Monday, June 22, 2015

To Shoot or Not?

In May:

An Alabama State Trooper fired his weapon at a 38-year-old man who struck the officer with his car during an attempted traffic stop. When law enforcement caught up to the man, who suffers from mental deficiencies, they saw he had non-life-threatening injuries. The trooper pulled over the Honda Accord on the Old Madison Pike exit from Interstate 565 where the speed limit is 70mph. The car was clocked traveling eastbound in excess of 100 mph on I-565. Once the car exited I-565 and stopped, the trooper approached. The Accord took off, striking the trooper in the process. The trooper discharged his duty weapon and gave pursuit to John Mackopjak's vehicle. Mackovjak drove to a residence on Esslinger Court in Huntsville, where he was taken into custody by the Huntsville Police Department. Mackovjak was transported to Huntsville Hospital for non-life threatening injuries. The Trooper was not injured. The trooper drew his firearm and shot multiple times at the fleeing vehicle, the spokesman said, "because at that point the vehicle becomes a weapon," as he put it. Mackovjak had minor injuries to his upper body and facial area when they found him. Mackovjak did not fire at the trooper and it was not known have had a gun. The trooper's identity was not released during a press conference Friday afternoon.

Note: The man was later identified as autistic & schizophrenic, not mentally deficient. He had completed three years at UAH.


We asked four current/retired officers what they would have done. Here are their answers:

A Local Chief: In the scenario you have described at best there is a traffic violation involved. If the subject simply drives off and does not attempt to use the vehicle to assault the police officer or another innocent party there would be no justification for the officer to fire their weapon. Under the circumstances described the officer firing the weapon has the potential to pose a much greater chance of injury than the vehicle speeding off. Police officers are only justified in using deadly force in the defense of the officer or another party. This is why most progressive departments have very strict deadly force or use of force policies in place to protect the citizens, the officers and the employer of the officer also. (Note--officer claimed, but no specifics or injury reported.)

Our own J. Redmon: The traffic stop was properly conducted. The reckless speed involved meant that the driver was going to jail. The fact that the driver suffered from mental illness was not known at the time by the trooper and is not relevant to the subsequent actions of the trooper.The instant the driver struck the trooper with his vehicle in an apparent attempt to escape, that vehicle became a 'deadly weapon'. In my professional opinion, the trooper's actions were appropriate.

Another local chief: All I can find is the original story on Looking at the guy's picture, and reading the story, I can see somebody that looks normal, but may have harbored an emotionally explosive attitude. His own father conceded that he had previously had to call the police because his son had became aggressive. That said, I'm very skeptical of shooting at vehicles...especially ones driving away from you. With him possessing a driver license, it's obvious that he's afflicted with a high functioning form of autism. So it would not be readily apparent to others around him.

A Retired Detective: I'd just call back up. No point in shooting (paperwork!). Too dangerous on I-565.


There you have it, J.T! Comments welcome...


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