Thoughts on an Unusual Instance of Police Use of Deadly Force to Neutralize an Armed Suspect
By Ken K. Gourdin
Much has been made of a Marana, Arizona police officer’s choice use his vehicle to strike gun-toting suspect after the suspect reportedly fired a round into the air in a crowded public area. See, e.g., CNN’s reporting on the incident here, last accessed today:
Generally, officers may use deadly force to repel another imminent threat of deadly force or of serious bodily injury. In other fora, I have noted that the adrenaline that kicks in (popularly known as the “fight-or-flight” response) enabling officers to respond effectively to such situations also makes them less accurate. Thus, they are trained to shoot at center mass (the torso) rather that at an extremity: better to aim for center mass, miss, and strike the suspect somewhere than to aim at an extremity and miss the suspect entirely, leaving him free to harm or to kill someone else.
In Fox News coverage of the incident on The Kelly File on April 16, 2015, Megyn Kelly guest (and former LAPD Detective) Mark Furhman commented on the incident. Fuhrman noted that officers often are taught that their vehicles are tactical weapons.
While an officer choosing to neutralize a armed suspect whom the officer reasonably believes poses an imminent threat of death or of serious bodily injury to officers or to the public in this manner may be unusual, there should be no impediment to officers using any means at their disposal to achieve that objective. As I have also noted elsewhere, an officer’s job isn’t simply to engage armed suspects in a fair fight: it’s to neutralize the threat they pose, and, by so doing, to ensure, insofar as possible, public safety.
Marana’s police chief apparently so concluded in publicly supporting this officer for his actions, saying the officer’s actions likely saved lives.