearly established rights known to reasonable people, or if it was objectively reasonable for them to believe their actions did not violate clear rights. If a police officer wants to rely on qualified immunity, he or she must raise and establish it.Enlist a New York City Attorney for a Police Misconduct Case
Police shootings can be traumatic and result in severe injuries or a wrongful death. Additionally, multiple law enforcement officers may rally behind the shooting officer's version of events. It is important to have an experienced civil rights lawyer on your side if you have been the victim of police misconduct in New York City. At Phillips & Associates, we offer tenacious representation for residents of all five boroughs, including Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island. If you or a loved one is a victim of a police shooting that you believe was unjustified, call us at (212) 248-7431 or complete our online form to set up an appointment.