*These are true stories from the field. Characters and locations have been changed to protect their identity, but these are actual cases that I have worked on.
Local Sheriff’s Deputy
Before you go on to reading about what happened, I find it very important to make it clear that this case does involve an officer that was proven to make a series of poor judgements concerning the use of deadly force. I do want to make it clear though that he is a minority in the law enforcement profession, and the great majority of law enforcement officers who are currently serving or have served this country have done so with distinction. They have gotten into the field because they wanted to help people and protect people and serve the public. Most officers have worked their entire careers and never fired a shot because they thought in advance in perilous situations of how to stop the problem before it got to that point. These well-trained and self-controlled officers know how to avoid the use of deadly force in a safe and professional manner. This story is going to talk about one of the problems that the law enforcement profession has. This profession tends to attract some people that have low self-esteem and want to wear a badge to have power over people and have a gun that makes them feel that they’re a bigger and stronger man than they are. One such person was hired at a local police agency and demonstrated a lack of good judgement in a few situations…one that left a man dead, and the other that left a dog dead in CA.
The Main Case:
Late one summer night, a businessman (who had old-school values and had been a successful business man for well over half a century) noted that a vehicle was parked deep in his business parking lot late at night long after the establishment had been closed. He left the bedside from his wife (since he lived at his place of business) and threw on a pair of jeans and grabbed his .45 caliber pistol and approached the vehicle with his flashlight. Unfortunately for him, that vehicle was an unmarked police vehicle in which a sheriff’s deputy was supposedly writing a report. The business man was supposedly ordered by the sheriff’s deputy to put down his gun, to which the business man responded that this was his property and that he didn’t have to put down his gun and that it was the deputy that was in the wrong. The deputy ordered the businessman to put down his gun again and then struck the businessman in the leg with his baton and then the deputy shot the businessman dead center in the chest point blank.
The deputy was the only one that can testify to this because the businessman died instantly. The deputy said that the businessman made a fertile movement as he was putting the gun down or turning it on the officer, which justified the deputy’s decision to use deadly force. The deputy was then allowed to go on a trip to Las Vegas and enjoy a substantial amount of time before he came back to give a detailed explanation to justify the use of deadly force. 911 detective was retained by the family of the businessman to investigate the shooting, the circumstances leading up to it, and the background of the deputy.
What we found:
While we were investigating the background of the Sheriff’s Deputy, we found that he was involved in a lawsuit and shooting as a police officer in California. Apparently, while he was on duty in California, a woman had called 911 to report that her husband was having a heart attack. While she was getting instructions from the 911 operator on how to perform CPR, the operator asked the woman if she wanted police to respond in addition to the paramedics. The woman distinctly stated that she did NOT want a police response (as noted in the 911 dispatch records), and that she needed a doctor, not a cop. While complying with CPR instructions by the dispatcher, the officer that we were investigating came into the house without permission and was greeted by the family’s labrador retriever who barked at the uniformed officer. The officer immediately shot the dog, and splattered it’s body throughout the house. The grief-stricken woman claimed that the shooting of their beloved dog was the last thing her husband saw before he succumbed to his heart attack. The woman sued the police agency and the officer in federal court for the death of her husband and her dog. She lost because the city was able to convince the federal judge that the man was having a heart attack before the dog was shot and may have succumbed to the heart attack even if the officer hadn’t shot the dog. This judgement pattern should’ve been noticeable to the local police agency when they hired him when they did their background investigation.
Most individuals would’ve said that this officer used poor judgement in the California dog shooting case, and there were substantial critics to the officer’s actions that night in the businessman’s parking lot. The investigation of the businessman shooting was hampered by the fact that law enforcement and 911 Detective was not able to locate witnesses to the actual shooting…thus it was only the deputy’s word of what happened that night. That officer was put on desk duty, and not long after that case was adjudicated and settled for $2 million to the businessman’s family, that officer was fired for other poor judgement reasons.
The purpose of this story is to explain to the public how necessary it is for police agencies to do thorough background and polygraph testing for all applicants whether they are lateral existing officers or prospective new officers because the power to use deadly force can be very seductive to weaker people and the public has to protect itself from that.