By: Matthew Tievsky
Earlier this month, the U.S. attorney’s office elected not to prosecute
a Metropolitan Police Department officer who fatally shot a man in 2016.
(The officer’s name has never been released).
The man who was killed was named Peter John, Jr. On February 1, 2016, according
to the officer, he was driving a police cruiser in Northeast D.C. when
he saw Mr. John, rolled down his window, and asked Mr. John if he lived
nearby. According to the officer, Mr. John then fled, and the officer
chased him down on foot. Mr. John fell to the ground, and the officer
stumbled over and fell on top of Mr. John, which led to a struggle. During
the struggle, the officer fatally shot Mr. John in the neck, because (according
to the officer) Mr. John was reaching for a weapon. That weapon later
proved to be a pellet gun.
This case is representative of a general rule: It is very difficult to
criminally indict, much less convict, a police officer who shoots someone.
This is true even when the shooting is wrongful, in part because convicting
a police officer of a crime requires proving wrongdoing “beyond
a reasonable doubt.”
It is in the area of wrongful police actions that the
civil justice system can play such an important role: Successfully suing a police
officer (and the government that employs him or her) for money requires
only showing by a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e., more
likely than not) that the officer acted wrongfully.
If you or anyone you know has been injured due to the wrongful actions
of the police, you should
contact the personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel,
P.C., for a free consultation.