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Nicoletti Walker Law Group April 6, 2016

On Monday, March 14th, the family of a young man who was, unfortunately, the wrongful death victim of a police shooting in 2010 finally settled their case for $6 million. Although the details of the incident can conflict (depending upon who is relaying the facts), what is known is that the police officer stepped in front of the victim’s car and proceeded to collide with the car, landing on the hood and firing several shots through the windshield, killing the driver and wounding the passenger. The young man who was killed was 20 years old and played football for Pace University.

In this particular case, there have been some racial concerns in that the police officer was white and the young man was black. In spite of the settlement, the victim’s family has still decided to pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town that the police officer worked for, as is their right under the Fourth Amendment. Many people do not realize that although police officers are immune from lawsuits to some degree, the law also permits that action to be taken against those who use lethal force without justification.

Police Brutality & Excessive Force

You only have to turn on the news to see that police brutality and misconduct is still a very sad reality for many communities across the country, to this day.

In reality, police officers are only permitted to use force that is proportional to the threat at hand; i.e. typically when it is necessary to protect death or serious bodily harm to the officer or someone else. That means that an officer accidentally discharging his gun (negligently)—or even intentionally doing so—resulting in someone being injured or killed—may involve compensation for the individual and/or their family.

The doctrine of “qualified immunity” is often raised as a defense in a case like this. What a judge will typically look at in deciding whether the officer enjoys qualified immunity is whether the force was unreasonable/excessive and if it is, whether that excessiveness was so obvious or established that any reasonable officer would have known that it was excessive. If the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” then the officer can be held liable (as can their employer).

Contact a Clearwater Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one—especially your young child—is one of the most traumatic experiences anyone can experience. A wrongful death can come about not only through auto accidents but from a government official using excessive force. In such cases, it is important to hire an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you obtain justice. By doing so, families can not only hold the individual accountable but can also work towards preventing it from happening to someone else.

If your loved one was the victim of wrongful death, contact Mike Walker Law today for a free consultation. Clearwater attorney Mike Walker is here to help.