Friday, January 06, 2006

What not to do when approached by Police

As reported in the Macomb Daily: Woman in high-speed chase sues police for shooting her: Bullets paralyze driver; attorney says cops used excessive force

By Jameson Cook
Macomb Daily Staff Writer

A woman who was left a paraplegic after being shot several times by Warren police in the moments following a high-speed car chase has accused officers of using excessive force in a lawsuit filed in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Carmen Mattera recently sued the city of Warren and police officers Paul Houtos, Kenneth Marsee, Richard James Schnur and Greg Booten for the Jan. 4, 2003, shooting incident on Interstate 696 near the Oakland-Macomb counties border. She claims violations of her constitutional right to due process, equal protection, and to enjoy life and liberty.

"Why did they fill her car with bullets?" her attorney, Ira Saperstein, told The Macomb Daily. "Why were they shooting at her 30 or 40 times? They have her car surrounded. She can't go anywhere.

. . .

Mattera, 45, a Warren native who had been living in Roseville, was charged with two counts of attempted murder, fleeing police and assault with a dangerous weapon, among other offenses. She was found "not guilty by reason of insanity" about 10 months later following a 1-day bench trial in front of Macomb County Circuit Judge Donald Miller.


The incident began as a family dispute regarding her parents that went from her to her brother's residence on Martin Road in Roseville. Her brother, nine years older than her, called police, saying that his sister had pointed a gun at him and had fled in a Chevy Malibu.
Ok here's the Big Mistake #1 that led to all the others: Threatening a family member (or anyone else for that matter) with a gun is a definite way to atttract police interest.
Mattera refused to stop for police on Gratiot Avenue, speeding away at speeds up to 110 mph first on westbound I-696 then on eastbound I-696, where Madison Heights police used "stop sticks" to puncture the tires of her car and caused it to crash into a freeway wall.
Here's Mistake Number 2: When those red and blue lights appear in your rearview mirror, pull over to the right and STOP.
Officers Houtos and Marsee said they fired their guns in response to seeing smoke or a fire flash coming from the end of the barrel of the .38-caliber handgun being held by Mattera in the car. Schnur testified in a 37th District Court hearing that he approached the vehicle to find a bleeding Mattera lying across the front seat with a revolver in her hand.

"She turned her head in my direction and raised the gun directly at me," Schnur testified. He yelled to fellow officers that she had a gun, and he fired "three or four" rounds in her direction as he retreated.
Mistake Number 3: Pointing a firearm at a police officer leads to a definite downward spiral.
More than 400 rounds of ammunition for her handgun were found in her car. Mattera told the psychologist that she had kept all of her belongings in her car because she had been transient.

Saperstein said that he can show that Mattera did not fire her gun first, and even if she did, the police officers' response was excessive.

"They say she fired one time, which I'm going to show was impossible," he said.

He argued that even though Mattera's brother told police his sister was armed, police "didn't know she had a gun."
Wow, the "he hit me back first theory" not a typical winner but anything can happen. Nevermind the police were told she had a gun, which certainly would make them a bit concerned about approaching a driver of a car which had tried to elude them.
Mattera's brother also had told police over the telephone that his sister was bipolar.
Ok, we can understand she's not in a normal frame of mind, after all being found not guilty by reason of insanity is pretty clear. She certainly should never have had a gun.

Now try to square her attorneys statements that "he can show that Mattera did not fire her gun first, and even if she did, the police officers' response was excessive." with her statement below:
She says that after her vehicle crashed on I-696, "I stayed in the vehicle and saw them draw their weapons. I got down in the seat of the car because they drew their weapons. They opened fire and I saw the bullets going in and out of the car. I was hit with quite a few of them. I brought out my pistol and I fired in the air and fired wide, not to hit anybody. I saw that it was doing no good, so I quit doing it."
That would be Mistake Number 4, even accepting what she said as true, especially when it doesn't make a lot of sense at all, you don't "brought out my pistol and I fired in the air and fired wide, not to hit anybody." when police approach your car after you just crashed after fleeing them, you drop the gun and put your hands up in plain sight.

Its a sad case of a violent, mentally disturbed person and the police being forced to protect themselves and the public. A disturbing incident that should never have occurred as she should have been institutionalized, but certainly not a matter when there is police wrongdoing or grounds for a lawsuit.

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