Sunday, February 07, 2010

Trigger happy cop

It's not even safe to put your hands up???

The Colorado Springs police officer who fired a shot at a suspected burglar who turned out to be a handyman could be innocent of criminal wrongdoing and still lose his job. The laws governing the use of deadly force, either in self-defense or in arresting someone, usually are less stringent than police departments’ policies on the use of a weapon, generally known as shoot/don’t-shoot.

The shooting Wednesday afternoon at a home in the 3300 block of Beechwood Court in north Colorado Springs is being investigated by the Police Department assisted by the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which will review the findings. That’s standard when an officer fires a weapon, but no one is injured or killed, said district Attorney Dan May. If someone were killed or wounded by an officer, then the DA’s office would conduct an independent investigation. The first step in any investigation, May said, is to collect physical evidence and interview the officer involved and any eyewitnesses to determine the facts.

In Wednesday’s shooting, police have not released any information since issuing a news release shortly after the shooting saying officers responded to a reported burglary in progress, confronted a suspect in the garage, where an officer fired a shot that missed the suspect. Since then, there have been no arrests.

According to the homeowner, Pam Riggen, Kevin Rogers and the homeowner’s boyfriend were working on the house and mistaken for burglars by a neighbor who called police. When officers arrived, they confronted Rogers in the garage. As he raised his hands, Rogers said, one officer fired a shot that missed him by a foot and lodged in a wall. The officer, whose name has not been released and is on leave while the shooting is investigated, was distraught afterward and apologized to him, Rogers said.

Beyond the facts, an investigation into any shooting involving an officer determines if the law justifies the use of deadly force, either in self-defense or to arrest someone who has committed a felony using a weapon and could endanger the officer or others, even if they aren’t pointing a gun at them.

Reasonable belief is a key element in determining that, May said, just as it is under the Make My Day law that allows residents to use deadly force against an intruder. “Perception is a big part of it,” May said. “If you have a reasonable belief that you are in danger of great bodily harm or death you can use deadly force and you can turn out to be wrong.”

Wednesday’s shooting may be an example of that, although May and police officials would not comment on it while the investigation is pending. The officer may have mistaken pliers he was holding for a gun, Rogers said.

While that would protect the officer from being brought up on charges, it might not save his job. An officer who violates department policy on the use of a firearm, even accidentally, can be disciplined or dismissed, May said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress. If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where posts appear as well as on the primary site. I have reposted the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts HERE or HERE

No comments: