Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Negligent Discharges in the War on Drugs

In an example of a negligent discharge, a cop shoots a Copp.

The Detroit News: Ex-Mich. college student shot by deputy files suit

The Detroit Free Press: Ex-Michigan college student shot by deputy files suit

[Headline originality went right out the window on this story]

The suit claims Deputy Ryan Huizenga was guilty of gross negligence and assault when he shot the then-20-year-old in the chest during a 2009 drug raid. Copp says officers with the West Michigan Enforcement Team were negligent, reckless and used excessive force.

Copp was shot in the chest and suffered two fractured ribs, and liver and lung damage after Huizenga's gun, a .40-caliber Glock, discharged as officers entered his apartment. An undercover officer previously had purchased small amounts of marijuana at least three times there.

"Huizenga pulled the trigger while the gun was pointed at an unarmed, non-threatening, harmless citizen," Copp's attorney, Fred Dilley, wrote in the lawsuit.

Both stories are unclear as to what role Copp had in the marijuana possession/selling business at his apartment:
Dilley says police should have known Copp didn't pose a threat, because they had been in the apartment for previous undercover pot buys....Copp was sentenced to probation, community service and a fine on a marijuana charge.

So was Copp dealing from the apartment, just a resident there enjoying the benefits of someone else's business or what?

Of course, in contrast to Copp's attorney's statement that he was clearly harmless based on previous purchases, as always Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Results.

Police don't know if someone is going to pose a threat or not when they show up to arrest them.

There's a profound difference between an undercover agent buying something illegal from the dealer and then uniformed police showing up to arrest them for it, which typically triggers a more negative reaction from the person about to be arrested. Given the occupant(s) is already engaged in illegal drug dealing activity that is rather associated with violence, there's a pretty good arguemnt that they can pose a threat.

With all that said, it seems from the stories that Copp did not take any action at the time that justified being fired upon. Ottawa County is probably going to end up paying some damages for this incident.

This is yet another reminder to keep your finger off the trigger until you actually are ready and have cause to shoot. Mistakes with deadly force have serious consequences.

1 comment:

Murphy's Law said...

I remember when this happened. Copp was the target of the raid. It was his place and he was the drug dealer on campus. Poor gun-handling but I don't think that it should translate into a pay-day for a POS drug-dealer. In my world, criminals assume the risk of being shot or killed by the police when they set out to engage in criminal activity. Re-assign and re-train the deputy and call it a day.