Two men were suspected of burglarizing a home under construction in Southwest Ranches, Florida last night. When BSO deputies arrived on scene, the men tried to flee in a van. As the van took off, it struck one of the deputies. In response, it seems as though the other deputy drew his weapon and shot at the two suspects. Unbelievably, both suspects were hit, despite the fact that they were in a moving van speeding by in the dark.
One of the two men died from his injuries last night. The other man’s condition is unknown at this time. Aside from burglary, the surviving man may be facing charges for attempted murder of a police officer, depending on whether or not he was the driver or the passenger of the van. Luckily for him, the cop was not killed, because if he was, he could have been charged with felony murder and would have been subject to the death penalty.
Unfortunately, the deputy who was struck also sustained an injury. It has been reported that he has sustained a broken leg.
So far, no arrests have been made.
Regardless, this case presents more questions than answers. In every police involved shooting, an internal affairs investigation is initiated to make sure that the deputy acted according to departmental policy when discharging his firearm.
At first glance, it appears as though the deputy acted reasonably when he shot at the fleeing van.
At second glance, you have to recall why deputies are issued firearms. A gun is not to be used to apprehend fleeing suspects. It is a tool who use is limited to defending life and preventing serious bodily injury. Shooting a suspect is an option of last resort.
Therefore, the mechanics of this police shooting must be investigated and broken down. At what point did the deputy shoot his gun? Was it in anticipation of his partner being run over and therefore done to prevent the loss of life or serious injury? Or, did the deputy do it as a knee-jerk reaction after his partner had already been hit?
A forensic analysis of the van may be required to corroborate the claims of the deputy. From what direction did the bullets land in the van? From behind? From the side? From the front? The direction of travel of the bullets will reveal whether or not the deputy fired at the van as it fled, passed by, or charged at them.
To be clear, I am NOT taking the side of any person who tries to harm or kill a police officer. Police have a very dangerous job and it is much harder to make decisions in the field when your life is in danger than the next day behind a computer. For that reason, cops deserve some lee-way when their actions are scrutinized after the fact.
Regardless, police officers are held to a very high standard of professionalism and they are expected to act professionally at all times. A police officer is trained and expected to use extreme discretion when discharging his firearm. The point is to protect life, not indiscriminately take it.
Remember, this incident happened in a residential neighborhood. Shooting off a gun down the street may have lethal consequences to bystanders. Clearly there are circumstances where a deputy can and should take that risk, but absent those circumstances, the deputy must remain the consummate professional and exercise restraint.
Knowing when and when not to pull the trigger is the hallmark of a great marksman.
At the the end of the day, police involved shootings are serious business. To help cops defend themselves in the future and to better minimize the potential dangers to the public, cases like these need to be scrutinized and broken down so that we can learn from what happened. Whether it is a lesson that reinforces the good decisions of a police officer in the field or the not-so-good decisions made under the influence of combat and danger.
Hopefully the injured deputy will have a full recovery as soon as possible.